Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review: Aspergirls by Rudy Simone

The subtitle of this book is "Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome," and it is written in a pleasant, conversational style that mixes interview quotes with the author's observations and advice on a wide variety of issues. Rudy Simone expresses a desire to help women on the spectrum feel validated, overcome depression, and become better understood. Most of the chapters, after discussing a specific issue relevant to autistic females, end with advice for "Aspergirls" and for their parents on that issue.

After stating that a love for information is an autistic trait, Simone observes that school often can be difficult because of bullying and loneliness, and that it is important to take action when this happens. She advises dealing with stress and sensory overload as related issues, which can be improved by taking good care of oneself through exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding situations that are likely to be stressful or overloading, and self-calming activities such as rocking and spinning that help to relieve stress.

Females on the spectrum tend to internalize a lot of guilt as a result of misunderstandings, Simone writes, and to feel uncomfortable with gender roles. Puberty brings many challenges, from its physical aspects to the issues of dating and socializing, and can be an age when selective mutism is triggered by increased social anxiety.

University students may tend to push themselves too hard and try to accomplish too much at once. Simone stresses the importance of setting aside enough time to rest and decompress, as well as seeking out disability services and counseling to the extent needed. Getting a degree can make it possible to have a satisfying career in one's field of interest, rather than a stressful and low-paying job. She urges young women to get whatever help they need to make it through college and not to give up.

She identifies self-awareness as crucial in making decisions about marriage and children. Rather than drifting into a conventional family life because of social expectations, the first step should be for a woman to consider carefully what she wants and needs. Finding a compatible partner and knowing what to expect as a mother should not be taken for granted.

Rituals, blunt speech, and differences in expressing emotion often result in misunderstandings. It is not unusual for women on the spectrum to be misdiagnosed and given inappropriate medications. Simone makes clear that she is not opposed to the use of medications by those who find them helpful, but she urges careful evaluation of how well they are working and of whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Depression involves feeling powerless, she writes, and often can be helped by getting into a better environment and learning more effective coping skills. A more pleasant environment also can help with issues of controlling one's temper. She discusses aging and health concerns, recommending natural foods and supplements while also pointing out that autistics can be very sensitive to dietary changes and that excessive amounts of supplements can cause problems.

The book has a noticeable New Age flavor, mentioning such topics as karma, blocked chi, and psychic powers. Those who enjoy such digressions will probably find it entertaining. Simone has a tendency to overgeneralize at times by discussing particular traits as if they applied uniformly to all women on the spectrum; but this style of writing helps her to build an empathetic rapport with readers who share those traits, and she is being more careful to avoid stereotyping than she has been in the past. Overall, this is an ambitious effort, touching on many different aspects of life as a woman on the autism spectrum, and providing advice that is likely to be helpful for many readers.


Clay said...

Glad to see her new book gets a good review. When I met her a year or so ago, I was favorably impressed. She didn't seem like an 'enemy' to me, even though whatshername wrote a foreword for her first book. Dx'd or not, she really is an aspie, and she really wants to be helpful.

Catatab_Tabimount said...

That sounds like an excellent book, maybe I should get it when I run off to college.