[(Discovering Family Fun with Autism)] [Author: Susan Walton] published on (November, 2010)
For parents of children with autism, life is filled with intense scheduling—visits to doctors’ offices, occupational, physical and speech therapies, that side trip to the natural foods grocer for that special brand of soy milk. Such a schedule can leave parents exhausted and overwhelmed. Who has time for family fun?
Susan Walton does. And if you are one of those parents, she thinks you should, too.
In her new book, Discovering Family Fun with Autism, she sums up her outlook on the matter in the introduction: Enjoy life, even if autism is coming along for the ride.
A truth about having with a child with autism is that a great many family activities are dictated by the coping abilities of that child. Walton acknowledges that fact early on, and then proceeds to show those families how to have fun anyway.
Drawing on her own personal experiences and anecdotes from other parents of children with autism, Walton shares tips on how to prepare for short jaunts or extended road trips. Whether it’s planning ahead for sensory issues, such as limiting time in loud or crowded places that may over-stimulate certain children, or remembering to pack an extra set of comfortable clothes, Walton writes with an honest and experienced voice.
For extended family members, such as out-of-town grandparents, who may be unfamiliar with their autistic grandchild’s routine, there are tips for engaging and interacting with the child.
Walton recognizes that not every trip or family activity needs to be extraordinary to be filled with fun. She identifies everyday locations and activities that are accessible.
She is also realistic in expectation setting for outings, recognizing that sometimes, the activity may have to be cut short if the child just can’t cope. Sometimes, one size does not fit all, and one parent may have to take the autistic child to a favored activity while the other parent takes the siblings to their preferred activity.
In her enthusiasm to cover all the bases, Walton does seem overzealous in listing specific brands or websites. The name-dropping of products is overdone and may contribute to making the book feel dated in a couple of years.
Yet above all else, Walton’s approach is non-judgmental. She advises parents not to feel like they have to do it all and reminds them that they have to find what works best for their family. Families living with autism may have to work harder at family fun, but according to Walton, it is not only achievable, it is essential.