I had to wait my time for an opportunity to try this resource and to see if could be effective for my children – but the wait was certainly worth it.
The Amazing Autistic Brain Cards, by Dr Gloria Dura-Vila, is a new resource aimed at helping professionals, parents and anyone working with autistic young people to enter a positive discussion about what it means to be autistic. The resource tries to approach the subject with an individualised focus on the strengths and challenges the individual may experience, with the freedom to create healthy and meaningful discussions.
I can’t emphasise enough, as a parent and previous educator, that a carefully planned approach is essential in order to ‘introduce’ the idea of possible neurodiversity and for it to be received successfully. It goes without saying this needs to be handled sensitively so as not to create any negativity that can be associated with recognising that a person may think, or operate, differently.
I think using a resource like this by Dr Gloria, who is a very established consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry (specialising in autism and PDA), will put the young person in very safe hands.
Her words, which can be read in their entirety on JKP’s blog here, express this further:
“I firmly believe that the way the Autism diagnosis is given has a huge impact on how young people (and their parents) feel about it, incorporate it into who they are, deal with the difficulties they will encounter in their paths, and embrace and become aware of the positives.”Dr Gloria Dura-Vila
The booklet that accompanies the set needs time to read through and appreciate in its own right. The information is fun, friendly and full of Gloria’s creative humour that many of us see through her daily work in the field.
Most importantly there is no wrong or right either strategy, but a fluid approach for the parent or professional and at the individual’s pace.
The cards are split into two decks, with a starting point to think about three of the biggest challenges the young person experiences. This is then utilised against three cards from the other set that identify the biggest strengths. It should be led by the individual and used as a discussion rather than a dictated task to complete.
Well the fact the resource was flexible was very lucky for us!
In true PDA fashion, my eldest took control of the resource and thought it would be a good idea to organise onto a piece of paper who in the family struggled with what challenges. She kept passing cards around the table and asking us if we found these items tough. She then made a table as follows:
You may have guessed which name was for the diagnosed child with PDA as her first statement sums it up – ‘not being in control.’
There are blank cards included in both packs to fill out your own strengths and challenges. I think this struggle for my middle daughter summed up her greatest difficulty at present:
Isla had a go at writing her own struggles too and she identified Maths and English at school were her own difficulties. This last one was also very unique to her:
We took some time to consider our strengths by using the yellow coded deck of cards. I stepped away at this point to allow the children to discuss them together and to facilitate their own self-identification through play and learning. This moment was very powerful and Arijana came to pull on my sleeve (which she always does when she needs to tell me something)!
“These cards should be used in schools Mummy. They could help children learn about autism better,” she excitedly squealed.
I left them to it, as they had conversations amongst themselves, helping each other to realise what they were each good at. We have agreed the set of cards will stay with the girls in their play area when they pretend to play teachers (I can’t help but see the irony that they play schools despite each refusing traditional schooling!). I think the fact that they wanted ownership is also testament to the power of this resource.
For further information on The Amazing Autistic Brain Cards and to purchase a set, please visit Jessica Kingsley Publishers here.
**Disclaimer** No payment was taking for this review, just a copy of the set of cards donated. All views are my own.