This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
Subtitled "The Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger's, Autism Spectrum, and Neurodiversity" this book is aimed at understanding and learning how to deal with these conditions. Asperger syndrome (AS) is named after the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who described children with the features 1944. It's thought to affect some forty million people worldwide.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a range of conditions classified as neurodevelopmental disorders. This syndrome includes Asperger's, but this author refers primarily to Aspergers, and makes little mention of Autism. The word itself comes from the Greek word autos, meaning self or same. It's this same root that appears in autobiography, autopilot, and so on.
This book is available in both print and electronic format, but I have to say once again that the Kindle version is a disaster! The PDF version was much more readable, but I read most of this in Kindle because I always have my phone with me and it was more convenient to read it there.
This is a book which was designed for print format, evidently without an ounce of thought being given to how it would appear as an ebook. Amateur reviewers like me do not merit a print version, and it's fine because I'd rather have the trees than the pages, but it does mean that we have to put up with some pretty rough-and unready versions of books from time to time. It's well known that turning a print format book into a Kindle book to be read on Amazon's crappy Kindle app will as likely ruin it as render it readable if great care isn't taken.
I recommend using B&N's Nook or PDF format. Anything but Kindle, which in my experience will destroy any book that isn't formatted in the blandest and most vanilla of manners. Full disclosure: I am an arch enemy of Amazon not only for the fact that they're too big and powerful, but for their business practices (or lack of same) and also from my personal dealings with them on my own projects. I will never do business with them again, and neither will my estate when I;m gone, so if you think I'm biased, you're perfectly correct! That doesn't alter the fact that Kindle is for crap though as I shall hereinafter demonstrate.
Note though that this was an ARC, and one;s hope is that these issues will be fixed before the published e-version is released lest it become an aversion, but how it came to be this way in the first place is something that demands investigation. From page one this book was literally all over the place, with misaligned text, random red text in places whereas the rest of the text was white on my phone. I set my phone this way to save on power drain: white text on a black background uses less energy than the reverse, but switching it to black text on white background made no difference to the issues I'm discussing here.
The contents followed straight on from the book details page with no break, and the word 'contents' was randomly capitalized so that it read: COnTEnTS. The FOREwORd and the ACknOwLEdgmEnTS were just as bad. You can see a trend there: d, g, m, n, w are all lower case. Everything else is upper case. Why? I have no idea, but the Kindle conversion 'process' is well-known to me for this kind of inexplicable mangling of books.
This was followed by a truly poorly formatted contents list in which nothing was aligned. Some of the text was blue, indicating a link, and tapping that took you to the correct page, but there was no way to get back to the contents from that page since it wasn't linked in reverse. The real problem though, was that only a few contents items were actually linked - the rest was plain white text and tapping on it achieved nothing, other than swiping the screen if you tapped too close to the edge, of course!
There were multiple images of snowflakes separating each section of the book because every snowflake is different, right? That's actually not true (there are identical snowflakes!), but this was used as a metaphor for each brain being different, which I do buy. The problem from a formatting point of view was that while these snowflakes looked pretty and elegant in the iPad, in the Kindle version they were a complete disaster.
When you reverse the colors (white text on black background), the blobby snowflakes stand out like a sore thumb. Worse than this, they're all over the place: spread over three or more screens instead of being confined to one dividing screen - again a problem with the formatting for the ebook being ignored completely. Several instances of these snowflakes spread across five screens! That's way too much real estate for a frivolous affectation which ought to have been dispensed with in the ebook version.
I recommend reading the PDF format rather than the sad Amazon format which is all Kindled up - that is unless the actual published version has all these problems fixed. In the iPad, the image of the snowflakes makes sense - it's in the shape of a brain and part of the spinal cord. If this had been one small image instead of apparently being composed of multiple tiles, then it would have looked a lot better on the smart phone than it does in the ARC that I got.
The book has a preface and an introduction, both of which I ignored as is my habit. They almost never contribute anything worth reading in my experience, so I routinely skip them. I prefer my introduction to be chapter one, so that's where I started. Everything else is nothing but pretention and OCD addiction to tradition. The chapters have chapter quotes which are another no-no to me and I skipped those, too. If you have to quote someone else to make your case for you, you're not making your case.
I assume the print version has drop-caps. Frankly I've never seen the point of these even in a print book, but they should have been eliminated for the ebook version because what we got instead was, on the first screen for chapter one: some left over snowflakes, the chapter number and title, a thick line, a quote from Mark Twain - a well-known expert on Autism - not!, another thick line, an anonymous quote, another thick line, a 'helpful hint' which was really just common sense, an apparently random number 7 (which may or may not have been a footnote, and which doesn't work in an ebook - better to have a tap-able link instead), and finally the start of the chapter - at the very bottom of the screen. The start of the chapter was the letter E. That's it. That's all. The next screen contained the rest of the truncated word which was evidently intended to be 'Every'. Drop-caps should be dropped. Literally, but especially so in ebooks.
Throughout the book, people on the autism spectrum were referred to as 'Aspies' which seemed really condescending to me. I don't know if this is considered a term of endearment or otherwise acceptable within that community, but repeatedly reading phrases like "...it might not be true of your Aspie..." just sounded wrong to me - like these people were objects to be owned rather than individuals who needed careful consideration. That's just my feeling on the topic.
The author's daughter (Rebecca Reitman) adds sections here and there with her own thoughts since she has to cope with this condition, and these are listed under the title 'thought from rebecca reitman' - and that's exactly how it's headed in the Kindle version: all lower case, no differentiation with font, which even Amazon's crappy Kindle app can usually handle. It was really hard to see where these sections began and ended.
There was a similar problem with the other contributor, Pati Fizzano, a teacher of autism spectrum kids, whose contributions were fine in the iPad, but which seemed always to be competing among those annoying snowflakes for attention in the Kindle version on my smartphone. Once again, the book was formatted for the printed page and apparently zero thought was given to the experience that ebook users, who might want the convenience of reading on their phone, would be subject to.
Those complaints aside, the book did contain educational and useful content which is well worth knowing. The topics were rather repetitive, and while it never hurts to reinforce ideas, especially with someone who is on the spectrum, as a reader I did find myself wondering from time to time whether the book was actually aimed at those who wished to at least understand (as it was in my case) and help people with these disorders, or whether it was aimed at people who actually had these disorders!
I was reminded several times of assorted things, for example, that Rebecca Reitman had “...twenty-three vascular tumors in her brain," and also had "two life-saving [against all odds] brain surgeries...” While I sympathize and really feel for anyone who is in that kind of situation, telling me something like that once really makes an impact. I wasn't likely to forget it! Repeatedly telling me was more likely to make me honestly wish I'd never heard it! This wasn't the only thing that was repeated.
Anyway, the topics covered were these:
- Hypersenses: Senses on Steroids
- Observation: Elementary, My Dear Watson
- The Meltdown
- The Safe Place
- Rudeness, Truth Telling, and Manners
- Structure and Positive Activities
- Obsessions and Hyper-Interests
- Social Awkwardness
- Limit Choices to Avoid "No!"
- Instilling Street Smarts
- Taking Things Literally: "Why Did They Say I'm Not Playing With a Full Deck?"
- Specifics: Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say
- Preventing Overwhelm: Breaking Down Big Jobs Into Smaller Tasks
- Setting Goals
- Rules, Rewards, and Consequences
- Checklists: The Indispensable Tool
- Time management: Tools for getting 139 Your Aspie to Be on Time
- Overlapping Conditions
- It's Not About You
- Love Unconditionally
Note that the '139' in the 'Time Management' section is actually in the contents list - it's a page number that's out of place.
There's an afterword, which I also skipped as I do all afterwords, epilogues, etc. There are three appendices chock full of resources and references.
Despite all of the formatting issues and the repetitiveness in parts, I really enjoyed reading this. it was interesting, educational, and sometimes heartbreaking, and I commend it as a worthy read. This isn't the first book I've read on this topic, so much of it I already knew, but it was nice to be remind! Much of it is actually nothing more than common sense when you learn a few things about people with these conditions, and there's the rub: it's not like they have a sign, or they're in a wheelchair, or have a certain 'look' about them.
It's not like they're missing a limb, or are carrying a white stick, or wearing a hearing aid, but it would behoove everyone to give anyone who is behaving - to our routine eyes - slightly oddly, because it may well be someone like this who needs our concern and compassion, not our Trump-mentality, knee-jerk condemnation. I enjoyed the comments by the authors daughter, even though they usually echoed what I'd read in the preceding chapter. They were delightfully blunt and to the point, and I would definitely read a biography if she wrote one. I think it would be interesting. In the absence of that, this book does an excellent job of opening eyes and hearts to people who need our understanding and support.