“Choice and Structure for Children with Autism” by Colette McNeil

Choice and Structure for Children with Autism: Getting through the Long Days of Quarantine

Colette McNeil
MSI Press, LLC (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (10/2020)

“Choice and Structure for Children with Autism: Getting through the Long Days of Quarantine,” by Colette McNeil, is the perfect little book to help parents of autistic children manage the often-difficult time of quarantine. The author gives valuable insight and advice on how to handle the ups and downs of parenting during quarantine’s restrictions.

As McNeil explains, quarantine is hard on everyone, and most families face challenges while living in it, but it can be especially hard for autistic children and their families. All children need structure, of course. This is one of the first things you learn in parenting. But this is true for autistic children as well, if not more so. Autistic children expect and thrive with structure. Without it, they can become overwhelmed, withdrawn, or temperamental. Quarantine is no time to throw routines, patterns, and structure out the window. Choices and structure can actually help your child feel safer, more secure, and happier; with flexibility always being a given. This author is gifted at breaking down recognized and researched therapeutic approaches into everyday parenting practices and communication. Parents will find that choices and structure can improve their own state of mind, lower stress, and create a happier environment for the whole family.

McNeil does a wonderful job of explaining that choice and structure isn’t about taking all the fun out of daily life or turning your home into a military operation. It’s about creating comfort and routine. Structured Choice is just one example. This is where you limit your child’s choices in a strategic way. Example: Giving ALL of the toys at once can be overwhelming. Presenting a few of them (2-4) for him/her to choose from is less overwhelming. Other concepts that the author explains include Focused Attention, Empowerment, Engagement, etc.

What I like about the author’s style is that she gets right to the point, right away. Most parents don’t have time to fit a super long book of theories and practice into their busy schedule. But this book is laser-focused on each point, offering practical tips based on expert sources that you can start using today with an autistic child. Using anecdotal children like Kiaan, Torin, and others to illustrate the points is a great choice by the author, as most parents and family members can relate to the scenarios. This book is easy to follow; the advice should be easy to implement. “Choice and Structure for Children with Autism: Getting through the Long Days of Quarantine”, by Colette McNeil, needs to be in the home of every family with an autistic child.

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