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Autism book helps allied health professionals

By Karen Keast | Date Updated:

Australian Catholic University Professor Deb Keen

A book designed to help occupational therapists, speech pathologists, psychologists and other allied health professionals better assist families in the immediate aftermath of an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis has been released.

The book, Working with Parents of a Newly Diagnosed Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Guide for Professionals, is the work of Australian Catholic University Professor Deb Keen and University of Queensland Professor Sylvia Rodger.

The recent launch of the book follows a seven-year study of parent-focused interventions for children with autism, involving more than 50 families.

Professor Keen, a psychologist and researcher who has worked with children and adults with ASD and their families for more than 30 years, said the book was designed to help health professionals work in partnership

with families.

“The key message is about building a positive relationship with parents in realising the mutual expertise and knowledge and understanding,” she said.

“While the professional might know a lot about a lot of kids, the parent is going to be the expert on their child and know their child best.

“I think there’s a tendency to want to go in there and help the parents to become more like a therapist and that may or may not be the best way to work with families, particularly in the early stages.”

Professor Keen said health professionals need to understand how each family functions in a bid to work effectively within families.

“We believe the most effective way they can support the families is they can look at the family’s routines and rituals and work in that context,” she said.

Professor Keen suggested instead of health professionals asking parents to sit down to do 30 minutes of communication daily with children, they could instead incorporate that communication into their daily activities.

“Another approach is to say during meal times, which happens three times a day, you can say things to your child to try and encourage them to speak, such as you can hold up two cups, one with juice and one with water, and ask which one do you want?

“This way you are creating situations with the child to communicate within the context of their day.”

New statistics show autism diagnosis is on the rise in Australia, with about one in 160 children now diagnosed with ASD across Australia.

The book also provides information on diagnostic criteria of autism, key characteristics, aetiology, prevalence and prognosis and explains how professionals can pass on accurate and meaningful information to families.

Working with Parents of a Newly Diagnosed Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Guide for Professionals retails for $44.95 and is available from www.footprint.com.au

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