Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-one Noticed – Jeannie Davide-Rivera
An autobiography of a woman diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome as an adult. The author talks at length about the struggles she experienced growing up, about finding out that she was different from her peers, and generally trying to find her place in a world that she didn’t entirely understand.
When Davide-Rivera was growing up, the diagnosis for Aspergers Syndrome didn’t even exist in the diagnostic manuals in the US. What emerges as a result of this is a life story that many people diagnosed with Aspergers in their 30s, 40s or older will recognise from their own lives; different suggestions were put forward for a variety of the author’s difficulties before many adults decided she was just lazy and peers decided she was just weird.
My parents did not notice, my teachers were blind to it, and my doctors misdiagnosed it. When they noticed me on tip-toes, they made me a ballerina. When I twirled around and round, I was only dancing. When I had imaginary friends, they said that was just what little girls did.
When the light bothered me, I was allergic to sunlight. When smells overwhelmed me, I had a sensitive stomach. When I only ate a few select items, I was picky. When I could not stray from my rigid routine, I was hard-headed.
As is quite common in people who did not present with what has, throughout the history of autism, been referred to as ‘classic autism’ or ‘Kanner’s autism’, Davide-Rivera writes about how primary school had its difficulties but was largely manageable, and that her differences and difficulties only become more obvious once she moved up through her schooling and then into adulthood.
A lot of writing is dedicated to discussing Davide-Rivera’s routines and need for structure, and how her sensory processing affected her day-to-day living. For a non-autistic person this can provide a valuable insight into how the world is different for those on the spectrum, and for autistic readers it is an interesting opportunity to read about how another autistic person experienced their autism.
As an adult I find myself adhering to very similar patterns of behavior. If I unpack boxes from a move and put something away it always lives there even if it is not where I want it. It is important for me to unpack and arrange my things thoughtfully the first time because wherever I place the toaster is where it is going to stay. The initial placing, the initial routine becomes set in stone.
Davide-Rivera’s writing is both interesting and easy to become engaged in, coupled with the fact that the book isn’t overly long and so has a good pace. She packs a lot of information about her life into the pages and gives a real insight into how her autism, and more specifically the fact it was undiagnosed for so long, has affected her throughout her life, and how she then made changes once she knew she had Aspergers.
The book finishes with an epilogue where Davide-Rivera discusses how she feels about the fact that Aspergers no longer exists in the DSM V as a seperate diagnosis, and it is interesting to see her views on it’s removal.
Is it worth reading?
Yes. For non-autistic people it offers an insight to autism, and for autistic people it is the chance to read how another person experiences their own autism.