Review – The Special Needs Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, & More!

Special needs survival guideThe Special Needs Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, & More! –  is the second book in Cara Koscinski’s The Pocket Occupational Therapist Book Series. Cara is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother to two special needs children.

The first book in the series, The Pocket Occupational Therapist for Families of Children with Special Needs, explores how occupational therapy can help a special needs child to  succeed in both the home and community.

I had the great pleasure to read the second book in the series, The Special Needs School Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities and More. This book focuses on how occupational therapists  help children with autism and learning differences to become successful in an educational setting.

The book is written for everyone who cares for a child on the autistic spectrum. So parents, teachers and their caregivers and professionals will all benefit from reading this book. It is incredibly easy to understand and thankfully jargon free and all medical terms that are used are explained.

Subjects covered in the book include:IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans); occupational therapy; handwriting; fine motor skills; Autism Spectrum Disorders; Sensory Processing Disorder; behaviour; ADHD and Learning Disorders. So this is a very diverse book.

POTWhat  I found particularly interesting as a mother to a young child with ASD and Sensory Modulation Disorder were the issues of how occupational therapy in school can help these children in all aspects of their learning. I feel that occupational therapy and the benefits of occupational therapy are not wholly recognized or discussed in relation to those children with autism. In fact within the UK these services can sometimes be lacking, from having spoken to other parents. So I learned a great deal from reading this book and I now feel that I have a greater awareness of what Sensory Processing Disorder is in relation to my little boy.

Cara states in her book:

“many districts are recognizing the importance of SPD (sensory processing disorder) and its impact on a child’s daily routine. Here is an example of an OT goal which would cover SPD relating to a child’s educational needs: By the end of the IEP date, Jacob will demonstrate the ability to regulate his body for quiet work tasks by choosing an appropriate calming down activity 90% of the time.”

There is an entire chapter on Sensory Processing Disorder that I found extremely interesting were dyspraxia is explained. This is were a child experiences difficulties in their  motor learning.

” It’s a sensory-based motor disorder. Praxis means the ability to plan and then execute movement. So, adding DYS means difficulty with. The areas of difficulty include planning (ideation), making the plan in the correct order (sequencing), and carrying out that plan.”

Cara then explains in great detail about the difficulties a child may encounter when brushing their teeth, something that Tom struggles with daily, and she then offers some practical advice. All of which helped me to understand these difficulties much more as well as giving me some tips for helping my son.

As Tom has Sensory Modulation Disorder this means that as well as being dyspraxic he also has Postural Disorder. This basically means that he has difficulty in picking up sensory cues. Although I was aware of this, what Cara’s book did was to explain to me further how this effects my son’s daily life and once again with this better understanding it has given me food for thought in ways I may better help him.


image taken from the Pocket Occupational Therapist website

“So, they may have difficulty with maintaining their posture and slouch often. Children with postural disorder are often seen in a “W” sitting position. They have difficulty maintaining their stable base of support. As a result, their posture and subsequently their coordination in arms and legs may be affected.”

My son when sat on the couch always sits in a ‘W’ position.

What I also found interesting was the very detailed chapter on handwriting and that this is one of the most common skills OTs work on in a school setting. Cara explains in the book:

“Handwriting does not simply involve the formation of letters and numbers, it also involves difficulty with the following: using the correct pressure on the pencil, the ability to grasp the pencil properly, cursive, staying within the lines of the paper, and spacing between words. Children need to develop handwriting skills as they progress through school and life but before the actual writing process begins…”

The tripod grip is also discussed and my son, although 6, still has great difficulty with this.

I really do recommend this book for anyone caring for a child on the autistic spectrum as there is much to be gained from reading it. You will find ideas to try out at both home and school and will probably gain a better understanding of the difficulties that these children encounter when at school, I know that I did.

The Special Needs School Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, & More! is available in paperback at for $19.99 or through the Pocket Occupational Therapist’s website at

For more information about Cara Koscinski, her presentations, books, occupational therapy practice and products, please visit her website at: Cara can also be reached at

Below is an interview with Cara Koscinski from Autism Live.

About the author

CaraKoscinskiHeadshotCara Koscinski is a pediatric occupational therapist, MOT, OTR/L, and was just 17 years old when she decided on her life long career. After shadowing an occupational therapist (OT) at a high school career day, her mind was made up. “I decided that day that’s what I wanted to do,” said Cara.” In fact, I applied to a university OT program as a junior in high school and never looked back. I never considered any other career.”

Little did she know that her passion, first ignited as a teen, would serve her so well in both her professional and personal life. Cara practiced occupational therapy, primarily serving an adult population, for years. It wasn’t until she had two special needs kids of her own that she made the switch to pediatric OT. Cara’s two sons are both on the autism spectrum and have sensory processing disorder. Her younger son has mitochondrial disease, a severe case of Eosinophilic Esophagitis and uses a feeding tube for nourishment. At times, he requires a wheelchair to get around.

Cara believes her experience as a special needs mom gives her unique empathy for her clients and their families. “When I give my clients a home activity, I have personally tried it and know it works,” said Cara. “It’s not easy at all raising two kids with special needs, but I feel very blessed to have the chance to use my professional expertise to help my own boys.”