One of the more frequent questions I encounter is: what are some good books about autism?
Since being diagnosed with ASD, I’ve read a wide variety of books on the topic and I have to admit that most of them were too general, too repetitive, did not apply to my situation – or did not provide me with anything that I did not already know. Even books by autistic authors, with an autistic audience in mind, did not leave much of an impression on me. However, this just goes to prove the following: if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. Perhaps those books I did not care for would be a valuable resource for someone else. However, for the purposes of this blog, I’ll focus on the books and texts that I found valuable; they tend to include scientific facts, references, practical advice, commonalities and shared experiences and/or historical context – all of which have boosted my self confidence and helped me understand, and accept, my own autism.
My first recommendation isn’t a text but the BBC documentary “Chris Packham: Aspergers & Me”. When I was first diagnosed with “high functioning autism” (Aspergers Syndrome Profile), I was very surprised how well I could relate to Packham’s experiences; I no longer felt so alone. I sent the video link to my parents, to help them understand my autism:
As I mentioned, I prefer factual, scientific information on autism – with references. This interest stems from my life-long fascination with science, my work as a fisheries biologist and my Masters focusing on science communication. Unlike some autistic people, I want to research and understand the origin(s) of my autism (for some, this is very uncomfortable). While not everyone’s cup of tea, if you want scholarly papers, I get most of my articles from these two online sources:
If you’re looking for a general overview of ASD (particularly Aspergers Syndrome) that’s easy-to-read, thorough and fact-based, I highly recommended Tony Attwood’s The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Considered by many the text on ASD, this is the best single resource I have found, since my diagnosis over two years ago. Attwood is a British psychologist who is very well known and respected for his work on Asperger syndrome. In an interesting twist of fate, he was surprised to discover that his own son was autistic, after years of misread signals.
For historical context, I recommend NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. Although I’ve just started reading this, it has introduced me to many autistic individuals who I was previously unaware of. I enjoy thoroughly researching each one. Being introduced to autistic historical figures, and learning about their common hurdles and behaviors, is really exciting and thought provoking; it boosts my self-esteem – no longer feeling alone and singular.
If you’re looking for workplace advice, I haven’t found anything better than the Trades Union Congress (TUC) document Autism in the Workplace. As a former NASUWT union rep, I found this document very helpful. It succinctly summarizes a wealth of information in an easy-to-read format. I’ve read it twice and continue to reference it to this day. Documents like this helped me pull through several challenging workplace experiences; they inspire me to help others on the spectrum.
My final recommendation came from one of my counselors. She showed me her copy of The Reason I Jump, written by a thirteen year old autistic Japanese boy named Naoki Higashida. Based on her description (“a quick, easy, interesting read”), I thought it would be an excellent book to send to my mother, to give her some background on my autism. However, my counselor disagreed; she said that Higashida was much more autistic than myself, so it wasn’t directly relatable. However, once I read the book, I was amazed how closely it did relate to my own thoughts, feelings and perspectives. The book is written in a very clear, concise way that comes across as poetic diary entries – somewhat reminiscent of Richard Brautigan. To attempt to understand something as complex as ASD, you need to engage with diverse texts and this personal, profound little book should definitely be part of your ASD library.