The world can be a confusing place for all of us as we mature from child to teenager to adult. Add to that confusion a lack of understanding unwritten social rules, and you can imagine the frustration for those growing up with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Kari Dunn Buron wrote a solution–A 5 Is Against the Law! Social Boundaries: Straight Up!
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Kari’s book is NOT a rule book. Kari writes plainly and frankly to teens and young adults about how life changes as you grow up and how to deal with that fact. She uses her 5-point scale to teach her readers how others feel and how to use self-control and calming mechanisms. She empowers them with tools and strategies for navigating the awkwardness of life. Using the scale gives common, unemotional ground for spectrum individuals to use as they deal with emotional issues. On page 4 of this easy-to-read book, the scale is this:
5=Physically hurtful or threatening behavior
1=Very informal social behavior
Dunn Buron explains that there are things we do as children that are not socially acceptable when we become older. For example, people dismiss staring at someone when you’re little. They understand you’re not trying to be rude. However, when you get to be a teenager or adult and are still staring at people, it can make others uncomfortable and even concerned.
I really appreciate that A 5 Is Against the Law does not patronize or use a condescending tone. Kari simply explains what this age group needs to know. She explains that if your behavior is often a 4 or 5, even though you did not intend to hurt someone or scare them, you may be asked not to return to school or your job. Kari also appeals to a young person’s desire for independence as a motive for learning how to become more successful at social interaction. She suggests looking to others they trust for guidance when they don’t understand a situation. But instead of making them feel more out of place, Kari informs them that everyone has difficulty understanding other people at some time. She gives strategies such as “Three Strikes, You’re Out” and using a flow chart, and also using the 5-point scale for self-monitoring behavior. Living with my little list-maker, I can see how a flow chart would be very helpful to him as he gets older.
Social workers can use this book with groups and parents can use this book with their individual child. There are places for the student to work through their own situations and write possible solutions. It is a fantastic tool to help adolescents and young adults adapt to society’s changing expectations of them. I believe A 5 Is Against the Law
is such an important tool that I cannot let it sit on my shelf for eight years until Dr. H needs it. I am taking it to the charter meeting of our support group tonight to give away to a parent of an adolescent so they can get help immediately.
I highly recommend Kari’s book and suggest you pass this information on to anyone you know who has an older spectrum child or works with middle school and high school students with Asperger’s or high-functioning autism. They will be able to improve their quality of life very quickly by implementing Kari’s strategies.
If you have a younger child, I suggest you click here
to read my review of Kari’s book When My Worries Get Too Big
. This picture book uses the 5-point scale to teach younger children how to control emotions.
Now it’s your turn! How do you help your teen with autism learn social skills?
This review was originally published in 2010. Kari sent me a complimentary copy of her book for review. These opinions are my own.
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