The cultural awareness of people with autism and developmental disabilities has improved significantly since they were thrown into asylums. However, that doesn’t mean they are treated with the respect they deserve or many people in society know how to cooperate with the developmental disabled. Bo Hejlskov Elvén gives advice to these people in No Fighting, No Biting, No Screaming. His use of stories and explanations was a simple yet effective way to show strategies that help me understand how to assist people with developmental disabilities, or as he likes to call them, service-users.
Elvén doesn’t immediately start with the strategies. Instead, he explains what developmental disabilities and socially inappropriate behaviors are. The distinction between dangerous and socially inappropriate behaviors are also presented. This allows the readers new to these concepts to get a better understanding of what’s going on. Even also states that this is going to present as a practical guide. If the reader wants to get more information, they can get it via the footnotes he includes. This is the perfect introduction for readers that are unfamiliar with the concepts.
Throughout the text, Elvén incorporates three elements- advice, explanation, and stories. The structure sometimes changes, but it’s easy to get into he flow of it. The strategies can range from taking three steps back to allowing the kids to hurt themselves, but making sure they do it in a safe way. Some made me question them at first, but once I read the explanation, I started to understand why it worked. He starts with the basic ideas, but eventually leads to the instances where the kids’ reactions become drastic and how to help the kids calm down. His advice suits the circumstances, and most stories are perfect. However, there are other instances where the stories felt a little disjointed, but that only occurred once or twice.
Unlike a lot of people I hear, Elvén never really uses a condescending tone. He understands that it can be complicated for those helping service-users, but he also explains what the service-user must be feeling. In; doing so, there’s a degree of communication. For example, he includes the concept ‘those that can behave, will’. This basic idea shows how expecting service-users to behave properly is like asking me to complete an advance mathematics problem with little help. The way he uses the term service-user is also great as the individuals aren’t determined by their disabilities. They are simply people that require a certain service.. The overall tone creates a communal feeling as everyone needs to work together to help service-users.
Even though it’s not a focus, Elvén includes his own stories a few times. This was great as it gave him a sense of authority. Elvén actually knew what he was talking about. As I never read the author’s biography, it was nice learning about Elvén’s experience as both the service and the service-user. In fact, using his experience as the service-user made it even better. Not only did he understand it from the clinical psychologist’s perspective, but he has also had some empathy about it.
There were a few instances while reading the book where I felt empathetic. When I was younger, and even today, I react the same way as the examples. I have a strong belief in fairness, which sometimes leads to me overreacting. I get angry at people when I feel like they’re getting angry at me and when something tragic occurs out of nowhere, I occasionally start laughing. Maybe I do have slight Aspergers, or maybe that’s just hypochondria. I’m not too sure, but I wish my parents had read this when I was younger. It might have made a difference to how I am today and allow me to have better childhood memories. Some of these strategies will probably also work on non-service-users. There are just a lot of good parenting tips.
A minor issue I had with the book is actually on the cover. The sub-title is How to Make Behaving Positively Possible for People with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. Autism is clearly at the forefront of the text. While this was fine on the first read, it changed in my reflection. It feels like Elvén wanted it to be about autism, but struggled with the word count. The other developmental disabilities were just there to add words. I would have preferred it if the book was just on autism or he included other developmental disabilities to a stronger degree. Even if he just changed the sub-title to How to Make Behaving Positively Possible for People with Developmental Disabilities, it would have made the focus on autism subtler.
I’d have to give it a 9.3/10. I loved the tone and structures. Elvén’s advice wasn’t expressed in a patronising tone, but encouraged a better sense of understanding. I’ll hopefully remember most of his advice in the many years to come. However, it did become a little repetitive at times and the focus on autism was questionable upon reflection. If you are looking for a book to help you communicate and cooperate with service-users, I definitely recommend this book.