I’m happy to highlight two memoirs by young women on the spectrum: Take it from the expert: sixteen years of experience living on the autism spectrum by Kaitlin Smith and I only see in black & white by Keara Farnan. These books provide insight into the authors’ struggles and triumphs and offer practical advice for both autistic and neurotypical readers.
Take it from the expert: sixteen years of experience living on the autism spectrum
Kaitlin Smith wrote Take it from the expert when she was 16 years old. She and her two siblings are all on the autism spectrum. Kaitlin’s goal in writing this book was to “help people gain a better understanding of what someone might be thinking based on (her) personal experience.” She feels that autism has had both positive and negative impacts on her life.
The topics Kaitlin discusses include making friends and forming social groups, dating, managing emotions and stress, and dealing with sensory challenges. She also offers her perspective on the value of special interests and how they can promote learning, independence, and happiness. Her own passion is Pokémon, and she shares how her interest in the franchise inspired her to develop her writing and drawing skills and to explore herself and the world through the themes in the stories and the personality traits of the characters.
Take it from the expert is a thoughtful memoir that would be of interest to anyone looking for first-person perspectives on autism. The tone of the book is optimistic and Kaitlin is respectful of diverse perspectives. The main target audience is parents and others who support people on the spectrum. I would also recommend this book to young adults with autism, especially teen girls who are struggling to find social acceptance.
Visit Kaitlin’s Facebook page for Take it from the experthere.
I only see in black & white
Keara Farnan is a writer from Vancouver BC. She was diagnosed with autism when she was 7 and wrote I only see in black & white when she was 23. Her passions include writing, fitness and cooking. In this book, Keara shares her perspectives and advice on topics including friendship, relationships, mental health, and the communication barriers that exist between neurotypical and people with autism.
A major theme in I only see in black & white is Keara’s struggle with depression, anxiety, and negative body image. She explores how the social challenges experienced by people with autism can contribute to low self-esteem and mental illness. She candidly discusses her experiences with bulimia and the ways in which her eating disorder is related to autism. Reflecting on her personal relationship with food, she explores how sensory issues, food sensitivities and allergies can affect nutrition and contribute to disordered eating in people on the spectrum. Keara’s lucid introspection on these topics is a valuable contribution to the literature on autism and mental health.
Throughout this book, Keara highlights the ways in which neurotypical people often fail to understand or accept autistic people. She demonstrates how many of her own positive qualities, such as loyalty and honesty, actually cause problems in her relationships with neurotypical people. In her chapters on friendship, she shares how she has been hurt by potential friends who were flaky, phony, or not genuinely interested in developing or maintaining a friendship. Her observations serve as an important reminder that communication is a two-way street. If we want to build a society that is truly inclusive of autistic people, neurotypical people have a responsibility to learn about autism and to treat autistic people with genuine respect.
I only see in black & white is an intimate look at the inner life and social experiences of a young autistic woman. I would recommend this book to teens and young adults on the spectrum, as well as parents, high school teachers, therapists, or anyone who works with young autistic adults.
I only see in black & white was released last summer. In addition to the AutismBC store, it is also available for purchase on Amazon, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble, and various other bookstores.