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Book Review: The Child with Special Needs

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Book Review: The Child with Special Needs
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The Bottom Line

By Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., and Serena Weider, Ph.D., with Robin Simons; 496 pages. From the book jacket: "The comprehensive approach to developmental challenges including autism, PDD, language and speech problems, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, ADD, and other related disorders."

That’s a tall order -- an approach that works with all those varied diagnoses. But this book more than fills it. Just about any child would benefit from the sort of intensive parenting play described here.

About the Guide Rating

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  • A "must read" for parents of neurologically challenged children.
  • "Floor Time" technique offers do-at-home therapy.
  • Good information on children's emotional development.
  • Effective for a number of different but sometimes overlapping diagnoses.
  • Will help you understand your child better, by reading about and playing with him or her.


  • It's a big, long, heavy book.
  • Both the reading and the technique are a lot of work.
  • May be discouraging if your child doesn't respond as you hope.
  • You may find that a lot of what you're already doing is wrong.
  • Not everyone may have the time, patience, creativity or instinct for this approach.


  • Chapter 1: Moving Beyond the Label
    Chapter 2: Biological Challenges
  • Chapter 3: Observing Each Child: Biological Challenges and Strengths
    Chapter 4: The Six Milestones
  • Chapter 5: Observing Each Child: The Six Milestones
    Chapter 6: Observing Yourselves
  • Chapter 7: Emotion and Interaction: Keys to Development
    Chapter 8: The Floor-Time Approach
  • Chapter 9: Floor Time I: Attention, Engagement and Intimacy
  • Chap. 10: Floor Time II: Two-Way Communication
    Chap. 11: Floor Time III: Feelings and Ideas
  • Chap. 12: Floor Time IV: Logical Thinking
    Chap. 13: Strengthening Processing Abilities
  • Chap. 14: Going to Sleep, Toilet Training, and Other Challenges
    Chap. 15: Special-Needs Syndromes
  • Chap. 16: Marital Challenges
    Chap. 17: Family Challenges
    Chap. 18: An Integrated Approach to Therapy
  • Chap. 19: School and Other Children
    Chap. 20: What Can We Expect?

Guide Review - Book Review: The Child with Special Needs

What parents of children with special needs want more than anything else is to be able to do something. There’s so much that’s uncertain in getting a diagnosis for a child, so many overlaps in symptoms between neurological disorders, so many things that almost but don’t quite fit your child, so many indefinite prognoses, so many choices and so few good options. Parents don’t want to hear about “maybe” and “statistically” and “wait and see.” They want to do something. Now.

“The Child with Special Needs” isn’t the easiest parenting book you’ll ever pick up. It’s big. It’s long. The writing style is accessible but not exactly zippy. There are a few diagrams, but also pages and pages and pages of straight text. You will need to take your time. But the information here is worth reading; it will help you understand your child where he or she is now; and best of all, it will help you to do something. Even if you don’t have a hard-and-fast diagnosis, or you don’t believe the diagnosis you have is correct, or you’re the only one who thinks something’s wrong with your child, or something’s right with him, these techniques will work. At the very least, you will spend lots of time playing with your child, and that’s never a waste.

More likely, you will find that the Floor Time techniques outlined here will help your child move, in tiny baby steps, from isolation to engagement. And they will help you move, in increments just as small, from despair to empowerment.

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