Book Review: ‘Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew’

When your child is diagnosed with autism, it’s easy to become wracked with anxiety over what kind of life they will eventually lead, and understanding their disorder will go a long way toward relieving this anxiety. If you don’t have a child with autism, you will likely meet one in the course of your own life. Whether it’s through your child’s school, children of friends, family members, neighbors or other possibilities, chances are high that you and/or your children will interact with someone who has autism. Author Ellen Notbohm is the mother of an autistic child, and a widely acclaimed author of various books on this and other mental health topics. Her book, Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew, explains the subtleties of the disorder and gives tips on how to interact with these children.  

While the book was first published in 2005, its tips are still very relevant (note – the expanded version of the book was updated in 2012). Its chapters each tackle different aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorder and give relevant suggestions and advice for helping your child adapt to them. Written with a passion and sensitivity to the issue, this book’s ultimate goal is to help parents of autistic children teach their child to function in every day life. The skills that parents will learn through its chapters will be relevant throughout the child’s life, long after they’ve transitioned into adulthood. 

A well-written book that is peppered with a sense of humor, Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew will help parents to decode how their child’s brain, thought processes and ability to interpret the world differ from their own. Often, parenting an autistic child is difficult, because parents compare their child’s behavior to that of a person who does not have the disorder. Looking at their child through their own eyes and experiences can make it frustrating to understand why they act the way they do, whether it’s throwing a seemingly random tantrum or failing to connect to other children at school. One of the best things about this book is that it helps parents see the world through the eyes of their child with autism, allowing the parents to adjust their own reactions and decode what their child needs. 

That said, the book’s tips are great for children at the low to middle end of the spectrum, but they don’t address issues of children whose autistic disorder may be more severe. Notbohm’s own child with autism communicates verbally and has the ability to do “normal” things like going to dances and sleepaway camp. For a parent whose own child’s autism is more severe, the tips in this book can still be helpful, but they may need to delve deeper to find resources that address their specific set of issues. 

The primary theme of this book is that children with autism are just like everybody else, in that they don’t want to be defined by their disorder. Much like the parent of a paraplegic child or a child with a different mental disorder, parents with children who have autism should not treat them as if they are”broken.” Like children with physical disabilities, children with mental disabilities should be afforded modified and adapted learning tools that will help them to successfully navigate the world around them.

This book makes many strides in explaining different ways in which parents should approach their child and provides a wealth of information to help parents understand them. It is an easy book to read, and moves quickly, so a parent or teacher could read it in a short period of time. It’s also a handy resource for quick reference in those instances in which a parent is unsure of how to approach a specific behavior, like echolia, that is common to this disorder. 

All in all, this book is insightful and extremely helpful for parents and friends alike, and it is definitely worth the read if you are the parent of a child with autism or if you know a child with autism.