CHUCK KUEFPER, Staff Reporter
A learning disabilities specialist, who also provides family and personal coaching for those with attention deficit disorders, has written a handbook to help others to be able to manage their own or their children's cases.
Carol McMullen's book Saving Your Child Saving Yourself — subtitled Navigating Roadblocks in Managing ADHD, Asperger's and Learning Disabilities — was released in September and feedback has been overwhelming positive.
McMullen has worked with people with learning disabilities since the early '70s and has drawn upon that experience, which has included directing educational and mental health programs in treatment settings at the University of Guelph, to write the handbook.
Until now, McMullen had opted to maintain a low profile, but has left her comfort zone at the encouragement of parents and colleagues who said she had an obligation to share her expertise.
"Writing did feel like a good way to do it," said McMullen, who indicated other books about learning difficulties describe the issues and tell the sad stories. "The real difference in mine is that it's a handbook, a step-by-step process in each of the areas ordinary people can use."
The book is described as the first hands-on resource of its kind, which gives readers strategies to cope in a system and society that still fails to meet the needs of those with special learning disabilities.
"Almost everybody has someone in their extended family or in their social network that has one of these possible labels or that they suspect might have these kind of problems," said McMullen. "In the last decade it felt that if you had ADHD that's where all the energy and action was. Now it feels that people are finally understanding that the Autism Spectrum is wider than we thought and for some reason there seems to be a lot more people being diagnosed. Whether what we're eating and drinking and breathing is contributing to this, as some of the research is saying, or just more people are being identified, it's a question for researchers."
And these problems aren't unique to children. Adults, who may not have had a diagnosis as a child, can have workplace issues and relationship problems that are attributed to a learning problem. The book provides specific help for adults in the workplace and in relationships, as well as for time management and organization.
For parents that have children with learning disabilities, there are chapters on how to get schools on board, assessment and legal rights, and surviving at home.
"Every kid that has been identified, either formally or informally of having any special kind of learning needs, has a legal right to a specialized program or special aspects to the program," said McMullen. "But it's really, really difficult for parents to make that happen, and even if they get that on paper it isn't functional — so this sort of helps them to do that."
It remains a challenge to get a diagnosis, which allows a student to be eligible for Individual Education Programs (IEPs), since learning disabilities and related symptoms are complex.
"In my long clinical practice, there is not always a high correlation between the work samples, the experience, what's happening with the student or adult who's in front of me and what the psychological test says," said McMullen. "Go to five different people and get five entirely different diagnoses for the same person."
In the book, individuals are given the tools to able to classify symptoms so that when they go to a psychologist, they'll have an idea of exactly what to look for and how it needs to be expressed in a report — and how to get a diagnosis.
"I really feel this book will give ordinary people that kind of awareness, so that when they go to these professionals they can actually get the help that they need," said McMullen.
It's her hope the handbook can be used as a resource and in co-operation with counsellors, those in the educational system and other professionals.
"At the end of this book you can be a case manager for your child or kind of a treatment partner with your spouse if you're trying to work on an adult level," said McMullen.
The Saving Your Child Saving Yourself handbook retails for $35.
For more information or to order a copy of the book, visit www.carolmcmullen.ca.