Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review: Aspergers in Pink by Julie Clark

This review is for "Aspergers in Pink: A Mother and Daughter Guidebook for Raising (or being) a Girl with Aspergers" by Julie Clark

First Impressions
It's funny but although the phrase to "not judge a book by its cover" isn't meant to be taken literally, I do still find myself applying that kind of judgement - and most frequently to books. Whenever I pick up a book, particularly a non-fiction book, I tend to formulate some idea of what I expect to get out of it.

In the case of "Aspergers in Pink" my expectations were significantly skewed by the long title. I guess that my original thought was that here was a chance to familiarise myself with the elusive "female aspie". In that sense, I think that the title is misleading because the book doesn't really bring a whole heap of "female-specific" information to the table.

At the end of the book, I'm still no closer to finding out if my wife displays "female aspie" traits.

Of course, it doesn't matter because "Aspergers in Pink" is an absolutely brilliant book. It's amazingly approachable and covers the whole "settling in with new teachers at school" process in great detail. This book isn't just for girl aspies or their mothers. It's for parents of all aspies and it's for their teachers too.


The Layout
Before I go further, I feel compelled to talk a little about the layout of this book. It has perfect sized text in a really eye-pleasing font with some rather exciting shading underneath it. It's good but the thing that really excites me about the layout is the way each chapter feels consistent. They all start with quotes from Kristina (the aspie girl who is the "star" of the book). More than anything, these quotes helped to convince me that there's less difference between male and female aspies than you'd think. In fact, many of them are almost word-for-word things which I said as a child.

Then, at the end of each Chapter, there's a little summary which wraps things up from several points of view. The parents, the aspie and "others". There are also little wishlist items and thank-you's scattered throughout the book. Between chapters, there are "inside the bubble" featurettes which recount specific instances from Kristina's life. Finally, the book ends with a comprehensive index, something that many similar books seem to lack.

I really have to say, this layout is probably the best layout I've ever seen in a book of this kind. The chapters were short enough to become "quick bites" and as a result, I didn't feel like I had to set a huge amount of time aside before picking the book up.


The Material
Looking beyond the layout, the material is excellent - just not what I was expecting.

Part of the title says that it's a guidebook for being a girl with aspergers syndrome. I have to disagree there. There's plenty of information for parents in this book but virtually none for a child with Aspergers. Kristina is only in year 5 when the book ends and at no point does it provide material intended for a child of her age.

So, what is the book really about?

Well, the book covers the diagnostic process including the pre-diagnostic "run around" in which the subject gets diagnosed with the wrong things. Sadly, most people seem to go through that process as part of a formal diagnosis. It talks about the issues that arose from school psychiatrists who wouldn't accept aspergers in a girl.

The book extensively covers school and the 504 plan and makes some very interesting comparisons between an IEP and 504. It also talks about different teaching methods and how some teachers are more suitable for children with aspergers than others. Some of the examples cited are so inspirational that I'm going to suggest that my son's teachers use them at his school. Occupational therapy is also discussed.

The book covers issues with the community, family, festivals and dining out. It talks about the difficulties that parents experience getting "couple time" and finding privacy. Again, many of the issues covered are things that have recently happened in my family.


Individual Aspies vs Female Aspies
The whole time I was reading this book, I was on the lookout for differences which I could ascribe to gender. I didn't find any. When describing Kristina's Aspergers to my wife, I simply said, "she's one of those smart aspies".

I was a smart aspie. I breezed through the academic parts of school but had (and still have) plenty of social issues. The main difference between Kristina's aspergers and mine seems to be that my OCD was significantly stronger. This is in contrast to my children who generally have fewer OCD issues but have NVLD and ADHD co-conditions. My children don't just struggle socially, they struggle academically too. This difference alone seems to make their aspergers appear quite different to Kristina's.

Ultimately, I feel that the differences between aspies are less to do with gender and much more to do with individuality.


In Summary
This is not the book that the title leads you to believe but it is a very good book nevertheless. If you're a parent or teacher with primary school aged aspergers children under your care then this is one of the best textbooks available.

I really loved this book and could relate to almost everything in it.

Aspergers in Pink is published by Future Horizons and is available from Amazon.

9 comments:

Equalityrocks said...

I think it's really good that they have books about AS for (and about) girls. I am a female with AS and bothers me how little they talk about girls with AS. (No offense to boys or men with AS here).

quinoa (who posted as Anonymous before) said...

I enjoy your blog; in fact, I've subscribed to your RSS feed. However, I've only ever commented one other time so far - on your previous post about the language on the dessert menu. I mentioned that communication is a rant trigger for me, but instead of going on a rant, I'd like to take the opportunity to provide a little constructive criticism to which I hope you'll be receptive.

I've noticed in your blog that you frequently use the word "feel" when "think" or "believe" or "understand" would be more accurate. We, as non-mystical humans, cannot "feel that the difference between aspies are less to do with gender..." as we can only truly feel sensations or emotions.

You're certainly not the only one to use the word "feel" in this manner, but every time I see or hear it, I grit my teeth just a little.

I also like to try to guess at why people use language the way they do as a way to make an effort to understand people's intentions and motivations. While I don't believe this interpretation necessarily applies to your post, I think that many people use the word "feel" in place of more appropriate words when they're dealing with subjects about which they don't wish people to disagree. By subconsciously linking their thoughts or opinions with what they think are their feelings, when people inevitably do disagree with their thoughts or opinions, those people take the rebuttal as a personal attack - "You can't disagree with me, I feel that this is true!" as if there is some mystical force that they alone can sense.

Anyway. This particular word choice is one of many peeves of mine, and I truly intend my comment to be constructive (not destructive). I hope you will take it as such.

Oh, and look at that. Seems I did go off on a rant after all. Sorry!

Gavin Bollard said...

quinoa,

That's quite an interesting observation. My writing tends to be fairly precise, so it probably seems weird that I might feel rather than think.

I actually use the word feel quite deliberately because to me, thinking is a kind of rigid belief whereas feeling is a more tentative "gut feeling" type of word.

If I feel something then I'm really still open to change but if I think something, it's a bit more closed.

Jess Kahele said...

An aspie girl, especially a smart one like you noted does have many similar traits as aspie males. The one clincher being that they can disguise their traits well, so well that an adult or even a psychologist will automatically dismiss any "invisible" signs of autism. I can tell you that it is a devastating feeling when you are trying to explain that you have aspergers and everyone laughs at you like it's a joke. Certainly makes you feel like you yourself are a lie. So you continue to hide behind this actress that you have so carefully materialized. The actress that was supposed to protect you and make your parents happy has instead become your worst enemy.

The different essentially has more to do with cultural views than can be ascribed to gender alone. If a girl speaks up that she is having difficulty reacting to questions quickly in a classroom setting because of a language processing delay, she is dismissed and called shy. If it is a male, he is given further testing and disability accommodations. I hope this will happen less and less in the future, but when I was in school it is an accurate example of the cultural views I am referring to.

Betti said...

I like to use the word "feel" similarly. It is something open and flexible and actually it may change when I see and experience more or something different.

As for the book..... how many aspie girls out there are into the girly pinky atmosphere and lifestyle out there? That does make me cringe. Makes the book look superficial. Yes, don't judge by the cover blabla.

I am certainly no expert on aspergers but I feel that there could be a difference between boys and girls.
Boys and men tend to approach communication, relationships and problem-solving with more logic, reasoning, structure and intellect. In females, social interaction is more likely to be guided by intuition, emotions, sharing and caring, chitchat.
I may be totally wrong here. I think a female is hit quite hard in relationships because it is very difficult for us to do these girly things in interactions. Socially, boys won't be punished so hard for failing to sympathise or for having a logical, structured approach when deciding what to say. Boys will simply be weird and geeky, girls will be perceived as cruel and insensitive bitches.

quinoa said...

Hi Gavin:

I had noticed your precise language use in previous posts, which is why I thought I would comment on the feel/think thing. It's interesting that you and I have opposite interpretations of the meanings of feel vs. think. I like your interpretation and appreciate that you're able to explain it so clearly. I wonder if the difference is be a cultural thing - I believe I recall reading that you're in Australia; I'm in Canada.

Then again, maybe my alternative interpretation is one of the reasons I have so much difficulty relating to people.

I'm in an in-between realm right now as far as my diagnosis - I've had an assessment and the doctor said that she'd classified me as "borderline Aspergers" and implied that she wanted to deal with my "serious depression" so she could make a conclusive diagnosis. The problem is that I don't think I am "seriously depressed". My extreme anxiety about A) going to the hospital for the assessment and B) voluntarily seeing a doctor (a group of people with whom I don't have many good experiences) apparently left me in a state that appeared to the doctor as severe depression.

But I've digressed. I do that. Sorry again. I should probably start my own blog so I could ramble away without harassing everyone else...

Thanks for the reply though. It's great to learn how other people interpret things, and there aren't many people with whom I can have open discussion regarding language use, so thank you for that.

And keep up the fantastic blog!

Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone said...

[...]the phrase to "not judge a book by its cover" isn't meant to be taken literally[...]
Wait, it *isn't* meant to be taken literally??? I mean, I knew it was also figurative but...

Hm. While it's good to hear about more out there on girls, that it didn't cover some of the differences if a little bit bothersome. Especially since it's usually the girls who are a little less typical expressing that get diagnosed early in life. But I guess that could have something to do with the girl who is the "hero" or what have you being so young?

CelticRose said...

Betti said: "As for the book..... how many aspie girls out there are into the girly pinky atmosphere and lifestyle out there? That does make me cringe."
That is exactly the reaction I had upon seeing the cover of this book. As a female maybe-Aspie (can't afford a diagnosis), I often felt alienated from other girls because I wasn't into the pink, lacy, frilly, girly stuff. Now that I'm an adult it's not so much of an issue.

Betti said: "I am certainly no expert on aspergers but I feel that there could be a difference between boys and girls.
Boys and men tend to approach communication, relationships and problem-solving with more logic, reasoning, structure and intellect. In females, social interaction is more likely to be guided by intuition, emotions, sharing and caring, chitchat.
I may be totally wrong here. I think a female is hit quite hard in relationships because it is very difficult for us to do these girly things in interactions. Socially, boys won't be punished so hard for failing to sympathise or for having a logical, structured approach when deciding what to say. Boys will simply be weird and geeky, girls will be perceived as cruel and insensitive bitches."
QFT. It is more socially acceptable for boys to display Aspie behaviors than it is for girls.

Another major difference is that girls are often able to hide their Aspie behavior better because a) females in general are more in touch with emotions than males so they are more likely to realize that their own behavior is bit "off", and b) females tend to helped by their female friends to display the "correct" behavior.

Then there's the bias in the medical community. For a long time it was believed that only males could have autism or Asperger's, and there are some doctors out there who still believe that. Also, Asperger's tends to present differently in females, and some doctors lack the training/experience to spot the differences.

Marita said...

I definitely have to pick up a copy of this book.