Review: Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals

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Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals

Tony Attwood’s, Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, is one of the most popular and frequently recommended books on Asperger’s Syndrome.

I read this book first as a parent. It offers a quick background of the syndrome, many anecdotes describing behaviours that are symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome, diagnostic checklists, and brief details of the supporting academic theories. It’s not a difficult read.

It makes a good beginner’s book for someone wanting to get a quick insight into the ideas that underpin the theories, including the “theory of mind”, “mind blindness”, the claims that this disability sometimes coincides with great abilities, and what is socially acceptable, ie normal. It also includes a bibliography for deeper research.

However, I was not convinced. The descriptions of the symptoms reminded me of horoscope books where descriptions are just specific enough to be adopted by anyone motivated to accept them, yet vague enough that they are never completely wrong. The tone of the book made me wary – like the overfriendly coach trying to get you on their team. I found the supporting evidence lightweight and often illogical. Some parts of the book, I found simply offensive.

Yet all reviews I read, from both parents and professionals, were extremely positive. Had we read the same book? Apparently we had.

This book is designed to appeal to people who do not fit the diagnostic criteria as it describes those who do, and how those people make life so difficult for everyone. The source of the problems is placed squarely within the Aspergic person, who is in turn offered the diagnosis as a source of explanation, comfort and forgiveness. It would seem that not only was I not the author’s ideal reader, I became an increasingly hostile reader as I progressed through the book.

Yes, there are people who are recognisable in Attwood’s stereotypical anecdotes. Yes, those people often find blending into wider society difficult. What I found unacceptable were the interpretations and assumptions made, and the implication that the theories presented had some sort of factual scientific certainty.

Hence my ongoing research and observation of the phenomenon of Asperger’s Syndrome, and finally this website. Perhaps, I should say this book was inspiring!

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