Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Good readings in autism

If you bring up Asperger's Syndrome, someone will probably ask if you've read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Read it; it's good. However, it's fiction. I'm focusing more on nonfiction today.


Chuck and I were traveling to pick up Amigo at camp when we heard Lianne Holliday Willey on NPR talking about her book Pretending to be Normal. We knew we had to have it. The subtitle is "Living with Asperger's Syndrome," and that's exactly what the book is. Lianne was a resilient child, but a unique and quirky one. She didn't realize exactly why she was different until her daughter was diagnosed with Asperger's and she realized she was on the spectrum herself. Pretending to be Normal is insightful and articulate, a peek inside the experiences and feelings of an adult with Asperger's Syndrome.


Look me in the Eye by John Elder Robison is another memoir that lets people get a glimpse of how someone who appears different can also be highly intelligent and successful professionally. John Elder, as he was nicknamed in his youth, describes living the high life with the band KISS (he was a creative engineer with the band) and living in near poverty in between tours. He marries, divorces, but stays on good terms with his ex-wife and children. His memoir shows how a strikingly creative and intelligent person can run afoul of a rigid school system, develop unique relationships despite social awkwardness, and eventually recognize and seek treatment to come to grips with his autism. Look me in the Eye is fascinating, and not only for the backstage tales of rock and roll special effects.


Unstrange Minds is a tougher read, but well worth the time. Part clinical explanation and part personal story, this book explains the skyrocketing numbers of autism diagnoses better than anyone else I've read.


Send in the Idiots, another memoir by an adult with high functioning autism, initially turned me off because of its title. I was glad I read it, though. As Kamran Nazeer sought out his former classmates and described their successes and failures, he also faced his own uniqueness. Some parts were hard to read not because of any weakness in the book, but because being mom to a teen with Asperger's, the situations made me worry. The title doesn't actually refer to the students by the term "idiot," but quotes an echolalic phrase spoken by a classmate.


Each book is worth the time and effort. I bought all four over a span of several years because I wanted to take my time reading each one thoroughly without the constraints of library due dates. Owning books like this also allows me to go back and read portions at my leisure, rereading as needed.

Readers, I focused on autism. Can you recommend other books from the perspective of people with disabilities or people with disabled family members? Blindness, hearing impairment, otehrs...list them in the comments, please! I eagerly await your suggestions.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I honestly think many people finally come into their own and find their niche OUTSIDE of high school--regardless of their abilities.

I must recommend Dry by Augusten Burroughs as an excellent insight into the mind & habits of an alcoholic/addict. That was our family's disability while growing up and it gave me a LOT of good information on how to deal with it.

10/07/2009 12:24 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

I loved "Karen" and "With Love From Karen" by Marie Lyons Killilea (founder United Cerebral Palsy). I bought them through Scholastic's discount program in seventh grade and today they barely hold together. I didn't realize until 2000 that Gloria's children died in a fire the year I bought the books and the Marie and Jimmy divorced.

10/07/2009 1:42 PM  

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