The Girl with the Curly Hair: A Visual Guide to Aspergers Syndrome – Alis Rowe
Explaining Asperger’s to someone is difficult. People are aware of it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they really understand it. What also doesn’t help is the stereotype portrayals in media, the fan-diagnosing of characters, and even the celebrities who self-diagnose as “a bit Aspergers”. When you’ve got a disorder that’s characterised by difficulties in communication, well you’re left struggling to explain your own condition.
Many people also are not interested in sitting down and reading some of the more bulky books about autism, or watching lengthy documentaries. So a book like this is actually quite an ingenious production. Most, if not all, of “The Girl with the Curly Hair’s” books are in illustrated or comic format – and this helps with understanding by reducing the amount of text that needs to be processed at once.
Using different illustration methods – Rowe goes through different aspects of having Aspergers Syndrome and explains what they mean to her and how it affects the way she interacts with and understands the world around her. It is explained in a straightforward manner and gives concrete examples that help people understand. Obviously the examples it this book are of the author’s life and experiences and so readers are encouraged by Rowe to remember that every autistic person is different, and that things she likes and dislikes, needs and avoids could be very different to another autistic person.
Most people naturally know how much detail they need to give when they are talking to someone. Particularly if the subject matter interests her, The Girl with the Curly Hair needs to know a lot more detail than the average person, otherwise she will not be able to follow the rest of what you are saying. She will have a “mind-block” on the words you did not give her enough detail for. (this is then followed with an illustration of her thought process during a conversation about weight lifting)
This book also doesn’t portray autism as either this horrible thing that ruins your life, or this wonderful thing that makes your life wonderful, which I was grateful for as books often tend to lean one way or the other. It’s very balanced discussing the positives and negatives that people can experience. It also doesn’t portray non-autistic people badly – something that can happen as well in books about autism acceptance – instead it focuses on how autistic and non-autistic people can meet each other and compromise.
I gave this book to my partner to read (although I am diagnosed with autism and not Aspergers it was still quite valid) and she found it useful – particularly in terms of understanding the types of situations and changes that make me anxious and why, and realising the sorts of processes that might be going on inside my brain as I try to make sense of something that has happened or deal with an event. The focus on anxiety within this book is important, as that is a detail too often missed from introductory books about autism.
For non-autistic people yes – it is a straight forward and easy to read introduction to Aspergers Syndrome. Autistic people might not get as much from it but may find it interesting.
Value for money?
Currently free on UK Kindle Unlimited which is great value for money; but it’s £15 for the print edition and £7.50 for the Kindle Edition which might be a bit too expensive considering the length of the book. However, if you have multiple family members or friends who would benefit from the book (or staff in an educational/professional setting) then it’s value is greater.