CARING FOR MYSELF

Reviewed by Helen Gallagher, Senior Psychologist, Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary Services

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Parents of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can encounter undreamed-of difficulties in what should be simple, everyday activities—a child having a bath, dealing with dirty hands or brushing teeth. What do you do if a haircut or a doctor’s appointment triggers traumatised screaming because your child is overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations or sensory overload?

Caring for Myself is a Social Stories book written by Christy Gast and Jane Krug, who work at the Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding in Michigan USA. The aim of the book is to use unambiguous language and photographs to help children with ASD through events relating to caring for themselves: hand-washing, tooth-brushing, hair cuts, baths and going to the doctor.

Social Stories were pioneered in 1991 by Carol Gray. The approach is tailored for use with people with ASD, and is a process designed to improve social understanding in a wide range of situations. All social stories follow a similar structure in order to give unambiguous descriptions of situations, to provide perspective for the person with ASD, to guide to appropriate responses, and to affirm and reassure. Clear language is backed up with drawings or (as in this book) photographs.

The power of good Social Stories is that they are clear and unambiguous, often to the extent of seeming self-evident. If you are an anxious parent contemplating having to prepare your child for a difficult situation, imagine being given a script to tell you what to say, backed up by photographs. This is what ‘Caring for Myself’ provides—a scaffold to explain, prepare and reassure, helping both child and parent.

The Social Stories approach can be used with people of all ages, and it may also be useful with children who do not have ASD, but who find some situations difficult. The authors of Caring for Myself suggest adapting the text and photographs to each child’s needs. At the end of each chapter there is a useful list of hints to guide parents through each situation.

CARING FOR MYSELF by Christy Gast and Jane Krug. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2007), 96p. Hardback, ISBN 978-1-84310-872-6, £18.99; paperback, ISBN 978-1-84310-887-0, £12.99.

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