What was your motivation to write Autism and the Family?

Every year I teach a course to young professionals in the field of autism treatment, and invite a panel of parents and siblings to talk about their experiences. This class meeting is resoundingly the students' favorite part of the course, and I am always surprised to hear my students—teachers, psychologists in training—say that they had never thought of family members' perspectives when working with them. I wrote this book to bring this panel, and it's impact, to a large audience of professionals.

What's the most important thing a reader will take away from this book?

The most important thing readers should take away from this book is an understanding of the sheer impact that ASD has on parents' lives. Many teachers and clinicians focus so intently on the individual with ASD—which is needed—that they lose sight of the bigger picture and the system in which the individual lives. Learning to talk with parents about their experiences, and express empathy and support for the challenges they face, can help develop a better working relationship with the family.

What's one practical point from the book that is most easily applicable to working with ASD children and families?

I think some of the most important and practical recommendations in this book are related to how to develop a strong rapport with parents of individuals with ASD. Since these approaches in treatment are wholly under the control of the practitioner, changes can be made instantly. Even small changes a practitioner makes in taking the time to get to know the family, listening and communicating more effectively, and conveying care and respect can make family members feel valued and included in the treatment of the individual with ASD.

What's something practitioners should keep in mind when integrating extended family and siblings in care and treatment?

With each family, one must be mindful of the family culture. In some families, the practitioner may have to put in extra work to explain the rationale for treatment and get family members on board. Adapting the treatment to the family context is highly important to ensure that the treatment is easily maintained at home. Especially with siblings, practitioners should always be respectful of the extent to which they want to be involved in their sibling's care.

What's one common indicator of parent stress to look out for?

Practitioners should really assume that parents of individuals with ASD experience a significant level of stress, and always be on the lookout for resources that may help the parents manage that stress. Teachers and clinicians can be so helpful in providing families with resources at both local and national levels, such as information on ASD for parents of newly diagnosed children, summaries of special education law, and safety products for their children. For so many parents, identifying trustworthy resources for their family can be an overwhelming task, and the practitioners can provide considerable help in this area.

Do you have questions about Autism and the Family?

Send your questions for Kate E. Fiske to nmh@wwnorton.com!