Book reviews

Self-Advocacy Skills for Students with Learning Disabilities. Making it Happen in College and Beyond


Henry B Reiff

National Professional Resources ISBN 9781934032060 £19.95

This author says that when he set out to write the book, he imagined talking to a student about getting in and staying in college, writes Colette Eaton. As a result this informal, yet intelligent, tome makes the principles of self-advocacy accessible.

Taking a person-centred approach and explaining jargon and acronyms as he goes along the student’s journey from choosing a college through time-management, goal planning and study skills on the course and on to work, Reiff never loses sight of the individual.

He also includes tips for parents and guidance counsellors to support the young disabled person through this transition.

Sadly, the book is not fully accessible to everyone. Students with literacy difficulties would struggle without support and the presentation would benefit from more graphics to break up and elucidate the text. Moreover, the book is written for a US audience and references to US law and educational policy are occasionally confusing.

However, the fundamental message of the need for self-advocacy is powerful and the exercises and case studies are valuable resources for anyone supporting a young disabled person to make their own way.

Colette Eaton is support manager for learners with learning and physical disabilities, Blackburn College


Grief in Young Children. A Handbook For Adults


Atle DyregrovJessica Kingsley Publishers ISBN: 9781843106500, £9.99

In the nursery three children sit eating lunch. Number one child says “my dad’s gone to Liverpool”, number two child says “my dad’s at work” and the third child, Emma, says “my dad’s dead”.

Two days earlier Emma’s dad, a policeman, had died in a road accident.

“My mum died when I was 10 months old.” “I lost my toes because her body lay on top of me.” “I think, at times in my dreams, I remember some of the scary feelings.”

These are some of the small children whom I have worked with and it is a relief to find a sensible book about younger children, primarily the under-fives.

Recently an elderly friend died. I asked his wife where the grandchildren were. She replied: “Oh, they’re in Sam’s room drawing and talking to him.” Sam was the deceased and he lay at home in his coffin before the burial. The children have not struggled since but their grief is accepted.

Children grieve as we all do and this book is a must for professionals working with children. Dyregrov’s book helps us understand that it’s how we respond to their grief that matters. It is practical, clear and insightful.

Lynne Fordyce, Children’s Bereavement, Loss and Trauma Unit, Leeds PCT


A Friend Like Henry


Nuala GardnerHodder & StoughtonISBN 9780340934012, £14.99

Disability can place an incredible strain on family life, particularly when it is a child who is disabled. Parents often feel alone, fighting for diagnosis. A Friend Like Henry is the story of the Gardner family told by Nuala Gardner, the mother of two autistic children.

The book focuses on her eldest son Dale who is profoundly autistic and the struggle the family had both in obtaining help for him and in breaking into his “autistic world”. It is a truly remarkable story of how the arrival of a new family pet, Henry, a golden retriever puppy, was able to help Dale make sense of the world around him. The book was the basis for the ITV drama After Thomas.

However, the book is less dramatic and covers a longer period of time. It also covers the birth of Dale’s sister, Amy, who is also later diagnosed with autism.

While it is not a conventional story of triumph over tragedy, it shows what can be possible with early intervention and parental persistence. The book is a reminder that perhaps it is better for professionals to treat parents of disabled children as allies rather than leaving them feeling like they are the enemy.

Anika Baddeley is a sociologist and has cerebral palsy

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