"Coming Out Asperger" Book Review
"Coming Out Asperger: Diagnosis, Disclosure and Self-Confidence", edited by Dinah Murray, Jessica Kingsley Publisher's, (2005)
This fascinating and well-thought out work has been put together by a number of authors and deals with, as the title suggests, 'coming out Asperger', that is someone with the condition admitting it to the outside world. This is fraught with complications and consequences, yet each chapter of the book skilfully handles every one, seamlessly combining personal experience with referenced academic research. Many of them are contrasts and parallels to each other, expanding and elaborating on individual ideas.
For example, Michelle Dawson lays out what is required by professionals who diagnose AS and explain the condition, the distinctions between autism and Asperger's Syndrome that need to be made and the consequences with the condition properly spelt out. It is obvious Ms Dawson has experienced a lot of frustration with this in the past and it is that powers the whole chapter. Similarly, David N. Andrews relates his background growing up in the 1970s when Asperger's was not very well known at all and he was severely misunderstood as a result. David describes his problems with both the medical and educational authorities he encountered, noting that unfortunately his experiences are not unique. Set against this are a variety of strategies by various others that look at diagnosis and disclosure. Hetta Pukki and Penny Barratt both cover disclosure at school, and Liane Halliday Willey and Jennifer Overton both look at ways for parents to disclose to their children, with Liane placing emphasis on confidence-building techniques and Jennifer (in a snappy 'scripted' conversation chapter) instructs her young son in social skills and playing with other kids.
Jacqui Jackson, who authors the chapter "Disclosure: A Parent's Perspective", describes raising her teenage AS son Luke (himself the author of his own book "Freaks, Geeks and Asperger's Syndrome") and how he was arrested by the police after acting suspiciously at a nightclub and could not explain his disability to the bouncer, who reported him. In the last chapter of the book, "Disclosing to the Authorities", Dennis Debbaudt suggests the introduction of ID cards for Asperger's Syndrome in the event of such encounters. These cards would elaborate on the disability, provide suitable references or people to talk to, and explain any aspects of it that may cause potential misunderstanding.
Another area where AS individuals are misunderstood is in the sphere of romance or romantic relationships. Lynn Moxon in her segment "Diagnosis, Disclosure and Self-Confidence in Sexuality and Relationships" points out that, although Hans Asperger noted that the young people from whom he drew his writing had difficulty with 'socio-sexual skills', feelings of love and desire are necessary and natural and on the whole make us more intelligent as human beings. They therefore should not be avoided but must be managed effectively. She deals with all matters that concern these kinds of relationships, including dating, dealing with the breakup of relationships and also inappropriate sexual behaviour that is sadly not uncommon among some ASD individuals. It is for this reason that disclosure is vital in these kinds of relationships, and Lynn carefully examines the ways this can be done.
The chapter "Coming Out Autistic at Work" by Jayne Meyerding brilliantly conveys the difficulties AS people have with finding and staying in employment, including obstacles faced at job interviews, meltdowning in the workplace and reasons for coming out at work, with one third of AS individuals acknowledging their disability and another two thirds afraid to do so for fear. Meyerder believes that disclosure in these circumstances is important not just for survival but for a neurodiversity movement that makes this kind of difference acceptable in the workplace. This fantastic idea typifies what is an all-round excellent book and comes highly recommended as a handbook for AS individuals, as well as their employers, friends and relatives.
"Coming Out Asperger" is available to buy on Amazon and all good bookshops.