Aspergers and Transitions

I had an idea that, as it is coming to September, the time of year when school starts again, I would write something about transitions and how people with Aspergers can be affected by these. Of course, some people on the spectrum struggle with even day to day transitions such as from home to school or from activity to activity but, for the purpose of this post, I am dealing with bigger transitions. There are lots of strategies that help with day to day transitions such as timetables and PECS books and anyone is welcome to research these further. As I don’t struggle with small transitions myself, I feel I am not in a position to offer advice on these.

I personally struggle with transitions even when they are transitions that I know will be beneficial for me, such as starting at university. I get very comfortable with familiar routines and having to find and settle into new routines to go along with each transition is hard. However, most transitions I can cope with OK even though I hate them. The two transitions I have found hardest in my life thus far were the transition from primary to secondary school and the transition from sixth form college to university.

Primary school was, in general, quite a contented place for me. I had experienced some small level bullying but, overall, I loved it. I had grown up with the same children in my class year after year. It was a comfortable routine. Even though I changed teachers every September, the other pupils in my class were always the same. When I moved up to secondary school, everything changed. I was the only person from my primary school to go to that particular secondary school so I was completely on my own. Like most people with Aspergers, it takes me ages to get to know new people and make new friends. Dealing with having to change classrooms between every lesson and having multiple homeworks every evening on top of having none of my primary school compatriates with me was very hard. Therefore, when I first moved on to secondary school, I was not a happy child. It took me six months to fully settle in to my new environment and I know that many people with Aspergers take even longer than that. I was lucky in that my secondary school had a good SEN (Special Educational Needs) department and I received a lot of support because of my statement so I settled in quicker than I perhaps would have done otherwise.

Fast forward seven years and I was in the same situation. I was going from a sixth form college where I had close friends, including some who had come up through secondary school with me too, to a university where I initially only knew one person (and I didn’t even realise he was there until the first night when I heard someone yell my name and saw him!) University is a totally different environment from school or college (I use the UK definition of college here as an educational environment for students aged 16 to 18 years). The social life there is a lot more unstructured and there is a lot more free time too. Luckily I made some amazing friends within the first few weeks, who I am still in contact with today. Academically, I didn’t find the change overwhelming-I was lucky in that the college I attended pushed students into independent working assignments in order to prepare them for university. I did come across several people at university who really struggled with having to work so independently. Socially, however, the change was huge. I was fortunate in that the university I attended, which was the University of Kent, had an Aspergers social group which I used to attend on a fortnightly basis. I also saw an Aspergers tutor for an hour a week throughout my three years at university which I found immensely helpful. I know that not all universities are as supportive of students with Aspergers. I would say that, looking back, I spent the entirety of my university career rather confused and finally realising just how much I do actually struggle socially. I did have some fantastic times and met fantastic people but, overall, it was not a particularly happy time of my life.

Looking back, the common denominator of my two most difficult transition experiences was lacking friends to transition on with. I didn’t have that issue when moving on to college as my secondary school, at the time, finished after Year 11 so the majority of my school year went on to the same college as me so it didn’t feel so overwhelming. However, nobody from my primary school moved on to my secondary school with me and only one other student from my college moved on to the same university as me. I think transitions work a lot better when you are not the only person going through them from your previous environment.

I also believe that people with Aspergers benefit hugely from individual mentoring when settling into a new environment. These mentors should be chosen with care though. I think it works best when it is either staff or an older pupil who is sympathetic to the issues that Aspergers can cause. Unfortunately, I am aware that far too few people with Aspergers receive such support even though it makes such a difference.

If you or someone you know has Aspergers and is going to be transitioning onwards in September, please be patient with either yourself or the person you know. Transitioning is hard but it is not impossible for people on the spectrum to settle into new environments. We can do it-it just takes time and patience from both us and the people around us. Try not to give up on your new environment too easily/ If organisation is an issue for you, get as much support as you can with organising yourself so you know where you are supposed to be at what time and make it to your lessons on time. This was something I really struggled with initially when I moved to secondary school because my sense of direction is appalling and my memory for routes is non existent too. It took me ten years to memorise the 15 minute route from my old house to the nearest town centre-of course it was going to take me longer than the average person to remember a whole school building!

Try not to get upset with yourself. I have met people with Aspergers who get upset that they can’t tolerate change and transition well. I can get like that myself but it is the way your brain is wired and, as long as you are trying your best to settle in to your new environment, you shouldn’t be harsh on yourself. Sometimes other people need to understand that transition isn’t so easy for us and be more patient with us too.

Eventually you will settle into your new environment for a while before the next transition comes. I can’t speak for everyone but, for myself, it has become easier to deal with these transitions over the years. They still get to me but I can settle in quicker. For those of you with Aspergers, keep using your different coping strategies to help you settle in. For those of you who know someone with Aspergers, please appreciate how difficult transition is for us and just be gentle and patient. We know we should settle in quicker than we do but we are trying our best!

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Aspergers and Exams

This topic was suggested to me by a friend of mine on Facebook when I was touting for ideas as to what to write. She suggested that I approach this topic due to the time of year when exam results are on a lot of people’s minds in the United Kingdom and a lot of people with Aspergers may now be panicking about transitioning on to the next period of their life.

It must be said, of course, that exam anxiety is by no means specific to those of us with Aspergers-I can think of 2 people in particular I know closely who do not have Aspergers but who are panic stricken when it comes to taking exams. The atmosphere in the exam room appears to induce panic in a lot of people because it’s so formal. Some people get so anxious that they have to sit their exams in a separate room to have any chance of being calm enough to express what they know and achieve their full potential. However, obviously in this post, I will be talking from my experience as someone with Aspergers.

Considering how anxious I am generally, I cope surprisingly well with exams. Of course, I haven’t taken any academic exams since the age of twenty one when I passed my degree (I can’t believe that was 6 years ago). I still take annual competency based tests at work but, luckily, these don’t usually make me anxious. Throughout my school days, I was entitled to extra time in all my exams, 25% extra time at primary school, secondary school and university and 10% at sixth form college when I was taking my A Level exams. I also had a transcript done of all my written papers at GCSE and A Level because my handwriting is appalling. This is a fairly rare exam concession now as it is a lot more common for students to be allowed to type their exam answers on a laptop with the spell check disabled. This has to be the student’s normal way of working however and, although I was supplied with a laptop during my GCSE years, I didn’t like to use it in class as, back then, I didn’t want to do anything which marked me out as visibly different which, looking back at it, makes me laugh as I attended a very small school with only 75 people in my year and I had received one to one support until Year 8 (13 years old) so all of my peers knew that I had some sort of diagnosis and I had indeed told a few of them about Aspergers Syndrome. I felt that, if I used a laptop in class, my class mates would feel that it was unfair that I was allowed to do that and that it would cause issues so I never used it. If I could go back in time to those days with the benefit of hindsight, I would have used it but, back then, my typing speed was pretty slow (I can now type pretty quickly as I use computers a lot in my job) and so I didn’t really see the point in typing. I would urge any school student with Aspergers who is offered a laptop to type class work up on to take that offer as I know from experience that people take your work a lot more seriously when they can actually read it!

When it came to revision, I never had any issues with organising my own revision but I know that a significant number of people with Aspergers have executive functioning issues that make organising their time difficult (I do have executive functioning issues but they don’t affect that particular area). My advice is to make a structured revision timetable, with support if needed, and give yourself little rewards for sticking to it. Allocate slightly more time to your weaker subjects or topics but don’t forget to leave time for breaks and leisure periods as well. A lot of people, whether they have Aspergers or not, try to revise endlessly without breaks because they get stressed and they think that revising for hours at a time will help the information go in. Actually, it does the opposite. Take regular breaks and don’t revise for more than an hour at a time maximum and you will find that a lot more information sticks. Some people with Aspergers find that allocating a period of time to revising a subject in its entirety is overwhelming so they break it down further and write the individual topic they will be revising at that time. It all depends on the individual. I know that a lot of people find flash cards helpful but I never liked them personally. Take what works for you and use it. I have known people record themselves talking about a certain subject and then listen back to it to help the information go in that way. I used to revise by just reading through my subject books and essays on the topics but I know that, for a lot of people, that passive revision technique doesn’t work and that’s fine. I know that the only reason it probably worked for me was that I have a very good memory for the written word and I can visualise what I have read on a topic with ease in the exam room. Indeed, people have often asked me if I have a photographic memory. I don’t because I can’t remember word for word something I have read but I get pretty close!

Take advantage of revision clubs that your school or college may offer you. I know that a lot of 15 and 16 year olds find the idea of extra revision to be nerdy and uncool and may tease people who do attend revision clubs but you are doing it for your future, nobody else’s. I remember, on one occasion, I was the sole person who turned up to an after school French revision class and, when the lack of attendance was mentioned the next day, everybody knew that I had been the only one who turned up but I didn’t care. I guess it helps that, like a lot of people I have met with an Aspergers diagnosis, I am immune to peer pressure and I don’t really care whether I fit in with the cool crowd or not. Ask for past question papers to go over and try not to get too upset if your marks in these are low at first. I remember getting a U (ungraded-when you don’t score enough marks to pass) in 2 papers in my mock exams in Year 11. As I had never failed an exam before, I was devastated and indeed cried openly in class when I got these results. However, in the real exams, I got a CC for Science which was the subject in which I got one of the Us and I got an A in Religious Education which was the second subject in which I received a U for the mock paper. A lot of it, I believe, was down to the fact that, as mock exams are not public exams, I was not entitled to extra time in these so it proves just how much of a difference extra time can make in a lot of cases.

Like a lot of people with Aspergers, I am a perfectionist and I also have a very literal understanding of the world. One example is when I knew that my predicted grade for French was an A. I was panicking before my French Oral Exam (one situation that always makes me anxious is talking to people one on one in such a formal environment even though it was with my teacher who I had known for a year and a half, combined with the fact that I knew the whole conversation was being recorded and I hate the thought of other people listening to my voice as I have heard my voice on recordings and think it’s hideous!) and got quite tearful. After I had calmed down and taken the exam, my teacher commented that she thought it was definitely a B grade standard answer. Now I know that a B is a very good grade and, in most of my other subjects, I would have been ecstatic to get a B but, because I had been predicted an A, I had taken it literally that I needed an A in every single component of the exam and I became very upset that I hadn’t appeared to meet this expectation in the oral exam and felt that I had let everyone down. As it turns out, I did get an A overall in French so all the anxiety was for nothing. All I would ask of people taking exams is that you try your best. I know there is an extraordinary amount of pressure on students today to get high grades (a lot more than when I was at school) and I think it’s awful that so many students are experiencing depression and anxiety trying to achieve these grades because they feel like they are letting their families and schools down if they don’t do as well as is hoped. Of course, the cruel irony is that, the more stressed and anxious someone is when sitting an exam, the less likely they are to perform to the best of their ability. It is one of those scenarios where a little bit of anxiety is helpful to make you focus but too much anxiety can really affect someone’s performance. I would urge people to confide in their parents or teachers if they are feeling very anxious during the exam period so that strategies can be worked on to reduce this anxiety, even something as simple as sitting the exams alone with just one invigilator, as I mentioned earlier.

Of course, it goes without saying that all exam rules must be followed. Your future is too important to risk being disqualified from any exams. I always found that the routine of leaving your bags and folders outside the exam hall got me “into the zone” and I actually relished the predictability of it.

The part of exams that I found the most nerve wracking was waiting for the results. I am the sort of person who analyses every answer I wrote after the exam has been sent away for marking-the person who always asks other people, “What did you write for that question?” For the whole of the summer period, I would be dwelling on the exams and wondering what results I had received. The nerves I suffered on results days were awful-I would wake up feeling sick and then I would start on the whole internal debate where one side of me would be saying “I can’t cope!” and the other would be saying, “There’s nothing you can change now! Just go and get the results!” I was actually so nervous when checking my degree results that two of my friends had to go and check them for me. When I received my A Level results, I was so overwhelmed with receiving them that I couldn’t actually work out whether I had received the grades I needed for my university course and I had to get a teacher to help me work it out.

I was lucky enough to have received the grades needed to progress on to the next stage each time. For people with Aspergers who don’t achieve these, it can be an extremely anxious time, particularly as we have difficulties with change. If this has been your experience, there are always people who can support you through this nerve wracking time.

Overall, please don’t feel that you have let anybody down as long as you have tried your best. Things happen-sometimes the question papers are unusually hard and often the phrasing in exam questions is confusing for somebody who takes language literally. As long as you know that you have tried your best, that’s all you need to worry about. Exams can be retaken and, when you look at it, exams are not what you should be judged on as a person anyway. There are lots of intelligent people out there who failed their exams for various reasons-it does not make them any less intelligent. Exams will always make people stressed and anxious-just try not to let them overwhelm you and stress you out to the point of illness.

Congratulations to everyone who has received their exam results over these past two weeks and good luck to anyone who may be waiting on results.

My One Year Anniversary of Blogging

Firstly, I apologise for this blog post being later than usual-my boyfriend and I went on a weekend away last weekend and only returned last night so it is one of the first things I am doing back home!

Just over a year ago, while on holiday in Turkey, I came up with the idea of blogging. The phenomenon of blogging was not alien to me-I have friends who have their own personal blogs, as does my boyfriend. I saw that a member of one of the dyspraxia groups I belong to on Facebook had set up a blog. I clicked on the link and read her post. It was deeply personal and I started thinking “I could do this about my life with Aspergers. I could write about situations in my everyday life and explain why I behave in certain ways, really getting people to try and put themselves in my head”. My first blog post was on August 7th 2013, shortly after returning from that holiday.

At the time, I thought that the bulk of my readers would be my friends and relatives. I sent a message to several friends and family members who I thought would be interested in learning more about the way I “tick”. I certainly never imagined that my blog would reach as many people as it has.

Fast forward a year to the current day and my blog has now been viewed in 93 different countries-from Spain to Thailand, from Turkey to Pakistan. It has been viewed in every continent bar Antarctica. I have 72 followers that like my blog enough to receive notifications when I post a new topic. This actually leaves me feeling overwhelmed. When I started blogging, I never imagined that people as far away as Pakistan and Jamaica would be interested in the life of a socially awkward woman from a little town in England. I guess it goes to show just how far reaching the Internet is. I can only hope that, through reading my blog, everybody who has taken time out of their day to read my posts has learned something. I know that the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum is still not recognised in a lot of countries and that, because people in these countries are not getting their needs recognised, the result is depression and isolation. My one main hope I had when starting out on this blog was that my experiences would resonate with even just one person who did not have a diagnosis and lead them to understanding more about why they “tick” in the way that they do. I still do not know whether that hope has come to fruition but I hope that it has. The main purpose of my blog is to help others and I really hope that it has.

Two people in particular helped me on my blogging journey-my boyfriend who also blogs on WordPress and an old family friend of mine who helped me to add my blog to Google so it would appear in search results. I cannot thank them enough and will always be grateful to them for the support they gave me when I was a new blogger.

I have now made 60 posts on my blog-I hope that each one of them has educated my readers on the way that the minds of those of us on the autistic spectrum work. (Except for the pictures of my kitten Bailey which I just hope made people appreciate how adorable he is!) My year of blogging has gone so fast. I would like to thank each and every one of my readers for sticking with this blog-I always welcome suggestions of topics to write about so, if anyone has something they would like me to cover, please just let me know. Here’s to the next year!

Book Review Of “The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida.

The book, “The Reason I Jump”, was recommended to me a few months ago by a good friend of mine from my primary school years. Due to various constraints and factors, I only got round to reading it a couple of nights ago and it gave me the idea for this blog post (as well as a spectacularly lengthy Facebook status update which my mother thought was probably a world record breaker!)

“The Reason I Jump” was written by Naoki Higashida when he was thirteen. He is now in his early twenties. The original version of the book was written in Naoki’s native language, Japanese. The English translation was not published until 2013. Naoki was diagnosed with autism at the age of five and his verbal communication is significantly impacted by his condition so he communicates with an Alphabet grid. His book was written entirely through this method with Naoki pointing at the individual characters and his mother writing these down to form the eventual book. The book is written as a series of questions posed around living with autism.

Before reading this book myself, I had heard mixed reviews about it. Many were positive, praising how a boy considered unable to communicate and unaware of the world around him was able to communicate so articulately about what living with classic autism was like. Others were more negative, mainly from the Aspergers online community. Some questioned whether the more depressed views expressed in the book were those of Naoki himself or whether they had been influenced by his mother. However, I loved the book and actually I found some of Naoki’s more negative views to be similar to some of my views about myself. A lot of people across all levels of the autistic spectrum, from university lecturers to those who will need 24 hour a day support for their whole life, experience depression. This, in my opinion, is due to the harsh treatment society metes out to people with autism. At all levels of the spectrum, we are judged incredibly harshly every single day. The most recent example of autistic people being judged by those who have never even met them before was of a proposed care home for six adults with autism being forced to switch sites due to residents near the proposed site protesting at the plans (http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/11373787.Site_for_autistic_people_s_care_home_to_be_moved_after_protests/?ref=rss) As Naoki so honestly points out, “having to apologize day in, day out totally drained me of hope”. My point here is that I don’t think Naoki’s mother had any undue influence over the more negative views expressed in the book-I think his depressive views came from how he was treated by society in general. I have met a lot of people in the Aspergers community online who will not hear anything negative expressed about autism, even from autistic people themselves. What really strikes me reading this book is that, at the time of writing, Naoki was extremely frustrated and saddened by the communication issues his autism caused him. I believe that nobody has the right to tell someone with autism not to be negative. Being negative about certain autistic traits is not to deny that there are positives of the diagnosis too. It is just being realistic.

I found this book to be ¬†written in a highly articulate manner and very honest. He challenges the many inaccurate beliefs that people hold about people with autism, even those who are close to them. At one point, he writes, “One of the biggest misunderstandings you have about us is your belief that our feelings aren’t as subtle and complex as yours. Because how we behave can appear so childish in your eyes, you tend to assume that we’re childish on the inside, too”. Naoki challenges the all too popular belief that people with classic autism lack emotion and empathy. At one point, he writes, “Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something. Crying isn’t necessarily about sadness or meltdowns or being upset”. He also explains why he flaps his fingers in front of his eyes in a way that makes so much sense to me. He points out that “flapping our fingers and hands in front of our faces allows the light to enter our eyes in a pleasant, filtered fashion. Light that reaches us like this feels soft and gentle, like moonlight. But ‘unfiltered’ direct light sort of ‘needles’ its way into the eyeballs of people with autism in sharp straight lines, so we see too many points of light. This actually makes our eyes hurt”. My sensory issues are nowhere near as severe as Naoki’s and my vision is not affected by light other than strobe lights which make me feel incredibly disorientated but I completely understand why HE stims in this way (I’m not so sure that every person with autism who flaps does so for this reason-I believe a lot of them simply enjoy the sensation). A lot of people looking at Naoki flapping his fingers in front of his eyes would not give a second thought as to WHY he is flapping. A lot of people just think that’s something that autistic people do without attempting to discover their individual reasons for this.

What I really like about this book is that Naoki forces his readers to understand that a lot of people with autism are actually more sensitive to emotions and feelings than the average person. A lot of people with Aspergers I have come across online point out that their so called lack of empathy is actually a result of having too much empathy-so much empathy that they cannot process it and instead appear blank. I have very high affective empathy which is why watching the news makes me feel so horrible. I cannot bear seeing the suffering of other people. However, I know that a lot of people would probably consider me as lacking in empathy because I don’t express it in the “typical” way-I am not a fan of hugs so it will not occur to me to hug someone who is upset yet so many people see this as the only way to express your empathy for someone’s situation. Naoki points out in his book that “people with autism react physically to feelings of happiness and sadness. So when something happens that affects me emotionally, my body seizes up as if struck by lightning”. While I wouldn’t personally describe my reactions to emotions in the same way (I think this is probably due to me being blessed with the verbal ability to explain my emotions whereas Naoki, lacking this verbal ability, displays everything physically. I can say “I’m really happy” but someone without language may just grin, giggle and display their happiness through physical mannerisms such as swaying and bouncing), I can fully appreciate how in tune with his emotions Naoki is, contrary to what most people believe autism is.

Naoki also displays a maturity far beyond his years. At one point, he writes a poignant message which I think everyone should take note of-“To give the short version, I’ve learnt that every human being, with or without disabilities, needs to strive to do their best, and by striving for happiness you will arrive at happiness. For us, you see, having autism is normal-so we can’t know for sure what your ‘normal’ is even like. But so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters whether we’re normal or autistic”. He also writes a heartbreakingly honest account of how he feels when he notices that people are upset because of something that he has done. The following quote is one I really, really hope the members of Autism Speaks who portray people with autism as burdens on family life and on society in general read. When asked “what’s the worst thing about having autism?”, he makes a plea for people who live with those with autism “not to stress yourselves out because of us. When you do this, it feels as if you’re denying any value at all that our lives may have-and that saps the spirit we need to soldier on. The hardest ordeal for us is the idea that we are causing grief for other people. We can put up with our own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable”. This part of the book made me very emotional. People with classic autism (and with Aspergers too, although less so) are so often falsely portrayed as living in their own worlds and unaware of other people’s emotions and feelings. What Naoki writes proves, beyond doubt, that he is acutely aware of other people’s emotions and feels responsible for their stress and upset. I remember reading a blog post from a mother who has a young son with high functioning autism. This son read an article that his mum had on the computer on the Autism Speaks website and asked his mother whether it upset her that he had been born. The mother then pointed out in her blog post that the emotional burden such knowledge places on those of us on the autistic spectrum is simply too much to bear and too high a price to pay. People like Naoki feel this blame and guilt EVERY SINGLE DAY and it is not fair. NOBODY should have to feel that much guilt and blame just for being themselves and it is those with disabilities (including, but not limited to, autism) who are made to feel like this so, so often. Is it any wonder that the rate of depression among the autistic community is so high? Wouldn’t anyone feel depressed when they know that they will get the blame for every single mistake they make? Wouldn’t anyone feel depressed when they know that there are organisations out there whose sole purpose appears to be to highlight how expensive and stressful it is to care for someone with autism? Yes, caring for someone with classic autism can be extremely stressful and costly and I don’t think anybody would deny that but blaming this on the condition itself is not the way to improve things. Protest about the lack of resources by all means as the number of support services in existence is woefully low when you consider how many people need to use them but please don’t make someone with autism feel that their life is the source of misery. Would you like to feel that way? A lot of people with autism hate conflict and hate upsetting people-please bear this in mind whenever you think of us as uncaring.

Naoki also highlights another important point in his book-that a lot of people on the spectrum are perfectionists. This is one of my traits-I hate making mistakes and I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve highly in everything I do. Naoki points out, “When I see I’ve made a mistake, my mind shuts down. I cry, I scream, I make a huge fuss, and I just can’t think straight about anything any more. However tiny the mistake, for me it’s a massive deal, as if Heaven and Earth have been turned upside down. For example, when I pour water into a glass, I can’t stand it if I spill even a drop”. While my dislike of mistakes is not that extreme (my lack of physical coordination means that I often spill drinks!), I do get extremely stressed by them and it does put me off trying the same thing again. Maybe this is why I react so badly to any form of criticism, either real or perceived. I cannot bear that I have let myself down and other people pointing it out just makes it feel 100 times worse. It is nothing to do with arrogance-it’s not that I think I’m perfect. It’s that I know painfully well that I am not perfect-it’s more an issue of low self esteem than arrogance, in my personal experience.

One aspect of this book that I really like is where Naoki talks about how it makes him feel when people talk to him like a toddler simply because he can’t communicate verbally. This is a common mistake that a lot of people make when talking to people with all kinds of learning disabilities, not just autism. Naoki points out that “every single time I’m talked down to, I end up feeling utterly miserable-as if I’m being given a zero chance of a decent future.” He then goes on to say, “True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect.” So true! People with classic autism may respond best to simple requests and tasks rather than being overloaded with verbal information but that does not mean they should be spoken to like infants, particularly when those with classic autism who share their experiences through different sections of the media, such as Naoki and Amanda Baggs, the non verbal autistic woman who has made lots of YouTube videos about her life, have shown incredibly clearly just how intelligent their minds are. That’s not to say that those who haven’t expressed such intelligence should be infantilised-they most certainly shouldn’t-but, to those who have unequivocally shown how intelligent they are, it must be so painfully frustrating to be spoken to as if they were incapable of understanding what is being communicated.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in understanding autism from the perspective of somebody who has it, rather than from the perspective of family members, which, although useful, are completely different from those who actually have an autistic mind. It was helpful to me, not only as someone with Aspergers Syndrome who experiences some of Naoki’s traits but am blessed with being verbal, but also as someone who works with children with classic autism. I would recommend it to parents who have children on the autistic spectrum, particularly those with classic autism, not because I don’t feel that Naoki’s book has anything in common with higher functioning autism and Aspergers Syndrome but because, to my knowledge, Naoki’s book is the only one that has been authored by someone with classic (what used to be called “full blown” or “severe”) autism and, as David Mitchell points out in the foreword, the book really helped him with understanding his toddler son with classic autism. Obviously Naoki is his own person and every individual with autism is different. Indeed, as David Mitchell points out, “autism is more like retina patterns than measles”, meaning that every person with autism is different from the next. This is something that I feel could potentially be pointed out a bit more in the book as Naoki has some theories about autism which come from his personal experience but may not be relevant to other people on the spectrum. However, this is the only constructive criticism I have of the book and it really is a tiny one. Overall, I loved it. It’s a fairly short book (I read it in an hour but, once I am interested in a book, I go into a trance and just read until it’s finished). I really would urge people to read it-it is one of the best and most honest insights into autism from the perspective of an autistic person that I have ever come across in all the years I have been reading about it.