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Book review: Autism and Appropriate Touch

Autism and Appropriate Touch: A Photocopiable Resource for Helping Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum Understand the Complexities of Physical Interaction

Teaching children and young people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) about appropriate touch can be a daunting, time consuming and difficult task.  Autism and Appropriate Touch by Abigail James takes a simple, logical, easy to follow approach to this challenging set of skills which the ASD population often struggle to learn.  

To review this book, I chose to apply it with a client diagnosed with ASD and in his early 20s.  Although high functioning, this young man admitted to struggling with what was considered appropriate touch in a world that often gives mixed messages.  He had already been reprimanded on two occasions for inappropriate touch in social settings and was confused and fearful of trying again hence adding to his social isolation.    

This book begins with the simple task of identifying belongings and spaces as ok to touch (green), ok to touch but ask first (yellow) and do not touch (red).  The use of the traffic light as a means of understanding appropriate and inappropriate touch is readily recognised and easy to apply.  Encouraging my client to place red, yellow or green labels around his and his mother’s home was a great way to begin the process of learning to respect others belonging and space and to learn and teach his own carers about his newly understood boundaries. The book then systematically explores appropriate touch with various groups with easy to understand examples that stimulate conversation in session and beyond with family and carers.

This book is best suited to those who are diagnosed Level 1 ASD as it assumes a level of comprehension and ability to reflect and learn from new information.  It is best suited for use by school-based wellbeing coordinators, social workers, and psychologists as it assumes that the user can modify examples and language to suit the client.  A task which may be challenging for some parents.  

A great resource for anyone working with children and young adults diagnosed with ASD.

Reviewed by Joanne Garfi author of Overcoming School Refusal