Book review by: Ray Anne Cook M (O.T) and Sharon Stansfield BSc (OT)
Available through Amazon, UK or go to: www.ourgreatestallies.com
Seldom does an educational, self-help book capture the reader’s emotions as well as this beautiful description of young Matty and his mother, Lauren as they travel “the breadcrumb trail of allies” along the path of his early development.
Matty is a boy whose difference becomes apparent from very early on. His mother is a loving, caring, busy mother of five children. Lauren is also a working Mom, a Writer. It is thanks to Lauren’s openness and honesty in sharing her feelings as she and Matty travelled their
early journey with their Occupational Therapist, Maude Le Roux, that we are given such an opportunity to share and learn with them.
Maude Le Roux shows breadth and depth of knowledge in therapeutic interventions and she describes them in an easy to read and easy to understand way, linking the theory with the place Matty finds himself on along his path. Maude’s warmth and caring, shine throughout the book. She has an absolute respect for Matty and, indeed, for each and every child. She is clear in her conviction that every child is an individual, with individual needs and strengths. She believes that “We [as the adults in the child’s life] must learn how to get to know them”. She tells us to commit to “helping each and every child find their unique course of development…….and reach their highest potential.”
The title had us thinking: who are whose greatest allies? The child, mother,
family, Dr Greenspan, Dr Tomatis and Dr Jean Ayres as well as other health professionals and educators, create a strong team of allies. Matty’s journey highlights the important reality that if we join together and support one another we become a powerful team of allies. And it is in working together as a team, with mutual respect for each other and for the child that we can best help them find the path to reach their full potential as a respected happy child.
The way ‘Our Greatest Allies’ flows from mother’s perspective to therapist’s perspective and back, underscores the importance of the alliance between professional and family. Maude and Lauren remind us, not only through their journey with Matty but also by their chosen style for the book, that therapy is not a one-way relationship. As therapists empower parents and help the child along his path, we too can learn and gain so much. Maude reminds us that therapists need to listen and take time to truly get to know the children we work with. In doing that, we not only become one of the child’s and parent’s allies; but they become ours too.
Maude explains Sensory Processing and how our senses affect our emotions, behaviour and even our ability to focus attention. She believes that today’s focus on quantity rather than quality and of product rather than process, is a folly. Says Maude: “Give the child process and the product takes care of itself”.
Maude’s educational chapters alternate with Lauren’s account of Matty’s and her experiences, bringing the theory into real life. The theories are related to Matty’s life and his developmental journey and Lauren shares her experiences of these therapies from a mother’s perspective. Together, they give us a solid understanding of some of the most important therapies used
in treating children with autism today. These are: Sensory Integration pioneered by Dr. Jean Ayres, Tomatis Sound training pioneered by Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis and the DIR model of therapy pioneered by child psychiatrist, Stanley Greenspan MD.
The book begins with Matty’s birth and early feeding difficulties. Lauren shares with us how, when Matty was 20 months old, a Christmas portrait changed everything; redefining Matty’s journey but, we are reminded, not him. Matty’s early intervention takes several different paths before his mother learns to understand his real needs. Maude then takes us along our own journey: of understanding sensory processing and the systems that drive a child’s physiological, intellectual and social-emotional development and the impact on
behaviour. Lauren opens the door to DIR/Floortime therapy, learning the value of play and a child’s connection to meaning and purpose. We see the importance of forming a close link between school and home and are reminded that professionals working with children need to keep the child’s goals in sight and not only the professional’s goals. We see how Tomatis
Sound training catapults Matty’s development and Lauren and Maude share with us
how Matty learns to work through negative emotions and develop a stronger self concept through the DIR programme.
As we read Matty’s story, we are given an opportunity to enter his world and with Maude and Lauren steering us, we get a chance to understand.
By sharing their knowledge, skills, feelings and insights, Maude and Lauren have created a book which should help us all to understand other Mattys in the world and to be able to help and support them; to “humbly enter the child’s space without threatening it” and to “figure out ways to allow them to trust us and join in ours.”
Everyone who works with children should read this book. But it is also a very important ally for every parent who has a child whose developmental path is different - who may have been diagnosed as having autism or who is struggling to cope with the world into which they’ve arrived. In Lauren’s words: “Matt’s story is for two people – a parent and a child whom I don’t know andI will never meet. For that child, I will never know your beauty; but through Matt’s journey, I hope the rest of the world will.”
Review by: Ray Ann Cooke M.OT and SharonStansfield BSc (OT)