“If you’re reading this book, chances are that you’re autistic too. I wrote this book especially for you.”
Last month a new and exciting book launched entitled The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide – How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic by Siena Castellon.
The book has been published by JKP and is available online if you follow this link.
A criticism that often comes from the autistic community is that most literature on autism will often be written by those who are neurotypical – how can one write about an experience if they haven’t lived it?
As a parent who writes about family life I try to capture my daughter’s words and feelings as much as possible because it is her experience that really comes first. She is my teacher and I am the pupil. I feel that I have adapted my approach over time because I understand that I can write about parenting, but I can’t replicate or imagine my daughter’s challenges – blogging has taken a learning curve over the last few years and the rhetoric I use has reflected that.
So, to write a book as an autistic teenager, for other autistic individuals to read, is an inspiring thing to do and will be a resource that is completely different to any other book currently out there. It’s also more relevant, as the writer Siena Castellon highlights, because she is still of the age for her writing to be about growing up. This is even more apt as she feels that the books from adults, who are in the stage of being more reflective of their childhood, have an element of time removed from their experiences.
The book not only dissects autism but helps the reader to embrace who they are, to look at their positives or their ‘superpowers,’ rather than the negatives that can be portrayed or often misled in the media. The author talks about the importance of finding your own identity and being authentic to yourself.
A subject that she covers very well is ‘masking’ and how it can be relied upon in order to fit in whilst growing up:
Siena then breaks these behaviours down and discusses how girls may find ways to adapt to fit in, although she uses her personal perspective to highlight how damaging this can be on an individual as well as feeling socially exhausted. As a parent of an autistic girl, I found this section extremely insightful:
There are multiple topics in this book that I think are incredibly helpful, not just to autistic individuals, but to their parents, families, carers and teachers – for anyone who is involved or in contact.
Understanding key aspects such as losing one’s identity, or to have social burnout and social anxiety are all important factors when supporting yourself or someone who may need that extra help.
There are also tips on all aspects of life such as ways to manage sensory overloads, to taking care of your body, to understanding emotions and mental health, to relationships (friendships and romantically), to gender identity, surviving school, bullying and ways to navigate social media, online safety as well as other co-morbid or overlapping conditions. The breadth of subjects are extremely diverse that I really think it is like a bible of information!
A chapter that I think will be incredibly useful is ‘How to Survive School,’ as in my experience as a parent of an autistic girl (and as a teaching assistant working in schools), trying to navigate being in an unpredictable social environment is extremely tough for most children and young people when they are in their formative years.
This is like a ‘self-help’ book for the young autism community and the writing feels positive. I could see that it would help a teenager to advocate for their own needs and adjustments that will make life feel better (as can be seen from this illustration below):
This book will be a resource that I intend to save for my daughter as she grows and develops into her teenage years – I really feel that the words are written for her. The illustrations are also cleverly done in a comic-book style approach which enhances the guide and I think are easy to relate to, like these drawings on ways to improve self-esteem:
This is one of the many examples of the comic style illustrations by the talented Rebecca Burgess.
This book is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers who are the leading publishers in autism and related conditions and cover an array of subjects in this field (for their full extensive range then click on this link).
I will leave you with these words by the author as I think they are uplifting:
“Knowing that each of us has the power to make a positive difference to someone’s life is what led me to write this book.”
I also find it inspiring and heartwarming that Sienna has been crowdfunding to send copies of her book to all state secondary schools in the U.K. and is putting back to the autistic community – I’d recommend reading her website here. I personally would like to thank her for what she is doing for others and it was a privilege to be able to read her words.
**DISCLAIMER** no payment was taken from reviewing this book (other than receiving a copy of the title) and all views are my own.