Interview: Susan Louise Peterson
While choosing who to interview this month, I came across the book Is My Child Autistic or Delayed? and since my youngest child is about to turn two and has developmental delays it caught my attention. Many people have asked me if I think their child is autistic or just delayed. This is a very loaded question. My hope is that this book will give parents a place to turn for those answers. In addition, Susan is writing books for teenagers with autism, which I think will be a great use for the autism community, too. ~ Leslie A. Burby
Susan Louise Peterson Interview
Leslie: So we are here today with Susan Louise Peterson who is a school psychologist and the author of the newly released book Is My Child Autistic or Delayed?
Congratulations on the release of your book! Tell me how you came to write Is My Child Autistic or Delayed?
Susan: I worked in an early childhood diagnostic clinic assessing more than a thousand young children with developmental delays and autism concerns and what I saw was parents who were struggling with many issues. They were getting a lot of information and it was just hard for them with all that information coming their way.
Leslie: Why did you become a school psychologist?
Susan: I worked in the education field for over 20 years. For years I worked in the inner city schools of Las Vegas, NV as a prekindergarten teacher. So I knew the classroom side of working with children. I then had the opportunity through the school district and the local university to learn more about the assessment and evaluation of young children. So I jumped at the chance of becoming a school psychologist. Looking back there were probably kids in my pre-k classes that were on the spectrum, but we just weren’t knowledgeable on the topic back then.
Leslie: Would you recommend the book to other school psychologists or student teachers or parents? Who would benefit the most?
It was written two-fold for parents and professionals. The beginning of the book is written in a parent-friendly style and addresses numerous parental concerns. Then I look at it from a professional perspective, which would benefit teachers, and anyone in a childhood development profession. For example, I discuss in the book about the type of setting of the assessment. What I found was after observing in a small observation room- you don’t always see how well a child communicates if they are not in their own environment. Professionals may need to observe the child in a preschool setting. There have been times when I have seen a child be much more socially interactive in a preschool than in an office setting. Some children won’t interact in an unfamiliar office setting, but will present a different picture in home or other familiar setting. I tried to make it parent friendly, but also from a professional background so it will benefit both parents and professionals.
Leslie: Would the book be helpful to parents that already have a child diagnosed with autism or would it be most beneficial to parents that are wondering if they should pursue a diagnosis?
Sometimes parents question a diagnosis of autism so the book could be helpful to explain some of their unanswered questions. If a parent is thinking about pursuing an assessment, the book would benefit them in understanding the assessment process. Basically, a team of professionals can decide if a child is autistic, has delays, or is typical for his or her age. The team may say the child meets the criteria for autism; he or she does not meet the criteria for an eligibility of autism or recommend monitoring the child’s communication or behavior and look more at delays before going with autism eligibility. This is quite a process that can be confusing and overwhelming for parents. So I try to simplify the process because it can be quite scary for parents.
Leslie: Can you tell us the part of the book that you think is most helpful to parents?
Susan: I think the part that is most helpful to parents is when I emphasize to parents that in the assessment process the team isn’t just looking at a single characteristic or one very specific thing, rather ‘The Team’ is looking at an abundance of characteristics related to autism. Unless, of course, there is one or two characteristics that are very, very, very severe, but the majority of the time it is the ‘whole picture’ that is taken into account. A major factor is communication. They are watching to see if the child can communicate or socially interact. Is the child making an effort to attempt to communicate a need? For example, are they tugging on your shirt or pointing to a toy?
Leslie: On the “About” page on your site SusanLouisePeterson.com it states that you are the
“Author of several books in the areas of education, child behavior and research.” Can you tell me the titles of the books and give a synopsis of them?
Susan: Over the years of working in education I have authored several books. For example, I wrote the book Tools for Teaching At-Risk Students from my experiences as a teacher in the tough inner city schools of Las Vegas. I have also written a book on Why Children Make Up Stories to caution professionals to consider many options when listening to a child’s explanation. I am currently writing two books for teenagers to help parents and teens communicate more effectively. The books for teens should be out this summer (2013).
Leslie: Where can we purchase your books?
Susan: The book Is My Child Autistic or Delayed? is available on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Is-My-Child-Autistic-Delayed/
There are also electronic versions available on Kindle, iTunes and Nook at http://susanlouisepeterson.com.
Leslie: Thank you so much, Susan, for taking the time to talk with Autism Parenting Magazine. Best of luck with the success of your books.