The Must Have Autism Book for Parents

Activities, Autism, Special Needs Parenting

An Early Start for Your Child with Autism by Sally Rogers, Geraldine Dawson, and Laurie Vismara


If I have to recommend one autism book for parents, it would be An Early Start for Your Child with Autism.  My goal for this website is to provide resources that parents can use today to teach and help their young child with autism and the authors state this as their goal too.


So many families want to help their child, but aren’t sure where to start, especially when their child is young.


It can take months to get an autism evaluation and services started.


The authors know this and have a plan for parents and families! (This book is also amazing for early intervention providers!)


This book is my absolute favorite and I recommend it to parents often!  I would give this book to every family if I could!  It’s that good!


An Early Start Beginning


The first thing I absolutely love about this book is the focus on the entire family.


Of course, you want to make sure you find good therapists and make sure you get your child in a good early intervention program and that’s all covered in the first chapter.


However, it’s equally important to focus on the care of yourself and your family.


Raising a child with autism and other special needs can be very stressful and overwhelming!  Add onto that the demands of your job, partner, other children, and your extended family.


It’s very common to put your needs at the bottom of your “to-do” list.


The authors give parents wonderful ideas about how to navigate through communication issues with your partner, talking to your extended family about your child’s needs, spending time with your other children, and how to take care of your own physical and emotional health.


Learning Challenges Common in Autism


If this is your first child or your first experience with autism, knowing what to expect is difficult.  Maybe you’ve Googled some topics or asked your pediatrician about their opinion.


Knowing the common learning challenges in our youngest kids with autism will help you:

  • understand why certain skills may develop later in your child,
  • understand why these skills are generally more difficult,
  • adjust expectations and keep them reasonable based on what your child can do now, and
  • make sure therapists and teachers are targeting those areas during their services.


An Early Start discusses these common challenges:

  • attention
  • social motivation
  • use of gestures
  • imitation and turn taking
  • toy play
  • babbling
  • arousal and sensory activities


If you’re the parent of an autistic child or if you are thinking your child may have autism, you’re probably nodding your head at this list.


A Step-by-Step Plan for Autism


The authors do an incredible job of making this book user-friendly and I love the format of the book.


Each chapter begins with a goal that tells you immediately what your aim.  For instance, the goal for Chapter 4 which focuses on your child’s attention is to “teach you how to increase your child’s attention to you, so that your child’s learning opportunities to learn from you will increase.  Learning requires paying attention to other people.”


Next, the authors cover why this can be challenging for kids with autism and how it impacts their learning.


Then, we get to the plan of each chapter.  The authors lay out 3-5 steps parents and other caregivers do to help achieve the chapter’s goal.


Each step is broken down into:

  • a description of the step,
  • why this step is important,
  • activities to work on this step,
  • things to think about and observe, and
  • troubleshooting.


A summary of each step, activity checklist, and simple worksheets are also included.


I’m a paper and pencil girl so I love having handouts and checklists to remind me of what needs to be done.  Anyone else?  The authors include a “Refrigerator List” at the end of each chapter to remind you of the goal and steps you’re working on.


I cannot state how much I love the format of the chapters!  I go back to them over and over to refresh my brain and to get additional ideas.


And because the authors believe so much in the importance of early intervention and parent-delivered intervention, the focus is working on these goals and using their strategies during daily routines and with the items already in your home.  You don’t have to buy a program or certain toys and activities.  Use what your child already loves and the activities you already do each day.


ABCs of Learning and Behavior


An Early Start for Your Child with Autism is a book based on the methods of the Early Start Denver Model which combines applied behavior analysis with developmental, play-based intervention.


Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is taking the decades of research on how we all learn and behave and using those principles to teach new skills and change specific behaviors.  A play-based approach often feels more comfortable and doable for families.  This book combines these two approaches so it feels natural when using these strategies, but you also know these interventions are evidence-based.


If you’re new to autism, ABA, and early intervention, it can be confusing.  There is a lot of terminology used.  The therapists and teacher you’re working with may not explain it very well.  It also might look effortless when the teacher does it, but when you try it by yourself the results are not the same!


Understanding the basics of behavior analysis gives families a huge advantage!  You won’t feel like you’re just haphazardly trying a variety of strategies and hoping one sticks.


An Early Start teaches you:

  • how to observe your child,
  • the meaning of your child’s behaviors,
  • how certain situations lead to or cue your child’s behaviors, and
  • how certain events and responses motivate your child to behave that way in the future.


As with the previous chapters, this one also goes through each step of understanding your child’s behaviors and activities to help with this goal.


Additional Autism Resources


The last section of An Early Start lists some books, toys, organizations, and websites that are very helpful for parents, families, and teachers.  As I mentioned before, I love that you don’t have to buy anything (other than maybe this book) to be able to implement these strategies.  However, as a mom, sometimes I’m strapped for ideas and lists can give me ideas or remind me of what I already have that might work.


An Early Start:  My Favorite Autism Book


This is one of the best autism books you’ll find and a must have for your library!  I continue to use it with my clients and recommend it to families as well.


Parent-delivered intervention is a vital component of any autism program.  (And it’s also the cheapest!!)


My mission for The Autism Connection is to help families feel empowered to teach and help their young children.  If the child improves, but the parents still feel like I’m the only one who can get their kid to do that, I haven’t done my job!


You are with your child more than anyone else!  You are the expert on your child!


Who better to teach and help your child than you?


Yes, it’s incredibly challenging and it’s not a smooth, easy road some days.


But, it’s incredibly rewarding and I truly believe An Early Start for Your Child with Autism will get you there!


If you missed my other two must haves for autism books, check them out here and here!


*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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