Asperger’s and Girls – good overview but not quite fulfulling

s_and_GirlsBook Review: Asperger’s and Girls

AUTHOR:         Tony Attwood, Temple Grandin and Various Others
PUBLISHER:    Future Horizons, Inc. (2006)
ISBN:                 193256540X
ASIN:                 B005FI1Q60

The Foreword for Asperger’s and Girls sets a tone that one hopes will continue throughout the book. It’s written by Jennifer McIlwee Myers, who happens to have Asperger’s herself. She describes what it was like growing up with the condition and how she never felt like she fit in. She had a difficult time even playing dolls with friends, because the other girls “just didn’t do it right.” Attempts at friendship were rocky at best because of this.

Her Foreword ends with a phrase only someone with Asperger’s could get away with saying,

“We’re here, we’re weird, get used to it!”

Her writing is refreshingly candid, touching and humorous and it reappears later in the book, in a chapter titled “Aspie Do’s and Don’ts: Dating, Relationships and Marriage”. It is perhaps the highlight of the book.

If only the rest of the book lived up to this level of appeal it would be wonderful. As it is, though, it falls a bit short of offering the right blend of compassion, inspiration and information. It’s true that there are several experts in the field who write essays relaying their experience and expertise. Certainly no one’s credentials can be questioned. Tony Attwood is a well-known clinical psychologist from Australia who has spent 30 years as a professor and counselor to those within the realm of autism and Asperger’s, and his essay is enlightening.

Temple Grandin, PhD, has an essay in the book. She is a lecturer, author, and role model due to overcoming her struggles with Asperger’s, and her life was featured in a highly-praised television movie starring Claire Danes a couple of years ago  She, too, offers insight. But it’s somehow not enough.

Other contributors include Teresa Bolick, a psychologist and consultant; Ruth Snyder, an autistic who is studying to be an R.N.; Catherine Faherty, who uses what has been termed the TEACCH program in North Carolina, where she trains teachers and professionals to better deal with Asperger’s in their students and patients; Sheila Wagner, a special education teacher and autism consultant; Lisa Iland, consultant in speech/language who specializes in teens and social skills; and Mary Wrobel, who has 20 years of experience dealing with students with Asperger’s. Their essays cover topics such as education, abilities and patterns, advice on bullying, friendship, puberty and beyond, high school and beyond, touching on aspects of the condition from their perspective. Each topic is worthwhile, but because it is only covered in cover one chapter, the results never quite feel totally fulfilling.

This is not to say that Asperger’s and Girls shouldn’t be read or that it doesn’t have merit. There are too few books on this relatively newly-discovered phenomenon and this was one of the first to be published almost 8 years ago.  It continues to be a good reference and is included in Autism Daily Newscast’s series on girls and women with autism.  This book also was the Winner of the Gold Award in the 2006 ForeWord Book of the Year competition. It may be more a matter of personal taste. It’s heavily slanted in favor of clinical advice and experience, with only a portion of it offering a personal “take” on the situation. For some, this will be perfect. For others, it may offer plenty of information but little inspiration.