For a condition that seemed almost unheard of 20 years ago, Asperger’s seems to be getting a lot of attention these days. From Christopher, the narrator of the The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, to Lisbeth Salander the heroine of the novel-turned-movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, to Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory and Abed from Community, characters displaying traits of this high-functioning autism spectrum disorder are popping up everywhere in popular culture and with good reason. While people with Asperger’s Syndrome may miss certain social cues and lack understanding of the subtleties of social interaction, they often make up for it with sharp intelligence, a keen curiosity about the world, and a quirky sense of humor. Some historical figures who displayed characteristics associated with Asperger’s Syndrome include Thomas Jefferson, Mozart, Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, Galileo, Picasso, and Bill Gates. Not bad company to be in.
Some of the behaviors that mark this so-called disorder are such traits as being trusting and honest to a fault, loyal to their friends, overly polite or formalized in their speech patterns, and strictly adherent to rules. In other words, they’re decent, dependable, hard-working, kind and true. And although I’ve heard it said that ‘Aspies’ lack a sense of humor, I have someone very close to me with Aspergers and I would have to say that the opposite is true – not only can he appreciate comedy, but his dry, dead-pan humor makes him one of the funniest people I know.
But dealing with a diagnosis of Asperger’s does have its challenges. An inability to read facial expressions and social cues or make eye contact, a lack of empathy, and sensitivity to certain stimuli can be difficult for both parents and for kids who often sense instinctively that they don’t ‘fit in’. But, while there is no treatment for Asperger’s, a greater understanding of the condition leads to greater acceptance of the traits that make Aspies unique. They can also take comfort in the fact that as this condition gains more recognition, there are more resources available to help them navigate life with Aspergers, and that people diagnosed with Asperger’s can and do make successful and productive members of society.
Here are five excellent books about Asperger’s Syndrome, many told from the point of view of people diagnosed with the condition. If you’re questioning what kind of future your child may face following their diagnosis, these books will leave you reassured that they can lead full and happy lives, and give you a better understanding of how their minds work, while offering useful tools, strategies and suggestions to help you both along the way.
Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome
By Luke Jackson
This book, written by a 13 year old British boy with Aspergers, offers an insightful look at what it’s like to grow up with Aspergers. Navigating the teenage years can be particularly tough for Aspies as it’s a time when relationships change and new feelings start to emerge. Jackson takes us along on his sometimes difficult journey through adolescence and gives readers a deeper understanding of Aspergers, whether we are parents trying to relate to our own children, or kids with Aspergers learning that they are not alone.
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome
By Tony Attwood
This book, written by one of the world’s foremost experts on Asperger’s, is a must-read for all parents coming to terms with their children’s diagnosis. This in-depth, comprehensive guide covers all aspects of the condition, from causes and symptoms, to emotion and self-perception, to the effect of Asperger’s on education, career and relationships. This is the bible for people with Asperger’s.
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s
By John Elder Robison
This touching and humorous memoir is a fascinating account of what it’s like to grow up with Asperger’s. From a difficult childhood of feeling misunderstood and unable to communicate, to adolescence and the inadvertent discovery of a passion for machines and gadgetry, to an adulthood of quirky, unusual jobs and an eventual diagnosis, this story illustrates how Asperger’s doesn’t have to hold one back from finding their place in the world and can sometimes show us the path.
Born On A Blue Day
By Daniel Tammet
This memoir is another look into the unique mind of a person with Asperger’s. With uncanny self-awareness Tammet, an autistic savant, takes us on a journey through his brain and shows us in simple language his strange yet appealing perspective on the world. Parents struggling to understand what makes their children with Asperger’s tick would do well to step into the mind of Daniel Tammet for a while to truly appreciate how what makes us different can also be what makes us so special.
All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
By Kathy Hoopman
If you have a young child at home who has been diagnosed, this picture book is a perfect way to introduce them to their unique condition. With humorous photography, it illustrates the symptoms of Asperger’s through traits that anyone who has ever owned, or known, a cat will recognize. But you don’t have to be young to appreciate it. The simple comparisons will strike a chord with parents too, offering a straightforward look at what makes children with Asperger’s different yet wonderful.