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