September 4th, 2012

_The TEACCH Approach to Autism Spectrum Disorders_, Mesibov et al

Published by Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, I got this within the Minuteman Library Network. The short form of this review is: it's good, I'm tempted to buy it for my own library and may do so, just to have ongoing access to the references at the end of each chapter.

TEACCH is the North Carolina program for children, adolescents and adults with ASD. Notable from the very beginning of the book is the antipathy the program bears Bruno Bettelheim (and which, I might add, I consider well-deserved), so if you think Bettelheim is unjustly demonized, this is going to piss you off.

Two chapters in this book really stand out as unusual in a text on autism: Chapter 9, "Providing Diagnostic Information to Parents" and Chapter 12, "Training Issues". TEACCH has taken their philosophy of services and program development and applied it to Really Important Things, like, how to tell parents their kid does (or does not) have ASD. I'm not joking. This is a big transition, and it is often not handled well, largely because it isn't consciously taught to the people who are delivering the diagnosis. If you go into this knowing what to expect, it doesn't necessarily matter much; if you go into it having no mortal clue what's up with your kid, a pro who has been taught effective ways of communicating (and good judgment about what to communicate, at what pace, in what context) is going to make a big difference in your life.

Training Issues deals with the issue of teaching TEACCH to people, whether teachers, service providers (OT, speech therapists, etc.), parents, etc. It's a nice overview of why lecture + text doesn't work very well and an exploration of alternative strategies. I greatly appreciated their inclusion of this discussion.

The remainder of the book is more straightforwardly what you would expect from this kind of book: what is TEACCH, how did it get started, how do they understand their value system and apply it, their conception of a "culture of autism" (<-- a good thing), their educational and service provision approach ("Structured Teaching") and so forth. The chapter on Parents is remarkable for the detailed description of what people have tried to do with parents (starting with blame and working up from there), but is not remarkable for detailed advice for parents.

The Social Skills chapter is good in part because it spends useful time on what does not work well: just sticking ASD kids in an environment with neurotypical kids is largely useless (possibly less than useless), and skills learned in isolation by people with ASD don't generalize. They are prepared to go further (part of the "culture of autism") and recognize that it's probably better to have people who get some pleasure from being with other people, than to have people who can technically execute on social skills like "eye contact" but who want as little to do with other people as they can possibly get away with.

I could go on, but you're probably better off just reading it yourself if you're interested. If you're like me, you'll be digging around in the references at the end of each chapter for other things to read. The biggest bummer about the book is that it is from 2005 and does not appear to have a new edition. As a result, the population being discussed, particularly in the sections on adult populations, is disproportionately intellectually disabled, which reflects diagnostic standards and the community of diagnosis until very recently. This is an issue which will likely become more conspicuous every year that goes by.

The Sterlings of Jersey City: a June Wedding in 1910

Genealogybank has finally paid off for me. One of my husband's relatives was curious about some of his (non-shared) relatives and when he heard we were into genealogy, he asked a casual question, little knowing the kind of obsessive interest he risked triggering.

At any rate, while Sterling may not _sound_ like a particularly uncommon surname, it is, at least in this time and place, which meant using the search engine over on genealogybank had a decent chance of turning up something story-like.


Miss Clara Maud Sterling, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Sterling of 163 Mercer Street, and Mr. Garrett Lamertine Gasque of Bayonne were married Wednesday at high noon.

Rev. Andrew J. Meyer, pastor of the First Reformed Church, Wayne Street, performed the ceremony, which took place at the home of the bride's parents. Miss Beulah Sterling, a sister of the bride, was the bride's only attendant, and Mr. Ralph H. Robinson of Bayonne was best man. After the ceremony the wedding breakfast was served.

Mr. And Mrs. Gasque have gone to the Delaware Water Gap for a short stay, and upon th eir return will reside in Bayonne."

The Great Depression would find the widowed and aging mothers of both bride and groom living with them in 1930. You might think that would help with child care, but by that time Hamilton was 18 and Ruth was 15, so odds are the teenagers were helping out with elder care. This record is the most detail we ever see on Hugh's (the immigrant) birthplace: Northern Ireland, rather than just Ireland. The association with soap making continues: Garrett is listed as "foreman", industry "Soap and perfume". How very Jersey! No one else in the household is listed as working (which is as one would expect, since the kids were probably still in high school).

The Sterlings of Jersey City: a Children's Entertainment in 1901

Parts of this are Even Cuter than the 1910 wedding (the black-face sketch of course not being cute at all).

Jersey Journal, Friday, 24 May 1901, page 3

"Primary Pupils Act a Tom Thumb Wedding

Rehearsal Showed That To-night's Entertainment is Sure to Be a Success -- Boys and Girls Who Will Take Part -- Aguinaldo to Be Recaptured -- A Black Face Comedy Sketch."

[First three paras: matinee rehearsal, audience of 300, beginning of detailed and I mean detailed description of production.]

Fourth para: "A stirring little play, "The Capture of Aguinaldo," was acted with spirit and freedom from stage rear at the matinee, and will probably be still better presented tonight. The roles are taken as follows: ... "Gen. Funston's Staff," ... "Cadet First Sergt. Milford Sterling" ...

"Very different from this military piece is a charming act which follows it by the children of the primary school and depicts "A Tom Thumb Wedding." The parents of the children have taken a lively interest in this act and they have prepared appropriate costumes. The little girls trailing gowns and lisping lads in full dress present a scene fit for a picture. The dramatis personae will be: ..."

"The following will be guests at the wedding ... Beulah Sterling ..."

Further elements of the entertainment include "a "Scarf Fantastic" dance, "a chorus from the opera of "Robin Hood"", something called "Butts' Calisthenics", and finally the "black-face comedy sketch", the description of which is actually worse than I had imagined. Conclusion is a song by the choir, and the whole thing is put on to raise money to buy uniforms for the Cadet Corps.

From this we learn that parents are parents, schools are schools, fundraisers are eternal, and the Sterlings are not notably dramatically inclined, none of which are in any way surprising. From Google, we learn about Edmund Luther Butts and his Manual of Physical Drill, the cover of which is really quite odd.

I _love_ spelunking in old newspapers -- and I love genealogy for providing me with an excuse.