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Book Review: The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood

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There are endless options when it comes to books about autism and Asperger’s, and a trip to the library or bookstore can present overwhelming choices. Where to begin? As a therapist, I specialize in working with individuals of all ages with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), and usually, the first place I send any client for information is Tony Attwood’s The Complete Guide To Asperger’s Syndrome. For parents of kids just diagnosed with Asperger’s, adults who think that maybe they’ve always been on the autism spectrum, or autistic teens who are starting to transition into adulthood, this book is a solid place to start.

Autism Spectrum Disorders, including autism, Asperger’s and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) are in the news constantly, most recently because of new reports showing higher than previously reported incidence rates, now at about 1 in 100 individuals. There are technical differences between the different diagnoses, but the key factor is that these disorders cover a broad spectrum of abilities, but have a common core of difficulties in social issues and communication.

If your toddler has just been diagnosed with autism, a book covering the basic early interventions for autism is probably the best starting point, instead of this book. The Complete Guide To Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t attempt to cover all the issues of autism such as theories about causation or early treatment programs like ABA. But for those with Asperger’s, older kids who have started therapies, and adults on the spectrum, this book is a solid resource. Concepts of interest to anyone on the spectrum, such as social issues, sensory problems, career planning, and theory of mind are all presented and explained in this guide.

Attwood’s Complete Guide To Asperger’s Syndrome is just that, a complete guide to all things related to Asperger’s, covering everything from diagnosis to treatments and educational needs on to managing life as an adult. The book is well organized and has an easy, almost conversational tone. But that ease of reading doesn’t conflict with the fact that the book is well researched and well documented. It has 23 pages of references, as well as a section of frequently asked questions, a list of resources and a complete index. All this information makes the book useful both for getting basic information, and for beginning more extensive research into a particular topic.

One of the most informative chapters deals with understanding and expressing emotion. Individuals with ASDs frequently struggle with depression and anxiety as well as managing repetitive worries and dealing with anger. Attwood discusses all these issues and balances citations from peer reviewed journals, his own clinical experiences, and excerpts from the writing of autistic individuals. He also includes information on treatment, which is, of course, useful for professionals, but valuable for parents and autistic individuals as well.

I think of this book as the Asperger’s equivalent to The Joy of Cooking. There are lots of specialized cookbooks out there, covering the details of Thai cuisine, or how to use a slow cooker, but the classic Joy of Cooking can get you started and point out where to go next. Attwood’s The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome can get you started on just about any Asperger related issue, and show you where to go from there.

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About Patricia Robinson MFT