"Autistic children engage best in environments that are highly structured with predictable schedules and a high level of adult guidance."

Author McNeil presents useful guidelines for parents of autistic children to follow in times of quarantine. While typical children may respond more easily to a lack of school attendance, it is far more difficult for autistic children who rely on routine and habit to provide stimulation and satisfaction. Looking at the daily events in four children's lives as examples, the author suggests several approaches to keeping an autistic youngster engaged and contented. One central element is offering choices. The language and the methods used will enhance the child's ability to choose. Appropriate timeframes should be designated for each activity. Toys, exercises, and learning materials should be organized to take place in predetermined spaces. Gradually the child will come to accept and comply with the newly conceived and reliably repeated structures.

McNeil, who has worked with autistic and special needs children for thirty years, asserts that, probably more than others, autistic youngsters can be negatively affected by the need to remain in the same environment for long periods of time due to virus concerns. She recognizes that some of her intelligently considered strategies will cause parents extra effort at first, but the procedures developed will have long-term value. They include such simple but needed techniques as how to present cues for activities—auditory, physical, spatial, or visual—so that the child can quickly grasp and easily remember them. Arranging and offering toys by purpose—artistic, building, watching, moving—will also help the child make choices, as will delineating particular spaces for each activity. The timing for certain activities is helpfully suggested so parents will note when it is best to switch to the next game or task. McNeil's practical and portable volume can be a valuable reference work for parents of autistic children during periods of health restrictions or any similar time.

Return to USR Home