This book struck me as such a good idea when I first encountered its author Jennifer Cook O’Toole in a Guardian article about her own family. She is an aspie, married to another aspie, and with three aspie children. So, plenty of aspie experience to build a book on.
For the most part it lives up to that promise. It is primarily for younger people, and it has lists of pitfalls to keep in mind and learn coping strategies for. There are short chapters dealing with each individual problem area, with amusing illustrations to bring the message home, and making it easier to remember.
Most of the advice is very good, and coming from someone with personal experience it rings true. It will even work for people who are no longer children, setting aside any particular school age advice. Because it is aimed at children the book has some definite dos and don’ts. I feel they are a little too prescriptive, though.
I know aspies need rules, but if the suggestion is slightly ‘wrong’ or not appropriate for an individual (since even aspies are individuals) it could be taken at face value and steer someone in the wrong direction. There were one or two rules I disagree with, and someone else might find others they would feel were not quite right. And since Jennifer is an adult telling a child reader things, we are sort of back to square one again. (My other thought is that as Jennifer is an aspie, she could have got hold of the wrong end of the stick on occasion.)
This book is also very American. It makes the advice not useful for some aspects of normal life for the rest of us. And, Jennifer is writing for the most able aspies; the ‘close to being normal’ people. Advice on using makeup will not sit well with typical aspies. Social rules must not overrule someone’s comfort to the extent they can’t function. In Britain we don’t have the kind of sales staff who can be expected to advise on someone’s complete wardrobe.
And you mustn’t be poor, or have a non-typical family surrounding you, which will rule out many on the autistic spectrum.
But, it does have some great lists! I’d like to be able to pick my own favourites from those lists, to personalise a guidebook for someone. But short of rewriting it all, or cutting the book to pieces…
The book is best for urging young people to carefully consider who they trust, and who is a real friend. Not to think negative thoughts about yourself. Above all, to say no to anything and anyone if something feels wrong. Things don’t have to feel wrong. Better friendless than surrounded by the wrong people.