Review: Autism book urges parents to give kids ‘Loving Push’

In a new book by autism’s most famous spokesperson, Temple Grandin gives credit to her mother for nudging her outside her comfort zone, and she urges today’s parents to do the same for their children.

“The Loving Push,” co-written with psychologist Debra Moore, makes a convincing case that, more than other children, those on the spectrum need to be prodded to reach their potential.

“Pushing is necessary,” the authors write, “because those on the spectrum are unlikely to automatically pick up the mundane but necessary tasks of daily life without us intentionally nudging them and providing them with information, encouragement, and persistence.”

The book tackles myriad subjects, albeit fleetingly: the importance of chores, sleep, exercise; the unfortunate loss of vocational classes in schools; the type of therapy best suited for children and teens on the spectrum, etc.The book’s organization is free-flowing bordering on confusing, with a section on the benefits of volunteering coming after one dealing with romantic relationships.

Still, the information it contains is often helpful and thought-provoking: Pushing your teen to learn how to drive makes it less likely they'll become a homebound recluse. It’s important to role-play potential interactions with police officers so your teen knows how to behave to decrease the risk of being misunderstood.

The book’s central weaknesses are most apparent in the chapter on gaming. It’s hard to dispute that compulsive gaming is bad and that kids on the spectrum are particularly susceptible to becoming addicted. However, it erodes reader confidence to quote experts without giving their affiliations or credentials; to rely on anecdotal evidence instead of more rigorous research; and to suggest that the increased incidence of autism correlates with the introduction of new gaming consoles in the early 2000s (the authors apparently didn’t have brothers who played Atari in the ’80s).


“The Loving Push”

By Temple Grandin and Debra Moore

Future Horizons, xx pages