by Echo R. Fling
Jessica Kingsley, 2000
Review by Monique Thornton, M.S.W. with Kendell Thornton, Ph.D. on Feb 26th 2002
When the authors son was a
preschooler his teacher expressed concerned that his social skills were
different compared to the other children, that he seemed to use dialogue from
videos/movies to communicate with others and that he often seemed
overstimulated by auditory stimuli. The
author first went to her sons pediatrician for an evaluation and he referred
her to a social-skills therapist.
Although Jimmy did not receive the diagnosis of Asperger at that time
(only some vague possible diagnostic suggestions) he began to receive
appropriate therapy with a skilled therapist.
More evaluations followed after Jimmy entered school. In first grade, Jimmy was diagnosed with
ADHD and started on Ritalin, which he stayed on for over a year. Finally, after seeing a pediatric neurologist
her son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at the age of 9.
Asperger Syndrome has 5 diagnostic
criteria categories according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders-IV: 1) qualitative impairment in social interaction as
manifested by at least two of four behaviors listed. 2) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to
developmental level. 3) a lack of
spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other
people. 4) lack of social or emotional
Some may criticize the importance
this author places on getting a diagnosis.
However, without a diagnosis it is difficult to get appropriate and
necessary treatment for a child.
Parents need a diagnosis not only to get services for a child in the
school system, but also they need a diagnosis to help make sense of the
sometimes challenging and/or confusing behaviors they see in their child. Once an accurate diagnosis is received, it
is as if parents are often able to move on, accept that their child has special
needs and begin the process of meeting those needs through appropriate services
and parenting skills. All of this is
done with the hope that the child and family will be able to reach their full
Flings book is readable and at
times quite funny. It fills a void in
the Aspergers literature. Many
parents of children with Aspergers want to read about how other parents have
struggled with similar issues and share vicariously their successes and
failures. As a clinician and as a parent of a child with Asperger Syndrome, I
know how incredibly therapeutic and reassuring it can be to hear that I am not
the only one who has experienced some of these same issues. The author has significant insight into how
having a child with Aspergers affects the family dynamics.
This book is a useful resource for
parents, teachers and professionals working with children with Asperger
Syndrome. It supports families in
realizing they are not alone and that others have been through very similar
experiences. Fling also does a service
for parents in that she reinforces how important it is for parents to listen to
their intuition. She describes that her
intuition guided her to keep searching for an appropriate therapist, school
placement for her son, an appropriate diagnosis and style of parenting that
meets the needs of the family.
Fling does an impressive job
exemplifying characteristics sometimes associated with Asperger Syndrome. She describes her sons sensory integration
difficulties, his need for sameness and consistency, difficulty with
transitions, lack of common sense, and at times her sons overwhelming fear and
worry, in a way that makes it obvious these are not your typical childhood
Fling indicates that others have
accused her of being an overindulgent mother when she makes allowances for her
sons needs, like finding just the right pair of socks (due to his tactile
defensiveness) or modifying the familys schedule in order to prevent
difficulties, when in fact she is listening to her intuition and using her past
experience to successfully navigate the present. For example, Fling describes how her sons condition has impacted
the familys celebrations and special occasions. She says, sure, we celebrate just like everyone else does. But with special considerations and
modifications...Yet, when you think about all the little things where Jimmys
quirks had to be accommodated, its quite exhausting. Fling has learned from past experience how
important it is to listen to her son, her family and her intuition to truly
understand what it will take to meet Jimmys needs in the context of family and
What is most meaningful is that the
author never loses sight of her sons strengths. I think it is easy to focus on the challenges and become
discouraged when a child struggles with situations that other children do not.
However, to focus on a childs strengths is to have hope and confidence that
his potential can be realized.
I think the book is a useful reference
for parents and other family members of those affected by Aspergers. The authors metaphor for the title of the
book is quite different from what I expected when I first picked up the book.
The title of the book refers to the authors perception of how eating an
artichoke is similar to the process it took in getting an accurate diagnosis
for her son. Fling describes, My five
year journey for an answer finally came to an end. After years of peeling back thorny leaves, I finally had the
heart of my artichoke.
I like the authors metaphor; that
the outer, tough leaves of the artichoke are like the challenge in advocating
for a child by navigating the complex system of doctors, therapists and the
school system. If parents are
persistent, they often get to the heart, an accurate diagnosis and the support
and guidance he needs. However, with my
son in mind, I also understood the title as a reference to how in Aspergers,
there are confusing and challenging behaviors, but if you peel away some of those
layers you get to the really rich and tender heart.
© 2002 Monique Thorton and Kendell Thornton
Kendell C. Thornton, Ph.D. is currently an Assistant
Professor in Psychology at
Dowling College, Long Island, NY. He earned his B.S. in Psychology from the
University of Idaho, M.S. in Social Psychology from the University of Montana,
and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Kansas. His current
research interests include interpersonal relationships, with a focus on
emotions, motivations, and self-concept.
Monique Thornton earned her MSW in 1993 from the University of Kansas.
Kendell and Monique are the parents of a 5-year-old with Asperger Syndrome.