Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: Respecting Autism: The Rebecca School DIR Casebook for Parents and Professionals

Respecting Autism: The Rebecca School DIR Casebook for Parents and Professionals by Stanley I. Greenspan, MD and Gil Tippy, PsyD describes the mission and program of the Rebecca School, a therapeutic day school in New York City that specializes in teaching children ages four to twenty-one who have a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). The book features a Foreword by Michael Koffler, Executive Director of the school, followed by an Introduction by Clinical Director and founder Dr. Gil Tippy, a brief history of Rebecca School, and 16 chapters, each featuring a different case vignette. The text concludes with a Glossary and list of acronyms to help the reader negotiate some of the “jargon” in the book.

The introduction by coauthor and Clinical Director of the school, Dr. Gil Tippy, is well-written and clearly describes the DIR/Floortime model adopted by the school. Briefly, the Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR®) Model, developed by the late Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, is a framework that helps clinicians, parents and educators conduct a comprehensive assessment and develop an intervention program tailored to the unique challenges and strengths of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental challenges. The objectives of the DIR® Model are to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than concentrating on skills and isolated behaviors. This integrated model focuses on interaction with caregivers and the environment, biological, motor, and sensory differences and the child’s functional emotional development capability. It may include various problem-solving exercises and typically involves a team approach with speech therapy, occupational therapy, educational programs, and mental health (developmental-psychological) intervention.
The heart (and soul) of Respecting Autism is the individual students profiled in each of the 16 chapters. Each “real world” case vignette highlights the child’s unique needs, strengths, and challenges and how he or she has benefited from DIR/Floortime intervention. The reader is presented with a history of the child, including parental concerns and experiences with medical and special education programs, a summary of Sensory and Motor Strengths and Challenges as Understood and Described by the Rebecca School Staff, Dr. Greenspan’s Recommendations, and Constitutional and Maturational Variations. Each chapter ends with a Game Plan designed to enhance growth and development while respecting the child’s special unique needs, and a discussion of Program Responses to Dr. Greenspan’s Recommendations.
Respecting Autism: The Rebecca School DIR Casebook for Parents and Professionals by Stanley I. Greenspan, MD and Gil Tippy, PsyD, is recommended reading for all who live and work with children on the “developmental spectrum.” Professionals who want to expand their treatment options for children on the spectrum will find the text a valuable resource for understanding the DIR/Floortime model and its application as a developmental-pragmatic approach to intervention.

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, CCBT, NCSP is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
© Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD

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