The Art of Engagement


At CEA, we are all about engaging children with autism, and we believe the best way to do that is to empower parents. Engaging a child with autism does not come naturally to most parents. That’s why we’re sharing with you some of our favorite books on the topic. Pick one or two that resonate with you. I guarantee you’ll learn something practical that will inspire you to engage your child every day.

Floortime is a theoretical framework and also a treatment approach that addresses the core features of social-emotional development in children. Stanley Greenspan, M.D. developed this approach with colleagues Serena Wieder and others. He writes about this philosophy and intervention in different books and for different populations of children. Check out the website for the most current information.

Engaging Autism by Stanley Greenspan, M.D. and Serena Wieder, PH.D., 2006

This is a most valuable resource for parents of children on the autism spectrum. The core problems in children with ASD including intimacy and closeness, exchanging emotional gestures in a continuous way and using words and symbols with emotional intent are described and addressed in their treatment model. This is a valuable book for parents of newly diagnosed children. The book describes the Floortime approach which specifically addresses these core challenges.

Building Healthy Minds, The Six Experiences that Create Intelligence and Emotional Growth in Babies and Young Children by Stanley Greenspan, M.D. and Nancy Breslau Lewis, 1999

This book, written for parents, presents a framework for understanding social-emotional development in all children. The importance of relationships for giving meaning to a child’s abilities in all developmental areas is a central theme. Emotions serve as the organizer for learning. The book presents practical ways that parents can understand and promote their child’s social-emotional development. There are good descriptions of individual differences in children and how parents can understand, interpret, and interact with children who respond differently to sensations/stimuli in their environment. The authors talk about babies who are sensitive to touch and sound, babies who are underwhelmed by the world, babies who crave stimulation and those who take in sights but not sounds and vice versa. Practical straightforward advice is offered with concrete examples.

The Challenging Child, Understanding, Raising, and Enjoying the Five “Difficult” Types of Children by Stanley Greenspan, 1995

This book is written for parents so that they may better understand and interact with their atypically behaving child. Greenspan categorizes these children into five types—the highly sensitive child, the self-absorbed child, the defiant child, the inattentive child and the active/aggressive child. He describes children’s personalities using parent-friendly language and examples of behaviors from everyday life. His approach is positive, honest and supportive. This book provides a good framework for understanding the stages of social-emotional development in children who display more unusual and more volatile patterns of behavior, common children in the experiences of special educators. The book is a good resource for educators working with parents in building their child’s social competencies as well as strengthening the parent-child relationship.

The Child with Special Needs, Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional Growth by Stanley Greenspan, M.D. and Serena Wieder, Ph.D., 1998

Greenspan and Wieder present their developmental (DIR) approach to evaluating and intervening with children with autism, autistic spectrum and pervasive developmental disorders, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, regulatory and attention disorders. The six emotional milestones are discussed in language anyone can understand. Explicit examples of the Floor-Time Approach are described for intervention at each emotional level. The book is long and detailed but has lots of concrete, functional ways to adapt interactions and behaviors for children who respond differently.

The Growth of the Mind by Stanley Greenspan,  M.D. and Beryl Lieff Benderly, 1997

Greenspan describes his theoretical framework of how “emotions, not cognitive stimulation serve as the mind’s primary architect.” The early part on the role of sensory processing and its relationship to emotional development is particularly compelling for understanding the development of a social-emotional self. The book is readable but would probably appeal to more of a professional audience.

Purchasing these books through the provided links gives CEA a donation through Amazon’s Affiliate program. Win, win, right?

Author: Margie

Margie, MA, OTR, is an occupational therapist through the Minneapolis Public Schools. She is dedicated to engaging children with autism and helping parents achieve that engagement in everyday moments. Read her full bio here.

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