Targeting Autism
What We Know, Don't Know, and Can Do to Help Young Children With Autism

Author: Shirley Cohen
Publisher: University of California Press, 1998 ISBN 0-520-21309-2

Reviewed by
Linda Wanfried

In the introduction to her book, the author describes her purpose this way:

"For families this book attempts to offer a broader framework and richer context of experiences than do biographical case studies written by parents of autistic children".

She is referring to the Catherine Maurice book, "Let Me Hear Your Voice", among others. These books describe the authors' children and the particular treatment which "worked" for them. Ms. Cohen believes in blending various treatment methods, choosing elements as needed to tailor a program individually for each child. She says this is considered best practice among professionals. She describes all treatments, both mainstream and alternative.

Quoting again from her introduction, "For professionals and students this book attempts to convey the challenge and fascination of autism, while also presenting the best current data and thinking on the subject."

There are descriptions of autistic people, with quotes of what they have said and written. This helps show how very different people with autism are from each other, and from typical people. It personalizes the profile of autism found in the DSM-IV, that teachers may read.

For example:

"Six year old Paul became obsessed with light bulbs. His light bulb collection had grown to include not only incandescent household light bulbs, but also florescent bulbs, black lights, infrared and ultraviolet bulbs, and flashcubes: 372 in all. He kept many of his light bulbs in a basket by his bed, and every night he tried out different bulbs."

"Samantha, a 10 year old girl with autism attending a mainstream school, was deliberately teased by the children there, and frequently they would tell her to perform some unacceptable act, such as taking her clothes off on the playground. She was quite bewildered by the laughter that ensued...believing that her compliance would result in them becoming "her friend".

"Targeting Autism" has good information to support families in their struggle to grow and live positively with an autistic child. There is material on family dynamics including parent-child and sibling relationships and strains.

"My seven year old daughter who has autism broke one of her brother's favorite toys the other day. He was upset and wanted me to punish her. At first I thought it wouldn't do any good, but then I realized that even if she didn't learn anything, he would feel that I was standing up for him, and it would make him feel better. So I sent her to her room."

This reviewer thinks the book has a lot to offer both families who have recently been given this diagnosis for their child, and also families who wish to read a well rounded update on the latest treatment methods.

This book is available from

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