Aspertools: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Neurodiversity
by Harold Reitman. MD Graph Review levels 55-65
with Pari Fizzano and Rebecca Reitman
Published Souvenir Press £10. Paperback. 978 028564364 2
Foreword by Gordon Marino (Prof. of Philosophy)
Followed by Acknowledgments, Preface and Introduction
Main book: 23 chapters on assorted themes that all have meaning to anyone involved with Aspergers and ASD, in their many degrees (neuro diversity). Indeed much can be taken from these chapters for other disabilities of a normal (neurotypical) personality to make live richer, understandable and sustainable for all. Which is a point the author is positive in making.
Over the whole of humanity you can take comfort that not one brain will be/work like another. As the cover quote from Rebecca Reitman beautifully puts it: “Brains are like snowflakes – no two are the same.”
(The closest you may get, briefly, is a small percentage of identical twins….. if you need be pedantic!”)
To the English reader the Acknowledgements may seem a little over the top but bear with it as it helps fill in the background. The Preface moves swiftly into his (the author) place in life and their daughter, Rebecca and her progress through school and college as a girl with Aspergers (not diagnosed until late). Or ‘Aspie’ as a term that Dr. Reitman uses all through the book. New readers may find this term a little odd but after a short while it sits more comfortably and perhaps as an endearing shorthand to be picked up.
Once you hit the ‘Introduction’ the way is clear. Explanations for the book and relevance of ‘Aspie’ lead you straight into the chapters, from which we can all learn aspects of others, ourselves and some ‘tools’ to cope where needed. He explains the basic format of each chapter but allows there are some slight variations.
I suppose I ought to name all the 23 chapters. No, don’t think so, just to say they are all relevent as individual sections though, unsurprisingly, there are similarities and overlaps in the contents.
The earliest points are about sensory over sensitivity that many ‘Aspies’ have in any or all of the senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and all the possibilities of causing anxiety up to ‘meltdown’. Any of these may occur in small-scale social or large, stadium size, occasions.
A key element is observation of the potential difficulties and pre-planning for a coping strategy which offers least anxiety. Every individual needs to have plans of this nature for some events in their life. ‘Aspies’ need to be helped to cope in an appropriate and calming fashion on a more basic and frequent level.
Observe and understand the person you care for, including yourself, and recognise the needs for adjustments in coping with the requirements of living.
This book starts each chapter with the ‘Helpful Hint’ and then offers a circumstance of a particular difficulty with the suggested actions explained and then a few words of additional comment from Rebecca.
I found having the advice given and it followed by the problem, then the solving, a more positive method of writing. Seeing the answer first enables you to understand the problem as you read through. After the Helpful Hint is the ‘Principle’ then Rebecca, often a section written from the experience of herself as an ‘Aspie’ and finally, specifically defined ‘Action Plan’.
What starts off as a seemingly slow read has turned into a fascinating and stimulating collection of situations, results, advice and plans. The author is careful to keep the reader aware that the examples he gives are one/some of many variations across the spectrum.
His key points are to observe the difficulties of the individual; the cause of difficulties in the surroundings and understand those triggers. To help cope with anxiety-causing dilemmas in an appropriate way and use all techniques that you find work. And this book points the way to many. Amongst them: keep calm, establish routines that are comfortable, make change (if necessary) in small steps and pre-warn of them, put yourself in their mind to see effects, encourage social activity and explain social conversation.
This covers a few chapters, there are numerous others and they often have similar/ overlapping suggestions. The ‘tips’ from Rebecca are always interesting and balance the ‘experts’ view with her own Asperger’s understanding.
The book is American in origination and the organisations mentioned are not available in this country, except via internet, I assume, but there are many organisations of national, regional and local focus in the UK. Autism UK and Autism Independant UK are but two and a search of the internet should produce many useful groups.
This book is an easy ‘reader’ for parents, Teaching Assistants, training and NQTs whether in mainstream or specialist education situations. Those new to the subject will find it very useful, others less new are bound to find useful information or reminders of good practice.
For a more in depth understanding of autism spectrum disorder is recommended: Uniquely Human, by Barry Prizant.
Also published by Souvenir Press is ‘Uniquely Human’ by Barry Prizant, also reviewed on this site.
Books available, post free (for UK) at time of writing from: http://www.bookseducation.co.uk/