Sunday 25 September 2022

Parenting Rewired (Book Review)

Parenting Rewired is a recently published, top selling book that aims to help parents understand more about how to help their autistic children. 'How to raise a happy autistic child in a very neurotypical world' is the subtitle and, like me, I think the vast majority of people who read my blog would be hoping to achieve this. This book has been written to give comfort to neurotypical parents starting their journey with an autistic child; a first port of call for those who are cast into this seemingly new and unusual environment following a diagnosis of autism for their child. But it will also be helpful for those who are still learning as they go.

Red and orange book cover with title text parenting rewired

Parenting Rewired is a resource intended to help parents and carers understand the behaviour of their autistic child and help see what is going on through an autistic lens. The authors are well placed to offer advice; Danielle Punter is a blogger at the Autism & ADHD Diaries and neurodivergent author who had the idea to write this book. She wanted to help parents who were asking her for guidance about how to help their own children. Danielle is parent to an autistic and ADHD child (who was seven at the time of writing this book) and she was diagnosed with ADHD herself at the age of 37. She wanted to share more than one viewpoint and so she brought in two others to help - Charlotte and Naomi. Charlotte Chaney is a neurodivergent adult with over twelve years of teaching experience in the mainstream system and is also parent to an autistic and ADHD child who was 16 at the time of writing the book. Naomi is a young autistic writer, 13 at the time of writing, daughter of Miriam who blogs at Faithmummy. Naomi has often shared her insights of what it is like to be a young autistic female on her mother's blog, and she adds some very valuable insights to this book.

There are 15 chapters, starting off with the basics of what autism is, where to start in terms of learning more about autism and helping your child, some key parenting principles and assessment and diagnosis. The following chapters do a deeper dive into areas of parenting that many parents will find difficult at some time or another; sensory processing, education, play, out and about, food, sleep, events and celebrations, toileting and personal care, and working with professionals. The penultimate chapter is about self-care for parents and carers and the book ends with what advice the authors would give themselves if they could go back in time. Every chapter ends with a helpful recap highlighting the main points.

"This book will teach you a new language, a different way to view the world that contains more richness than you could have ever imagined. Perhaps your child is already there and is diagnosed as autistic and you are desperately trying to find your way into their world."

Punter and Chaney cover many aspects of everyday challenges for parents of autistic children, drawing on their own personal experiences and at times sharing situations that their own children have been through. They offer a variety of strategies and approaches to try and suggest different ways of looking at situations in an encouraging rather than overbearing manner. Whilst it is clear that the authors have great scientific and practical knowledge, the book is very accessible because the language used comes across as if it is a friend giving advice. This means it is very easy to pick up and put down, and readers can quickly dip in and out of different sections.

In the chapter on Education, Naomi describes what an average school day is like for her, breaking it down into the different times. Below is a small example and the rest of her input about school is also very insightful:

In the playground – I am scanning. This is so hard to see who I need to see when everyone is dressed same and moving around. The noise, the unpredictable movements, the bags on the ground… That’s a lot to take in for me. I only want to find my best friend and the longer it takes to find her the more I get worried. What if she is off sick? What if she has an appointment today?

Getting to class – I have to remember to put my bag in one place, my packed lunch somewhere else and then hang my coat on the right peg. It can be confusing to remember all that while others are talking and moving all around me, and the lights are so bright inside. Sometimes I wait until most of the others are in the class but then I worry I will get shouted at for taking too long! Sometimes I forget I have my school bag as it is on my back and I can’t see it! How can everyone else do this so quickly and easily and I can’t?

Food and eating is an aspect of parenting autistic children that many find testing at times. Naomi explains in great detail how she feels about food and the authors use her thoughts to offer approaches to suit other autistic children. There is so much great advice in this book - the following quote from the authors actually appears towards the start of the book but the words have stuck in my mind and I think they might resonate with other parents and carers too:

It takes inner strength to continually take your child out into a world that is designed to cause them stress. You make as many changes as you can for them to help them build positive experiences and yet still you are met by resistance from the wider world. There is only one thing that will help you build that thick skin: confidence that you are doing the right thing for your child. We hope that by the end of this book your skin will be a lot thicker than it was when you started reading. Find that confidence inside yourself; let the rest of the world make judgements on situations they don’t understand. It’s only you and your child that truly matter.

When I posted pictures of this book on social media I was asked if it is a book that is relevant to Pathological Demand Avoidance. To that I would say that it is not a book that has been specifically written for PDA, but that the advice and suggestions of how to help given throughout the book are very much in line with how I live life, as a parent of a child with PDA. So I would definitely wholeheartedly recommend Parenting Rewired. In fact I wish I could give a copy to every parent of a newly diagnosed child. I know it would have helped me so much twelve years ago when our daughter was first diagnosed, and even now I believe it is a book that I will go back to and pick up time and time again, to refresh ideas and remind myself why I approach life as parent to a neurodivergent child in the way that I do. One of the reviews I found online expressed it perfectly: "If you have anything to do with raising or developing an autistic child, be that as a parent, teacher, carer or health professional, you’ve just got to read this, it’s already changing my life as I watch the suggestions work"

Parenting Rewired can be purchased via Amazon or all good bookstores!

*This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you visit a link and make a purchase. It won't cost you any extra*

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