Book Review: Crafting Connections; Contemporary Applied Behavior
Analysis for Enriching the Social Lives of Persons with Autism
Spectrum Disorder (Taubman, Leaf, McEachin, 2011 DRL Books)
(Reviewed by Beth Curry for the CT FEAT Board of Directors)
Social deficits define autism
spectrum disorders and distinguish them from other kinds of
impairments. Without a profound social deficit there is no
Given the centrality of this deficit in autism, there is no
shortage of “how to” books that purport to address it.
Unfortunately, these books usually fall far short of providing
the kind of detailed, specific, realistic and practical
information needed to make meaningful measurable progress in
teaching these critically important skills.
Crafting Connections; Contemporary
Applied Behavior Analysis for Enriching the Social Lives of Persons with
Autism Spectrum Disorder (Taubman, Leaf, McEachin, 2011) is written
by the behavior analysts at Autism Partnership, the same folks who
brought us three other exceptional contributions to the autism treatment
literature: 1) A Work in Progress: Behavioral Management Strategies
and a Curriculum for Intensive Behavioral Treatment of Autism; 2) Sense
and Nonsense in the Behavioral Treatment of Autism: It has to be Said
and 3) It’s Time for School: Building Quality ABA Educational Programs
for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Like the other books from the Autism Partnership team, Crafting
Connections has an explicitly behavior analytical perspective. As
such, it’s a lot more sober minded than the wishy-washy “feel good”
kinds of books typical of this genre. The writers let you know right up
front: this stuff is hard! They realize that without a realistic
understanding of the complexity of the challenges, which will vary so
widely among individuals on the spectrum, you can’t have an effective
battle plan for addressing them.
Autism intervention programs usually neglect social skills in favor of
focusing on language and academic skills. Parents requesting that
schools explicitly teach social skills often encounter the false claim
that such skills are secondary and not part of the school’s legal duty
to provide an “appropriate education.”
But Crafting Connections persuasively argues that social skills
are more important than any other skill due to their powerful role in
the acquisition of language, academic and self-help skills. The authors
provide analysis and arguments that will help parents articulate the
profound extent to which social intelligence is inextricably bound up
with success in the more narrowly “academic” dimensions of education.
The attainment of certain social skill milestones may not be as easily
grasped and measured as purely academic skills, like math or reading.
But they have tremendous implications for the long term development of
those academic and language related skills. Most of all, improved social
functioning also leads to a better quality of life.
Which children can benefit from the specific curriculum and techniques
outlined in Crafting Connections? As with all effective
intervention, the earlier you get started, and the more intensively you
teach, the greater the impact. But it’s not only young children who will
benefit from the instructional guidance provided by this book.
Crafting Connections helps us learn to think about the complexity
of these skills and the tremendous individuation required to teach them.
Such understanding will enable teachers (including parents) to help
children and adults of all ages, whatever their degree of disability.
Here’s what one CT FEAT member, parent of a five-year-old, had to say
about the book:
I admit, it's a little scary realizing how so many of the social
groups my son has been in probably weren't nearly as effective as they
should have been. But perhaps knowing about it can help change it in the
future. The authors convincingly articulate the need for a focus on
social skills and succinctly explain how most of what's out there now
isn't cutting it. I'm looking forward to trying teaching interactions
with my son and may give the book as a gift to some people that work
Here’s how the publisher of the book describes it:
This is a major work that teaches authentic, appropriate social
skills to students with autism as they navigate the social world.
Crafting Connections not only provides concrete information on
developing social skills but also instructs readers on how to assess
competency, develop programs, and create social skills curricula. The
book contains a comprehensive curriculum that focuses on Social
Awareness, Social Communication, Social Interaction, Social Learning,
and Social Relatedness. The authors present the methods and means to
teach and individualize programs. Sub-skills, prerequisites, and methods
of instruction are outlined for each area in a methodical, easy-to-read
There is an emphasis throughout on teaching interaction and creating
authentic social competence. Real world issues such as teasing,
bullying, conversational development and social comprehension are
addressed in detail. The guide highlights skill development within a
behavioral framework, providing quality social skill instruction to
learners on the spectrum. Crafting Connections aims to foster
genuine relationship development while remaining systematic and
analytic; it goes beyond the rote and simplistic and helps develop
social competencies as well as genuine meaningful, life enriching
relationships. This is a comprehensive, easy-to-use guide that will help
teachers, clinicians, and families teach social skills to children and
youth with autism spectrum disorders.
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