‘Autism is an invisible disability with a long and complex history.’
We all know someone (or are someone) who is neurodivergent. And, regardless of our own relationship with neurodivergence, most of us struggle to make sense of the different ways in which others relate to and manage the world. I think that this is a book for everyone to read and learn from.
The author, Kay Kerr, is autistic. In addition to her own personal story of love and autism, she introduces us to five other autistic people: Chloë, Jess, Michael, Noor, and Tim who share some of their own experiences of being neurodivergent in a neurotypical world. While reading each chapter, I felt like I was part of a conversation and was reminded (yet again) how unique individual characteristics can often be viewed within society as negative.
I was particularly interested in Tim’s story. Tim is non-speaking and has not always been afforded easy access to alternative methods of communication. I was also struck by the impact of labels, discussed by Ms Kerr and Jess, and how easy it can become to focus on the label rather than the person to whom it has been affixed. An added complication is that labels (such as ‘autism’) can have different definitions which impact on perceptions.
Growing up, surviving adolescence, and trying to fit in are all aspects of life that each of us navigates as we grow to adulthood. Imagine how much harder this is for someone who is seen as different, whose behaviours and expressions may not fit neatly within the ‘accepted’ standards. Imagine trying to navigate around the world when the compass you use is calibrated differently from most others.
And what about love? Yes, romantic love is one aspect. But far more important is love of life, love of others and love of self.
Book 22 in my 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. I’ve entered as a ‘Nonfiction Grazer’ and this book should be included under the heading of ‘Health’.