3 Must-Have Autism Books for Parents (Part 1)

Activities, Autism, Special Needs Parenting

I’m sharing my three must have autism books for parents.  These books are perfect if you suspect possible autism or if your child just got a diagnosis.  They are filled with evidence-based strategies that you can use today!


You don’t need a degree in special education!  You also don’t need to be an expert in development and behavior!


When you suspect your child might have autism or your child just got a diagnosis, several things might happen:

  • The psychologist or pediatrician who diagnosed your child will give you 17 pages of recommendations,
  • You want to get started with services, but there’s a 3 month wait,
  • You’re paralyzed by all of the information you found on Google, and/or
  • A lot of people give you advice about what worked and didn’t work for their child (schools, medications, therapies, diet, vitamins, etc).


Unfortunately, this leaves parents confused, panicky, and anxious.  If you’re like me, anxiety leads to shutting down and not really getting anything done which leads to more anxiety!


In this post, I tell you all about my first must-have autism book (I’ll cover the next two books over the next two weeks, so stay tuned!)


#1: Turn Autism Around by Mary Lynch Barbera


This is the newest autism book I added to my collection!  I’ve followed Dr. Barbera for a couple of years now and love her honest, straight-forward approach.  She is incredibly supportive of parents and caregivers and teachers, however, she also wants you to know that “wait and see” is never the right path!  It’s critical parents know basic child development, the common areas of concern with autism, and how to address each of these areas.


I’m not a parent of an autistic child, however, I am the parent of a child with ADHD.  I was in the same position that many parents are in right after a diagnosis.  For instance, I wanted to do all of the things, but I didn’t know where to start!  I was overwhelmed so I shut down.  It wasn’t until I found a couple of really good researchers who wrote some amazing books that I was able to block out the random advice, learn about ADHD, and choose interventions that worked for my child.


Dr. Barbera comes in with this book right when you need it!  You want to get started, but don’t know how or where.




Initially, Dr. Barbera knew as much about autism as your average parent.  Then her son Lucas was diagnosed the day before he turned three.


Since then, she has become an expert in autism!  I’ve attended some of her online classes, read her blog, and watched her YouTube videos.  She has wonderful information.


She knows what having a child with autism is like.  She knows what it’s like to look at your child, see something is wrong, but not know what to do or what is going on.  I loved reading about her journey from thinking her child had just a speech delay, to accepting the autism diagnosis, to becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and working with hundreds of families.


Dr. Barbera is a huge advocate for early diagnosis and early intervention!  However, she also wants you to know you do not need a diagnosis to get started working on your child’s social and communication skills.


Turn Autism Around‘s Message


First, this book gives you a huge hug! Secondly, it pushes you into action!  Dr. Barbera tells parents, “You will always be the best teacher” for your child and “You can do this!”


She also states, “It really is an emergency for young children just showing signs” of autism and you need to get started right now!


Do.  Not.  Wait.


Her goals are to:

  • Help families feel empowered about their ability to teach their child,
  • Help families be proactive in determining services and supports for their child, and to have practical strategies to improve a wide range of topics (sleep, eating, toilet training, communication, behavior).


After reading this book (it’s full of information, but a quick read), you have some really helpful tools in your tool belt!


ABA-Based Approach


Dr. Barbera is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and her approach to teaching new skills and tackling problem behaviors is based on applied behavior analysis.  ABA is the application of decades of research on how we learn and behave.  ABA therapy is considered the gold-standard for autism treatment and is usually covered by most insurance plans.


Dr. Barbera shows parents how to use ABA strategies to assess their child (take some quick and easy data), how to use this information to determine which skill they need to teach their child (eating, communication, social, self-help), and how to improve challenging behaviors (aggression, tantrums, sleep issues, etc).


Spend 95% of Effort on Prevention


Dr. Barbera takes a very proactive approach and repeatedly states that most of our effort should be placed on preventing challenging behaviors from occurring in the first place.


For example, instead of thinking “What do I do when my child hits me?” we shift our focus to “What is my child trying to communicate?” and “What skill do I need to teach?”


Additionally, shift away from saying, “What do I do when my child runs away from me in the store?” to “How do I teach him to walk by me or sit in the cart?”


Dr. Barbera has an entire chapter on safety at home, school, and in the community.  This is a HUGE need for a lot of families.  She states, “It’s important to bear in mind that as your child grows, his physical abilities may increase more rapidly than his ability to assess dangerous situations.”


From my experience, I couldn’t agree more with this statement.  If we don’t teach these critical skills to our kids as two-year-olds, they will soon be 5, 8, 17.


4 Steps to Teach New Skills / Improve Behavior


Dr. Barbera takes parents and caregivers through a four-step process throughout the book.  It’s simple and straightforward.  Again, her focus is helping parents do this at home during routines and activities that are happening throughout the day.


Step One:  Assess


There’s a quick data form to fill out that will assess your child’s strengths and needs. Additionally, you provide some basic medical information.  Lastly, Dr. Barbera guides parents and other team members in making decisions about which problem behaviors to address first or what skill the child missing that needs to be taught.


We need to assess before jumping into action!


Step Two:  Plan


Having an easy-to-follow plan will make sure everyone is on the same page:

  • When are you going to start your intervention/teaching?
  • Who will be involved?
  • What is the main goal/focus?
  • What materials do you need?
  • How are you going to teach a new skill?


Step Three:  Teaching New Skill


Dr. Barbera gives multiple examples of interventions used to teach skills such as potty training, washing hands, eating a new food, sleeping in own bed, and communication.


Step Four:  Evaluating Progress


Dr. Barbera teaches you how to take data and evaluate whether your plan is working or not.  This is incredibly important! For instance, we need to know if parts of the intervention need to be changed or when our child is ready to move onto the next step.  We can’t know that without some data.


Turn Autism Around Conclusion


If you want the words and wisdom of someone who has been in your shoes, this is the book for you!


You don’t need to set aside hours of “therapy time” in your day.  Your child doesn’t need to have an autism diagnosis.


This book is a quick read, so you can start using the strategies pretty quickly!  You are your child’s first and best teacher!  Use Dr. Barbera’s family-friendly approach to start teaching your child right now!


I admire and respect Dr. Barbera’s family-friendly approach a lot. She is incredibly supportive! At the same time, she’s the bit of tough love that we need when we’re stuck or having a difficult time or doubting our own abilities.


My goal as an early interventionist is to work myself out of a job!  I want families to know they have the skills to help and teach their child.  I haven’t done my job if families are scared of what happens after services end.


Dr. Barbera has the same mindset.  You know your child best and love them best!  It only makes sense that parents learn how to teach social and communication skills.  You never feel better than when you watch your child succeed!


Get a copy of Dr. Barbera’s Turn Autism Around here!


Want to know my other two must-haves for parents?  Check out my #2 pick and my absolute favorite book!


Any books about autism that you suggest?  I’d love to hear about them!


*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on the links and buy something, I may earn a commission.  Thanks!










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