Asperger Syndrome in Adulthood:
A Comprehensive Guide For Clinicians
Written by: Kevin P. Stoddart, Lillian Burke, Robert King
Published: W.W. Norton & Company
To be completely honest my expectations were pretty low as I opened this book because, let’s face it, to date most texts on Asperger's Syndrome (and particularly those aimed at clinicians) really miss the mark when it comes to understanding the disorder and the challenges it presents for adults. But I’m happy to report that this book well and truly exceeded those expectations.
The guide is written with great respect and obvious concern for the needs of adults with AS. In fact, it’s the first clinical guide I’ve read that treats adults with AS as adults - with well-rounded and complicated lives filled with college, careers, relationships, parenting and sex. There’s even a section on aging and retirement!
Clinical guides can often be dry and difficult to read with many not offering much beyond the standard literature review, but this wasn’t the case here. The authors do a great job of blending research with their own clinical observations, providing lots of practical examples of AS beyond the usual stereotype of “the highly socially awkward male who avoids any eye contact and is not successful in employment or relationships”.
One of the pleasant surprises in the book was an acknowledgement by the authors of how much there is to learn from the writings of adults with AS. I can safely say that this is a first in all the clinical guides I’ve read, and I would love to see this expanded in future editions with more excerpts taken from the vast array of published personal accounts on offer.
The authors clearly have extensive hands-on experience and understanding of the challenges faced by adults with AS, and tackle important issues with great sensitivity and compassion. They emphasize the danger of leaning too heavily on stereotypical challenges such as eye contact during the diagnostic process, acknowledging that people often learn to compensate for these, and stress that self-assessment of AS should be respected and not dismissed.
The guide also does a thorough job of discussing the complexities involved with diagnosing co-morbid medical and mental health disorders (I found the sections on personality, eating and gender identity disorders to be particularly interesting), and the difficulties in using standard diagnostic instruments in an AS population. While there is some mention of the presentation of AS in women, I would have liked to have seen more discussion on this important topic.
The publishers describe the guide as “a terrific resource for both professionals, students, and the families of those with AS” and I’d agree... although why are these guides never written for or marketed to people with Aspergers themselves? Now that’s a book I’d be really keen to read.
I received no incentive or compensation for writing this review, other than a free electronic copy of the book from the publishers.