~In A Different Key The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Caren Zucker~
I have read a ton of books on autism and I learned things I didn’t know reading this book. The format is an easy to follow timeline. Far from being a dry history, I found it easy to read. This is a great nonfiction book for anyone interested in learning about autism or the history of autism. The book starts with case one, Donald Triplett, and ends telling us where he is today.
This book dispels some of the myths surrounding autism, from the “refrigerator mother” to the vaccine controversy and the false idea of a sudden explosion in autism.
I was fascinated by the unfolding of the history. After reading, I understood more about why it has been so difficult for our society to understand autism, and the obstacles in getting a diagnosis and assistance for this condition.
A must read for anyone working with people on the spectrum.
This book is well researched and written in an easy to understand and engaging style. An excellent addition to your bookshelf.
I recommend this for anyone who works with people on the spectrum and for the curiously minded. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
~The Aspie Girl’s Guide to Being Safe with Men by Debi Brown~⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ It’s sad such a book has to be written, but it is a hard fact that people on the spectrum are some of the most vulnerable. The characteristics of autism make those with ASD easy targets. It’s hard to stay safe when you can’t read body language and you don’t understand social interaction well. This book is written by a woman on the spectrum to young women and girls on the spectrum. It is not bogged down by technical jargon but rather reads like a conversation imparting sisterly advice. At the same time, it is well organized. Much of the information contained in this book are things girls are assumed to instinctively know or pick up from their friends. This does not happen for people on the spectrum. Even if a person has been instructed about the topics in this book, having the unwritten safety rules organized and written out is a good idea and would probably be helpful. If you care about a young lady on the spectrum I feel purchasing this book or one like it is needed and money well spent. This small volume is easy to understand and written in a friendly, sensitive, accessible style. This is a book about sexuality and staying safe in sexual relationships from a female aspie perspective. Have the conversation.
This is the first book I have seen on this specific topic. I haven’t seen one for guys yet. If you have please let me know in the comments.
I never make a grand announcement at the beginning of my current novel in progress, but everyone guesses right away that the teen boy has asperger’s. Yet no one ever asks about the main character, his twin sister.
As it is currently written, I did not intend for them both to be autistic, but it seems plenty of markers pop up. It’s certainly enough for someone to notice, to question. Unless we don’t notice asperger’s in girls.
Here’s quick rundown of a few things about my female teen character that might point to autism or a related condition.
She is anxiety ridden, repeatedly picks at her skin to the point of bleeding, often speaks bluntly, has a phobia, hates surprises, finds deception almost impossible, has difficulty with emotions, problems with executive functioning, poor fashion sense, craves structure, has a primary initial emotional response of anger, follows the rules, is emotionally immature, liked to spin when she was younger, has a TWIN with autism, a father with geek syndrome, and a mom who is super organized and hides her own feelings. I describe her going into a dissociative state when she becomes overwhelmed. While in this state, she tears at her flesh until she bleeds. (Shutdown vs. meltdown) She is sloppy when painting her room, but is a talented artist who sells her work.
While I didn’t write my main character to be on the spectrum, I do wonder why no one asked. They asked about the father. It could be due to my writing, or maybe, just maybe, we don’t think of girls as having aspergers’. And would we know an aspergirl staring us right in the face? According to what I’ve found out, not likely.
When, exactly, does a quirky, troubled girl start looking like an aspie? Especially if you didn’t know her before she entered the teen years? And what does an aspie look like anyway? By the way, please don’t ever, ever tell someone their kid doesn’t look autistic.
Boys and girls are different. Why would an aspie girl behave in a male aspie way? Aspergers or autism is not strictly a boy’s condition. Girls are simply staying under the radar.
“If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.”
And why I am even talking about it? Because girls on the spectrum function under a tremendous amount of pressure. They end up misdiagnosed. Anxious and depressed. Judged. People don’t have to make life harder than it already is.
Honestly, snap judgments about why a person acts the way they do are rarely useful. Struggling people act out. Grieving children act out. I know in fiction we won’t tolerate a character we don’t like. Fine with me, as long as in real life when you meet a real person who acts odd, hold off a minute before jumping to conclusions. Try adjusting your perspective a little before deciding they “aren’t acting right” no matter if they are spectrumy or neurotypical.
Years ago I read a book titled Pretending to be Normal about one autistic female’s experiences. It was quite good. I need to reread it before I review it, but it’s on my ever lengthening To Be Reviewed list.
I plan to get to the book Aspergirls as well, someday.
The children’s novel Rain Reign, has a girl on the spectrum as its main character. It was an excellent read. You can find my review of that novel here.
Can you think of any fictional female characters who display aspie traits on television shows or in movies? Books? If any come to mind, please list them in the comments.
Book Review of Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening by John Elder Robison
In a quest for emotional intelligence, John Elder Robison agreed to allow neuroscientists to experiment on his brain. In this memoir that reminds one of Flowers for Algernon, Robison tells us about his experience with TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and the resulting effects on his emotions and life.
Imagine your world being turned upside down by a sudden awareness that things are not at all the way you thought they were. Scales drop from your eyes. You connect with people in a way you never have before. Things are different, sharper. But there is a caveat. You see that sometimes ‘friends’ are most definitely not friends at all. Childhood memories are now viewed with disturbing clarity. The gift you so sought after, to become more perceptive, is now yours but the beauty so desired and expected isn’t the only thing this new found ability to see emotion reveals.
I was moved by Switched On in a way no other memoir has touched me. This is truly a unique experience that Robison has shared.
After the reception his book, Look Me In the Eye, John Elder Robison was approached to participate in a research study. Scientists wanted to measure the plasticity of the brain, in other words, how the brain can adapt, change, and ‘rewire’ itself. They also sought results about cognitive therapies and how that might affect the brain. The idea was to see if TMS could be used to effect the difficulties autistic people have reading the emotions and nonverbal communication of others.
People on the autism spectrum are not unemotional or uncaring. They do have difficulty reading people, understanding, and responding in the expected way to situations. This is something that people are expected to come by naturally, but this skill seems particularly elusive to people on the spectrum.
Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change, chronicles the unexpected and far reaching results of this research study. Robison underwent moments of amazing emotional awakening and others of devastation as a result of the sudden onslaught of awareness.
This memoir leaves us with more questions than answers about the future of TMS for therapeutic uses. Delving into this area of research raises a multitude of ethical questions.
“The thing is, not all differences lead to disability. Some lead to exceptionality. And we don’t necessarily know enough to tell one from the other. Yet we are on the verge of acting on that incomplete knowledge right now in the area of autism.”
Switched On left me feeling conflicted. It offers hope for future understanding and therapies, but is, in part, a cautionary tale. We would do well to take heed. At the same time, there were tremendous gains for Robison. This book has given me a deeper understanding of why someone might be willing to try these kinds of treatments.
I like Robison’s writing style. I find his books to be easy to read and entertaining, while at the same time providing information. In this particular book he does tend to stray into areas that are a bit technical for me, but his down-to-earth style kept me engaged with the story throughout. This book was a fascinating read and I finished it quickly.
I recommend this book for anyone curious about TMS, autism, or for anyone interested in a good memoir.
I also suggest Robison’s first book, Look Me in The Eye, or another of his books, Be Different, both of which I found to be very encouraging and informative. This recent book is a bit different than the two I have previously read since it deals with medical research, but Robison’s engaging story telling style remains. In Switched On Robison has given readers the opportunity to gain further insights into his autistic journey.
“So is there a cure?’ I asked.
“It’s not a disease,” he explained. “It doesn’t need curing. It’s just how you are”
This memoir pulled me in right away. In Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s, John Elder Robison recounts his childhood with a straight forward candidness and a story telling style that makes for easy reading or listening. The emotions his story evokes run the gamut from humorous to heartbreaking and everything in between. Many of the events he recounts are of a mature nature.
There is sense of hope as well as moments of dark humor. I liked the balance in this memoir. As a mother, I found myself both horrified and chuckling at some of his childhood dealings with his little brother. The recounting of his various careers is amazing, considering he was a dropout who was never expected to amount to much.
John Elder Robison’s message of finding a way and doing your best shines though. I found myself rooting for him as he told of his struggles.
I would recommend this book for any adult or young adult who is interested in learning more about Asperger’s, enjoys memoir, or who likes a good story about overcoming. Parents who are concerned with the subject matter should preview the book. This is a good book for discussion and inspiration.
Issues of Concern (I listened to the audiobook read by John Elder Robison. This was an abridged version.)
Mature topics presented in a matter of fact manner in the natural flow of the memoir. Parent’s mental illness, child abuse, father’s alcoholism, sexual abuse by a doctor against his mother, language, mentions of drug use, arrest when working with a band, mention of mother’s bisexualism, mention of brother’s same sex partner, there may be additional issues in the unabridged version
When I first started asking around in the Asperger’s and Autism community about the whole church issue, the stories I heard made me mad. By the time I’d gotten a few more responses, I was sad. Overwhelmingly sad. The stories did not stop coming.
It breaks my heart when people say they regret staying at their church and wished they had left sooner.
The responses I gathered were from Christian people desiring fellowship. Many of these believers are actively seeking a church or Bible study in spite of bad experiences.
Why is church so hard for people on the autism spectrum?
Getting to the Church on Time, Late, or At All
Every mom knows this is a battle, but with Autism Spectrum Disorder it is multiplied. Most people on the spectrum have terrible issues with insomnia, getting restorative sleep, and waking. When I say trouble waking, I am not kidding. A regular topic is how to wake up. I read somewhere in an autism advocate’s writings about the need for an alarm clock that shakes and shrieks.
Trouble organizing, estimating and managing time, the other hundred hurdles every day brings with sensory, eating difficulties, motor skills issues, and so on make getting out challenging on any day. Sunday is no exception.
Sensory Overloads and Processing Problems
Sensory overload is another big issue. Loud music, flashing lights, over powering perfume add up to an sensory cocktail that can quickly overload. While these things may be a minor irritation to some, for others the input is akin to a sensory onslaught.
The format and language of today’s church can be difficult for a literal-minded person to understand. An emphasis on emotion rather than thought and logic make it hard to grasp the message.
It is a social setting. This is a minefield for someone who can’t read body language, has difficulty recognizing faces, or any of the myriad of other cognitive or social skills typically lacking in a person with ASD. Often, children and young adults are expected to be “friends” at church to the same people who bullied the child at school. People who greet with a hug then ignore the minute they step out of the church door, or even before, will probably be interpreted as hypocritical.
Rejection at Church
Rejection and bullying is something I heard about over and over when I brought up the issue of church. Family members of all ages were bullied. Adults bullied children. Being rejected by people at church is an issue I heard about over and over. You can read about an instance that happened to my kids at church here.
And, no, this one situation did not cause us to leave that church. Often we have to weigh the cruelty of ignorant people against the benefit for our children of continuing to attend.
One of my kids visited a local church a while back. An adult in the youth group began making derogatory statements about persons with disabilities. The fact that this man felt comfortable saying these things in front of leadership and the students made it clear this was not a place we cared to be. Talk about how to keep visitors from coming back!
While the majority of people are kind and caring, I’m sad to say I wasn’t particularly surprised by this encounter.
People assume that since this person is not connecting socially they are not aware of these slights, but sometimes appearances are deceiving. Some autistics are exceptionally intuitive. The inability to express oneself does not necessarily mean a person has no thoughts or feelings on a matter.
Leadership that avoids their students with more needs, or even become hostile to students who ask too many questions is a frequent problem parents cited. Aspies tend to have no qualms responding to the challenge to “prove me wrong”. A lack of social skills coupled with honest answers from a young person who may have an above average IQ can be misinterpreted by youth workers and lead to exclusion.
Do You Want to Be the Church?
I was heartened to find some excellent resources for churches and ministries interested in reaching the “one out of the ninety-nine” as Dr. Stephen Grcevich from Key Ministry put it.
This YouTube video is a good condensation explaining a complicated topic. I think it is an excellent start.
Why Church Should Be Accessible
I talked to many parents. Most have tried church after church. Many gave up on ever finding a church home. Some of the children, scarred and confused by their church experiences, have given up on God. Not all have not turned away. There are those who continue to search for a place to belong, a safe haven to worship and fellowship with other believers. People they can call “brother”.
Some church leaders think church is for the majority, and they can’t afford to spend time making church available to everyone.
God has designed every person with a purpose. There is room in the body for every believer.
God has designed every person with a purpose. There is room in the body for every believer. (Tweet This)
Dr. Grcevich stated in the video that he believes God has a reason for the influx of students and people with Asperger’s and similar conditions.
Qualities common to people with Asperger’s are the tendency to be truth and knowledge seekers, be persistent in faith, have a strong sense of morality, be deep thinking, justice minded, and analytical, to have zero tolerance for hypocrites, and pay no heed to church politics.
Is there room at your church for these kind of people?
I felt the need to add to this post for clarity after some feedback from readers.
People with Asperger’s don’t need a special program. Dr. Grcevich explains in the video above that being funneled into the typical special needs ministry would not serve well and be completely inappropriate. What do they need? Respect, understanding, and a helping hand every now and then.
If this post resonated with you, please share it. Have something to add? Join the conversation by commenting below. I want to hear from you!
I liked Marcelo. I was immediately drawn into the book, Marcelo in the Real World, by the main character.
Seventeen year old Marcelo is diagnosed with something close to Asperger’s and attends a special school, Paterson. He doesn’t really fit in there, but he is comfortable and is hesitant to change to a mainstream school. His father, Arturo, has decided that Marcelo will spend his summer experiencing “the real world”. Marcelo will work in the mail room at his father’s law firm. At the end of the summer, a decision will be made about school.
Marcelo has his quirks, but is a kind and relatable hero. He faces many challenges. This is one of those books I read straight through. The story is told through first person and in the beginning Marcelo often refers to himself in third person, which is odd but not distracting and adds to the character. I do not know of any people on the spectrum who speak this way, but Marcelo does. Marcelo’s observations of his co-workers, situations, and people he encounters is interesting.
In the course of an assigned task, Marcelo comes across some information at the law firm. This information forces him to make some hard decisions about right and wrong that will have great impact on many lives, including his own.
Religions are said to be Marcelo’s special interest. I liked that Francisco Stork portrayed an autistic character who has deep conversations and questions about spiritual matters.
There was a few inconsistencies of behavior or thought patterns, it seems to me, but the story engaged enough that these incidents did not interrupt the flow of the story. Marcelo In The Real World explores many issues that are good for discussion. The book ended satisfactorily. It is a well-crafted work with strong moral questions and themes. I felt the portrayal of Marcelo was respectful and interesting. This is a thought provoking book.
In my opinion, the targeted audience for this book is too young.
I suggest parents preview the book. I feel this book is more appropriate for older than the intended or labeled age group. There are issues of discrimination, another worker’s inappropriate conduct toward female co-workers, questions of morality vs legalities, language, frank discussions of sex, and religious themes/discussions. At least one moment of irreverence. I listened to the book rather than reading and did not make notes of issues of concern so may have missed something.
I listened to the audiobook read by Lincoln Hoppe and found the recording and reading to be well done.
You can watch a video of an author interview here. This explains why the character seems a bit inconsistent as far as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s.
This is how you tell a story: First you introduce the main character. I’m writing the story about me, so I am the main character.
Rose loves homophones, and she loves her dog. Rain is the name of her dog, and that is his name because her father brought him home to her one rainy night. This got to me, because my dog Thunder was named Thunder because . . .
So she had me from the start.
I didn’t read long before the story sucked me in. The storytelling has a rhythm that I found easy to fall in to.
Rose has a passion for homophones, prime numbers, and rules. I found her likable and a bit heart tugging. Her father is ill equipped to handle a special needs child, and struggles to overcome his own experiences stemming from an abusive background. He is determined to not repeat his own father’s mistakes. Too often, he finds solace in drinking at the local bar. He does not understand Rose. Rose has an Uncle, Weldon, who often steps in and is a good influence in her life.
I saw the end coming and knew what Rose was going to do but could not stop reading. This is good story telling. I had to put the book down a couple of times towards the end, because I related too much to the whole kid and a dog thing. Yes, I am a sucker for those kind of stories. If you are too, you might like this book.
This book could be used to help children understand and gain empathy for those different from themselves. There are many possible topics of discussion. I would mention that not everyone on the spectrum has the same issues, needs, foibles, gifts, and personalities. As the saying goes, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. I found the character of Rose believable and interesting.
For grades 4-6 or older
Issues of concern
Only parent is portrayed in negative light/not a positive portrait of a parent, in one instance father gets angry and kicks the dog, father drinks and spends time at the local bar, children at school tease and mock Rose, special needs, hurricane/flood, lost dog, absent mother
In part one I touched on parenting tips, behavioral issues, life skills and what I found to be the most useful character based curriculum for teaching my kids.
Support Groups for Parents of Kids with ASD
An invaluable resource, one you cannot do without, is asperger or autism support groups. Parents can provide you with much wisdom, insight, and encouragement. You may find various groups geared towards raising and teaching kids on the spectrum online and locally. I recommend finding both a local group that has meetings and an online group to take advantage of the wide variety of input. Most, if not all, local groups also have an online presence or an email group.
In regards to online groups, some prefer email groups to Facebook groups for privacy reasons. I have made use of both types of online groups. Parents who have been in the trenches can help you in more ways than you can imagine. Adults on the spectrum, especially adults who are now raising and teaching their own children with ASD, can give a unique perspective and provide effective problem solving strategies that may not typically be obvious to others.
I do not know how I would have navigated the difficult and confusing seasons without the wonderful moms and dads who were willing to share their knowledge and support. There is a reason I put this first here. You will need people. Don’t neglect to find your tribe.
You will need people. Don’t neglect to find your tribe. (Tweet This)
*If home educating, you may also wish to take advantage of your local homeschool support groups and activities. These can be found by doing internet searches or asking local home educating families.
There are a plethora of different products and services out there that fall under the category of Brain Training. Some people say these work, and others say save your money. The very first brain training program I ever heard of was Audiblox when I first began home schooling.
Beware of companies that offer brain training after they give you reduced cost testing. If the tests are not accepted by assistive agencies as legitimate, you may not be receiving an accurate assessment. Pay careful attention to the wording of the test descriptions and do your homework. Cheap, ineffective testing isn’t worth anything in the long run. It may do more harm than good, masking problems or misdirecting from the real issues and proper treatment.
We used a computer game called Earobics for auditory discrimination. One of my sons said it really helped him. This was the first edition computer software for older kids and adults I found many, many years ago. The company now makes more products in the line used in schools in addition to home versions. You can get Earobicshere.
Occupational Therapy-Sensory Integration Therapy
A program called Learning Breakthrough that seemed to have good results for my child who used it. We could not use the ball included due to latex allergy, but found an alternative. We used a plastic whiffle ball covered with a sock hung from a string! This program was easy to use and required no teacher prep. It is a structured occupational therapy program for sensory integration advertised as being useful for people and children with asperger’s, high functioning autism, ADD and learning difficulties.
The DVD speaks directly to the person using the program. The activities are actually quite fun and enjoyable. In my opinion, the product is quite sturdy and the instructions given on the DVD are clear and easy to understand. You can watch a video sample here.
Take A Swing Therapeutic Swing Sets
Here are some pretty cool swing sets for kids and adult sized people that are portable! These can be packed in your car trunk and can be used indoors.