The subtitle of this insightful yet practical book is “Autism as a Source of Wisdom,” and author Olga Holland offers that and more. Many autism-parent memoirs are beautifully thought-provoking, and enjoyable to read, but don’t present much in the hands-on, getting-through-the-day department. The Dragons of Autism eloquently and effectively addresses both of these areas.
Holland possesses an analytical mind which enables her to invent and apply various approaches to managing her son’s behavior and helping him adapt to situations that aggravate his sensory issues. She is no stranger to meltdowns (called tantrums in the book), having dealt with her son’s episodes that occurred several times a day. A large portion of the book is devoted to damage control strategies as well as possible prevention techniques. She discusses the technique of Buying Time as a long-term method of re-training problematic behavior or enforcing house rules (such as bedtime). Holland goes on to describe the importance of schedules and having rituals to enforce them. She empathizes that yes, it is time-consuming for parents of autistic children to organize and maintain a schedule in written form, but she advises, “Look at it as a craft – a part of the craft of raising an autistic child.” I think that’s the perfect way to describe it – a craft that we become better at as the years go by.
Holland includes plenty of descriptions of her son’s characteristics and behavior, and I found it both engaging and affirming to recognize so many of them in my own son, as I’m sure many parents would. This book is helpful not only for parents of younger autistic children looking for ways to manage meltdowns/tantrums, but also for parents of older autistic children. Most of us still have to deal with meltdowns, even though now they may occur for different reasons than when our children were younger. Holland provides effective strategies using empathy and creativity that are both helpful and humane. I’ve referred back to this book many times in the five years that I’ve owned it, and will continue to. It’s a good read.