Biel, Joe. Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business with Asperger’s. Microcosm. Mar. 2016. 256p. photos. ISBN 9781621060093. pap. $14.95. PSYCH
Biel—writer, filmmaker, and founder of Microcosm Publishing among other ventures—has written a detailed account of his life growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. A creative thinker, the author achieved success at a very young age as a publisher of zines, but he has also been plagued with health and interpersonal problems. His accounts of his dysfunctional family life and failed relationships are sad to read about, especially because Biel has so much trouble understanding other people’s viewpoints. Similar to the autobiographical writings of John Elder Robison and Temple Grandin, Biel’s story provides an invaluable service by revealing what Asperger’s is like from the inside; this is extremely helpful to those not on the spectrum. However, this volume is not easy to get through as Biel seems determined not to leave out any detail of his story. VERDICT Biel’s account should be of interest to teens, especially those on the spectrum, and is therefore a useful addition to YA collections but may be something of a slog for other readers.
Donvan, John & Caren Zucker. In a Different Key: The Story of Autism. Crown. 2016. 688p. ISBN 9780307985675. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780307985682. PSYCH
Journalists Donvan and Zucker’s examination of autism begins at the beginning: Donald Triplett, patient zero as diagnosed by Leo Kanner, whose symptoms and behaviors had started him on a fast track to institutionalization. Strangely enough, though mothers were often blamed for “causing” autism, it was Triplett’s who advocated and cared for him. If there is a common theme throughout this history of autism, it is that parents were the ones who stepped forward, pushing for answers and progress against a disorder that medical professionals and psychologists often misunderstood, discounted, or ignored. The authors examine how these viewpoints created an atmosphere of ignorance and malpractice, from chelation and aversive therapies to the theory that the condition is caused by immunizations, now considered to be one of the greatest frauds in medical science history. Today, findings from the fields of genetics and neurobiology, and the voices of those with autism themselves contribute to a greater understanding of the condition. While the authors trace the history of autism to the present day, their study is not about conclusions. It’s a time line—a spectrum—of the impressions and outcomes related to autism. VERDICT This book will not educate researchers with new information on autism. It will, however, introduce a human aspect to the chronology. Parents of autistic children will recognize themselves in many of these stories but also learn more about the truth behind them. Autistic individuals will take away lessons to forgive the past and to recognize the vast spectrum of difference—not just among those on the autism spectrum but among all people, who are always learning and growing.
Jackson, Luke. Sex, Drugs and Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD): A User Guide to Adulthood. Jessica Kingsley. 2016. 208p. ISBN 9781849056458. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781784501396. PSYCH
Jackson wrote Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence at age 13. Now he returns at age 26 to share all that he has learned, both the good and the challenging, about becoming an adult, living with Asperger’s, and finding his place in the world. With candid humor, the author shares his experiences in becoming an adult and what that means to him. He explores the difficulties he and many others with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) deal with, such as finding work, social scenes, bullying, drug use, sexual relationships, and friendships. A consistent message throughout is the acceptance of differences in yourself and others. Jackson encourages those on the spectrum to embrace and own those qualities that make them unique and to use them to their advantage. VERDICT Jackson’s personal and brutally honest take on being an adult with ASD is eye-opening and refreshing. A valuable read for teens and adults with ASD as well as parents, siblings, employers, teachers, caregivers, friends, and partners of those on the spectrum. Jackson’s view that acceptance of oneself is the first hurdle; welcoming others is key as well.
Lintala, Janet with Martha W. Murphy. The Un-Prescription for Autism: A Natural Approach for a Calmer, Happier, and More Focused Child. AMACOM. Apr. 2016. 304p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780814436639. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9780814436646. PSYCH
In this do-it-yourself book for parents and caregivers, physician Lintala (founder of Autism Health!), with health writer Murphy, advocates for a natural approach to treating behavioral issues associated with autism. The idea is to consider and deal with the possible underlying causes of certain actions before treating them with medications. Both children and adults with autism exhibit undesirable behaviors, Lintala explains, because they are forced to perform despite the presence of digestive or other health problems making them ill. The author’s method involves healing these ailments organically. In turn, she argues, the patient will feel better and negative behaviors alleviated. To help the child (or adult) feel his or her best, she proposes a three-step approach involving digestive enzymes, probiotics, and antimicrobials, along with a maintenance plan. The book clearly explains what each of the supplements do and how they are to be administered. In prose that is easy to understand and sometimes humorous, Lintala relates going through the protocols with her own son as well as patients. Calendars and troubleshooting guides are provided to ensure success with the program. VERDICT Recommended for parents who prefer supplement-based methods of adjusting their autistic children’s behaviors before attempting the use of prescription drugs.
Ruthsatz, Joanne & Kimberly Stephens. The Prodigy’s Cousin: The Family Link Between Autism and Extraordinary Talent. Current. Mar. 2016. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9781617230189. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780698168602. PSYCH
Ruthsatz (psychology, Ohio State Univ. at Mansfield) and reporter Stephens have written a fascinating book about the connection between prodigies (commonly defined as a child who has reached professional status in a demanding field before age ten) and children on the autism spectrum. In her studies, Ruthsatz began to notice that many prodigies have relatives with autism. This surprising finding, and the author’s continued investigation, led her to the conclusion that the link between autism and talent is almost inevitable. The authors’ case studies of such gifted persons point out that some of their abilities—extraordinary attention to detail and tendency toward obsession—are clearly similar to those of people with autism. Scientific research has yet to isolate one particular gene that results in prodigious talent; likewise, there is not a single genetic pathway to autism (thus the saying, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism”). VERDICT Along with intriguing insights into the minds of extraordinarily smart people, this work—like Steve Silberman’s NeuroTribes—offers a new and far more positive approach toward autism. It should appeal to parents and educators, as well as fans of the late Oliver Sacks.
Senator, Susan. Autism Adulthood: Strategies and Insights for a Fulfilling Life. Skyhorse. Apr. 2016. 320p. index. ISBN 9781510704237. $26.99. PSYCH
Senator (Making Peace with Autism) hits the nail on the head once again with this work that shares her continuing journey as the parent of an adult with autism. Parents often worry about who will care for their children should they no longer be able, but that concern lessens once children are grown and out on their own. Parents of children with autism, however, must address their fears and seek answers to such a scenario before and into their child’s adulthood. Senator tells her experience helping her son, Nat, find a living situation that will support his needs and allow him to be a part of the community. She also relates stories of 30 other families, and the solutions they have found for their children with autism. By explaining how she and others in similar situations manage on a daily basis, the author encourages parents to seek new resolutions in addition to available options for their child. Lists of resources and planning ideas are included. VERDICT Straightforward and to the point, Senator’s book addresses many parents’ worst fears and inspires them to step up and create a situation and a community that can support their child in their absence. This is a must-read for any parent with a child on the autism spectrum as well as caregivers, siblings, and extended family. Suitable for any library with parenting and autism collections.
Wright, Bob with Diane Mermigas. The Wright Stuff: From NBC to Autism Speaks . RosettaBooks. Mar. 2016. 396p. index. ISBN 9780795346927. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780795346934. PSYCH
Wright was named president and chief executive officer of NBC in 1986 at age 43. He shepherded the network through the next 20 years—including the early days of cable television and up through the development of the Internet and streaming content. Just as his tenure was coming to a close, his grandson, Christian, was diagnosed with autism. Here Wright, with writer and editor Mermigas, documents his family’s struggle with obtaining information and treatment for Christian and maintains that the knowledge and skills learned during his endeavors with NBC helped shape and direct his formation of Autism Speaks—the largest autism research and advocacy organization in the world—with his wife in 2005. VERDICT Relevant to the autism community, this work is the definitive source for the early history of Autism Speaks. It will also be of interest to the manufacturing, broadcasting, and entertainment industries.