In this blog, we will introduce books on autism, as recommended by Autistic self-advocates Corey Walker and Neil Steinwand. Their picks range from classics like Temple Grandin and Tony Attwood to groundbreaking titles such as “NeuroTribes” by Steve Silberman.
Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
Things that struck me: References to being from another planet—chapter 4 Strong attachment to places—chapter 7
In the book Thinking in Pictures, Temple Grandin, a famous autistic author, professor, and livestock expert, tells her personal story in her own words of growing up as an autistic girl in a time autism wasn’t well-known or understood. On the surface, Thinking in Pictures reads just like an ordinary autobiography of a famous person, but it soon becomes apparent that it’s much more than that. Her book serves as an inspirational and motivational story, proving that a person’s goals are always within reach, even when you have a disability such as autism. As an autistic self-advocate, I found Temple’s story to be very encouraging.
Grandin covers her whole life to that point, starting with childhood, and concluding with her as an adult at a point in time right before she started writing her story. She talks about how, as a child, she was different than other children her age and how school was challenging for her. I was heartened by the unwavering support her mom, her teachers, and one of her principals gave her, and the creative strategies they employed to help her succeed in her journey. It reminded me of the support from my parents, and many of my teachers provided me over the years. I do not doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am today without the dedication of all those wonderful people.
Temple also talks about dating, but interestingly enough, she approaches it from a strictly scientific perspective. She admits that she has never dated and has remained celibate her whole life, referring to sex as “the biggest, most important ‘sin of the system,’” a term I found both interesting and funny. Even though I am currently dating (I’ve been dating the same girl since February 2019), I can easily relate to Grandin’s struggles with reading and understanding subtle social cues. I’ve gotten myself in trouble a few times with my girlfriend because I either misinterpreted her body language or misunderstood a comment she made. In both cases, I reacted differently from what she expected. Luckily, my girlfriend is autistic, so she’s pretty understanding.
While reading Thinking in Pictures, there were two comments she made that particularly stood out to me. The first was from chapter 4, Learning Empathy. In this chapter, Grandin lamented that her mother, being governed by her emotions, often struggles to understand that her daughter’s different style of thinking. She wrote, “For her, it is like dealing with somebody from another planet.” I can relate to this comment, having made that comment myself many times about my parents and other neuro-typicals and how they relate or don’t relate to me. I was also struck by her comment in chapter 7 about her strong emotional bonding to certain places and objects that played a significant role in her life. I have the same attachment. When my parents moved out of the trailer I grew up in, I was distraught. When they closed my elementary school and tore down my high school, I was even more upset. I have a hard time visiting my old teachers in the new high school building because I have no attachment to it. I have most of my schoolwork from kindergarten to university, and a ton of other childhood memorabilia because I’m emotionally attached to them and can’t bear to part with all my stuff.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Thinking in Pictures and found it inspirational and motivating. Temple Grandin is one of the most famous autistic self-advocates currently living, and her story helped me better understand why I am the way I am. It also encouraged me to continue being myself because that is the greatest thing I can be. Hopefully, others will read the book and find it as inspiring as I did.
Emotional Mastery for Adults with Aspergers by Mark Blakey and Leslie Burby
I have been spending some time browsing my collection of autism books, many of which I’ve owned for years, and have never read. During this exercise, I came across Emotional Mastery for Adults with Aspergers: Practical Techniques to Work Through Anxiety, Anger, and Depression. The book was co-written by Mark Blakey and Leslie Burby. Since I struggle with anxiety, and sometimes anger, I was excited to read the book, and I’m glad to say it did not disappoint. While I’m not sure every technique in the book was useful to me, overall, I found the book to be an interesting and solid read.
Emotional Mastery is only eighty-eight pages long, so it’s a quick read. The book starts with a dry, seven-page list of the different emotions we humans experience in our lifetime. I agree with the authors that identifying our feelings is the first step in managing them, and chapter one included some useful tips on how to do that. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the various anxiety disorders, which is valuable information. Of course, the book is not medical advice, but if somebody is looking for answers about their constant anxiety, chapter 2 is an excellent place to start.
For me, chapters 3 and 4 are the most useful chapters because they offer strategies for managing anxiety and anger. I like how these two emotions are treated in separate chapters because they aren’t the same thing, although many autistics, including myself, experience both, and one can lead to the other. Chapter 2 focuses on anxiety and contains a useful trigger chart that helps readers identify the events that trigger their anxiety. I intend to create my trigger chart based on the one in the book because I think it will help me understand my anxiety triggers. Chapter 2 also teaches us how to use words of affirmation to reduce our anxiety and increase our self-confidence, which is excellent. Chapter 3 teaches readers how to recognize anger and includes useful strategies on controlling it. The authors also explain when a person should seek professional help for their anger. I was hoping to see a trigger chart for anger, like there was for anxiety, but despite that, both chapters provide good information on managing anxiety and anger, the two emotions that challenge me the most.
Chapters 5 and 6 focus on depression and empathy. Since I don’t suffer from depression, I can’t say how useful their information on depression is but would welcome an opinion from somebody who does experience depression. In Chapter 6: The Art of Empathy, a short, but interesting section, Blakey and Burby list five apathetic statements we should avoid saying when someone’s upset, followed by seven steps for empathizing, which are excellent. I am going to use those seven steps more in my life, to help me better respond to emotionally charged situations.
The book’s title is Emotional Mastery, and its final chapter (chapter 7) concludes with varied and wide-ranging techniques for mastering our negative emotions. The techniques include tips on nutrition and diet, being around positive people, and relaxation strategies such as tai chi, yoga, meditation, knitting and more. Obviously, not all techniques will work for all people, but by providing so many choices, I’m certain everybody can find one that works for them. I’m going to try meditation and passive muscle relaxation, and see if they work
Emotional Mastery was a quick and easy read. While its content isn’t life-changing, and doesn’t replace medical advice, I feel many of the emotional mastery strategies in this book will work if I give them an honest try. I enjoyed most of the book, and was delighted that it offers strategies and resources I haven’t found in other books. If you’re looking for some help with managing your emotions but, don’t have time for a lengthy, heavy read, then Mark Blakey and Leslie Burby’s book is for you. I give it one and a half thumbs up!
NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman
Neil’s note: slanted to the European side of the history
This New York Times–bestselling book upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.
In a Different Key by John Donvan and Caren Zucker
Neil’s note: slanted to the American side of the history
Finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. An extraordinary narrative history of autism: the riveting story of parents fighting for their children’s civil rights; of doctors struggling to define autism; of ingenuity, self-advocacy, and profound social change. Learn more on Amazon.ca.
Look me in the eye by John Elder Robinson
Neil’s note: or his brother’s version “Running With Scissors.”
Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people. But by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits, including an inclination to blurt out non-sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes, had earned him the label “social deviant.” No guidance came from his mother or his father. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.
Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate by Cynthia Kim
Neil’s note: 5*
Cynthia Kim explores all the quirkiness of living with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in this accessible, witty and honest guide looking from an insider perspective at some of the most challenging and intractable aspects of being autistic. Her own life presents many rich examples.
Freaks, Geeks & Asperger Syndrome by Luke Jackson
Consumer-oriented narrative is written by a 13-year-old-boy with Asperger Syndrome. Draws upon personal experiences and family members to inform the general public about living the adolescent years with this disease.
Somewhere Over the Sea by Halfdan W. Freidow
The father of an autistic son catalogs with unconditional love the highs and lows as his child struggles to figure out a world that he may never fully be able to understand.
Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet
Neil’s note: more on the savant/brilliant mind of the spectrum.
Traces the inspiring story of an autistic savant with genius-level mathematical talents, describing how he was eschewed by his classmates in spite of his near-photographic memory and super-human capacity for math and language, in a firsthand account that offers insight into how he experiences the world. Reprint. 100,000 first printing.
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
Neil’s note: non-verbal, able to type…any of his books explain that side
A story never before told and a memoir to help change our understanding of the world around us, 13-year-old Naoki Higashida’s astonishing, empathetic book takes us into the mind of a boy with severe autism. With an introduction by David Mitchell, author of the global phenomenon, Cloud Atlas, and translated by his wife, KA Yoshida.
Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Tony Attwood
Neil’s note: a cheap version of his larger book, still worth it.
Tony Attwood’s guide will assist parents and professionals with the identification, treatment and care of both children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. The book provides a description and analysis of the unusual characteristics of the syndrome and practical strategies to reduce those that are most conspicuous or debilitating. Beginning with a chapter on diagnosis, including an assessment test, the book covers all aspects of the syndrome from language to social behaviour and motor clumsiness, concluding with a chapter based on the questions most frequently asked by those who come into contact with individuals with this syndrome.
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood
Neil’s note: the larger version
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome is the definitive handbook for anyone affected by Asperger’s syndrome (AS). Now including a new introduction explaining the impact of DSM-5 on the diagnosis and approach to AS, it brings together a wealth of information on all aspects of the syndrome for children through to adults.
Overcoming Depression and Anxiety on the Autism Spectrum by Lee A. Wilkinson
Neil’s note: trying to do a self-help book…better with a life coach
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective for treating mental health problems such as anxiety and depression in individuals both with and without autism spectrum disorders. This book bridges the gap between research and practice and shows adults on the spectrum practical ways to manage their emotions.
I Thought It was Me (but it Isn’t) by Brene Brown
Neil’s note: it deals with our thoughts of being the only one.
Researcher, thought leader, and New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown offers a liberating study on the importance of our imperfections—both to our relationships and to our own sense of self.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Neil’s note: it deals with our love of being perfect.
When our embarrassments and fears lie, we often listen to them anyway. They thwart our gratitude, acceptance, and compassion—our goodness. They insist, “I am not worthy.” But we are worthy—of self-discovery, personal growth, and boundless love. With Brené Brown’s game-changing New York Times bestseller The Gifts of Imperfection—which has sold more than 2 million copies in more than 30 different languages, and Forbes recently named one of the “Five Books That Will Actually Change Your Outlook On Life”—we find courage to overcome paralyzing fear and self-consciousness, strengthening our connection to the world.
Quiet by Susan Cain
Neil’s note: it shows the power of being an introvert, being the lone cautious voice in a team.
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.
A Parent’s Guide to Autism by Ron Sandison
Neil’s note: from a Christian perspective
All children can flourish and mature through love. A Parent’s Guide to Autism offers interviews from forty experts, exclusive teaching on bully-proofing children, as well as practical wisdom, biblical knowledge, and life experiences from Ron Sandison. He compassionately shares his own personal struggles with overcoming autism as a minister and professional in the medical field to help parents raise outstanding children.