Top critical review
18 people found this helpful
Never trust any miracles that come with price-tags
on 28 June 1998
I have very mixed feelings about this book. When Kaufman describes them in any detail, the developmental play techniques he uses with his son seem intelligent and useful, and the emphasis on responsiveness and attention to what motivates the child in question is good. It's also nice to read someone who is not continually worried about how to eliminate entirely harmless but "inappropriate" autistic behavior. Various other writers - Stanley Greenspan, Melanie Nind and Dave Hewett, etc. - have actually developed similar techniques, but have described them in much greater detail and scientifically documented their (more modest) claims, something Kaufman has consistently failed to do.
Too often, however, Kaufman seems to reject practical details in favour of claiming that the right attitude is all that matters, the right attitude apparently requiring "choosing" to feel happy about everything. Any parent of a child with autism who occasionally feels tired, frustrated, or momentarily unable to "choose" to be ecstatic will now have to feel inadequate as well. As a person with an autistic spectrum condition (Asperger's syndrome) myself, and as a volunteer with severely autistic children, I happen to think that autism and autistic people are beautiful and wonderful beyond measure, but I don't think that such enjoyment and delight should be made compulsory (a sure way to destroy them anyway) or that parents should have to feel that they are failing their child if they also feel the other, equally human and valid emotions of fatigue, worry, or grief...he seems to be selling acceptance on the basis that if you just accept something enough, then a "miracle" will occur and it will go away (which is an odd sort of acceptance). If a mirac! le doesn't occur, then presumably you had the wrong attitude... For many children, I'm sure that the practical techniques he describes are genuinely beneficial (Craig Schulze, in "When Snow Turns to Rain", describes how they were not for his son), but I have an innate distrust of anyone who sells (literally or figuratively) a fixed package of techniques as a "miracle cure" for all children and all problems. Some limits and differences are real; some children can't just "choose" to be normal; some disabilities don't go away, and true acceptance may mean learning to live and work with them.