Posted on April 01, 2014 in Autism
If you have read my work in the last decade or two, you know that it is peppered with quotes from one of my very favorite books, Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence by Luke Jackson. When I first got a copy of this book, I read it cover to cover and subsequently bought copies for several of my colleagues.
Freaks was one of the first full-length personal accounts written solely by a young person on the spectrum so that made it really unique. However, the reason I was so drawn to the book was the writing. It is so candid and direct, the reader cannot help but pay attention and interrogate his or her own understandings and misunderstandings about autism, Asperger syndrome, teaching, learning, and support. For example, Jackson takes on “neurotypical” understandings of the world and challenges us to think differently about fascinations or “obsesssions”:
I am sure if a parent went to a doctor and said that their teenage boy wouldn’t shut up about football, they would laugh and tell them that it was perfectly normal. It seems as if we all have to be the same. Why can no one see that the world just isn’t like that? I would like everyone to talk about computers all day actually, but I don’t expect them to and people soon tell me to shut up. (2002, pp. 47–48)
Some folks may struggle with the book initially because the author is British and, therefore, occasionally uses terms that may be new or unfamiliar (especially to young readers). It is also helpful to remember that the author is young, so the style is a bit on the casual side. However, for some, that informal approach is a plus as it may make the book feel more accessible than other texts. In fact, this is perhaps the thing I like best about Jackson’s book; it often feels like you are chatting with a pal instead of reading a good book.
** Idea for using this book: Buy copies of this book for a whole-class or whole-school book club. Perhaps your PTO could fund the purchase?