It has been more than five years since my youngest child was diagnosed with autism and in that time I’ve read a lot of autism books. Some have been great, some have been good and some haven’t been worth mentioning. I’ve just finished Temple Grandin’s new book, Different…Not Less, and I have to say that it easily ranks among the best autism books I’ve ever read.
“One of the most important missions Temple Grandin has is making sure people with autism and Asperger’s make something of their lives. As Temple says quite bluntly, “Being on Social Security is NOT a job choice.”
This book is a compilation of ten success stories from adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, who have been diagnosed late in life and who have overcome many social obstacles in order to achieve what they have in life. Handpicked by Temple herself, these individuals’ stories translate into a crusade to show those on the spectrum how it is possible to find fulfillment in life.
Many people on the autism spectrum have great potential in parts of their minds that neurotypicals never even start to tap, which is the reason Temple Grandin believes these stories of survival and, often, hidden genius, need to be shared with the world.
The point of this groundbreaking work is that these stories can inspire other to achieve their true potential. The reader will understand why this book, their stories, and the underlying message of this book mean so much to Temple Grandin.
I can tell you that, without a doubt, this book absolutely inspired me as a mother of two children on the autism spectrum. I’ve always felt that my children were merely different from their neurotypical peers and while that may present with some challenges, it certainly didn’t make them any less….any less of a child, deserving of any less of my love nor any less of my hope and aspirations for their future.
Although each of the stories proved to be inspirational, there were two stories that really spoke to me personally. The first is the story of Karla Fisher, a senior program manager for Intel and successful “techie.” I live in a techie-filled household and so I foresee at least one, if not both, of my children going on to pursue a career in a technology-related industry.
Karla was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult and in the book, she shares a question a colleague asked her shortly after her diagnosis – “if she had known earlier in life the she had a disorder, would she have been motivated to attain such a high level of achievement?”
This is a question I’ve often seen asked when it comes to an adult receiving an Asperger’s diagnosis of even a parent pursuing an Asperger’s or high-functioning autism diagnosis for their child. I even asked this question of myself prior to my son’s psychoeducational testing several years ago.
I won’t tell you Karla’s answer to the question but I will tell you that Karla’s stories of her youth, the good and the bad, as well as her success in life as a career woman and a mother make me thankful that there is an entire industry, the tech industry, that seems to be almost tailor-made for Aspergic and high functioning individuals like my son.
The second story that really tugged at my heart was about Leonora Gregory-Collura, an autism outreach consultant and dancer/choreographer. Gregory-Collura has a section of her chapter entitled “I Developed Through Dance” and since I have been watching my daughter’s transformation through ballet, I really connected with the author.
“I wanted to take Judo classes like my brother, but in those days it was not ladylike for a girl to do Judo. So I took ballet, movement, and dance classes instead. I was very interested in dance and the mechanics of movement in the human body. I found the study of these concepts useful as I matured and developed.”
The first time I saw my daughter step on stage in her dance costume with a huge smile on her face and knowing every single choreography step I had tears streaming down my cheeks. Years later I still get that proud momma moment every time she steps on the stage and shines.
Although these two stories really spoke to me I have to say that Temple Grandin has done a fantastic job of compiling the stories of successful adults with autism, Asperger’s and ADHD. This book comes with my highest of recommendations – for parents, for educators and for individuals on the autism spectrum.
If you’d like to order a copy directly from the publisher, head on over to the Future Horizons website and enter my discount code MHO upon checkout and you will save 15% off of the purchase price.
Photo: University of Denver/Flickr