UNDERSTANDING HOW ASPERGER CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS THINK AND LEARN: CREATING MANAGEABLE ENVIRONMENTS FOR AS STUDENTS

Reviewed by Tara Murphy, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin & Paul Horan, Lecturer in Nursing and Midwifery Studies

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The central theme of this book tackles the difficult question of how you can begin to know a person, rather than a syndrome, by listening and accepting them as they are and supporting them in a learning environment. The first part of the book describes how children and adolescents with Asperger Syndrome (AS) think and communicate. A framework for how people usually understand each other is used to explain how one would understand the child with AS. Societal norms and rules mean that at times we can misinterpret the child’s behaviour as being intentional, uncaring or unresponsive, while at the same time the child with AS may view us as being irrational and too sensitive.

Children and adolescents with AS think in a different way to their non-AS peers, owing to a lack of theory of mind, low central coherence and poor executive functioning. This volume demonstrates how all three cognitive features play a key role in attempting to understand what the child with AS says, how he/she behaves and learns.

A later chapter deals with pragmatic communication and describes how a lack of understanding of pragmatics can affect the child’s ability to cope with and enjoy participating in games or other group activities. However, children with AS can learn about pragmatics, for example, how to maintain appropriate eye contact and understand turn-taking using social stories.

The second and final part of the book is based on ‘addressing

and supporting life and learning during the school years’. This provides the reader with several practical strategies that can be used to help the child raise his awareness of others and him/her self-

Overall, the author fulfills her aim in providing teachers and parents with an accessible, useful and positive account of understanding how the child or adolescent with AS thinks and learns. Particularly helpful are the examples included throughout the book, as well as the appendices which provide the reader with some practical applications. The writing style is concise; the book can be read easily in a day. However, it would have benefited from the inclusion of more visual images and additional examples clearly delineated by colourful borders. This would have added to the attractiveness and accessibility of the book, especially since a large part of teachers’ work with children is visually based. This book is a useful resource for all professionals and parents working and caring for children and adolescents with Asberger Syndrome.

UNDERSTANDING HOW ASPERGER CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS THINK AND LEARN: CREATING MANAGEABLE ENVIRONMENTS FOR AS STUDENTS, by Paula Jacobsen (2005) Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London & Philadelphia. ISBN 1-84310-804-6.

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