This book from The Girl with the Curly Hair series is aimed at autistic teenagers, their families and the professionals involved in their lives.
In the same accessible, cartoon style as many of Alis Rowe’s other books, this visual guide is easy to pick up and read in one sitting. It doesn’t overwhelm the reader with information and comes from a perspective of developing mutual respect and understanding between autistic and non-autistic people. The book does make reference to the differentiation between autistic and neurotypical (NT) people which is a bit confusing because someone can be non-autistic and non-neurotypical, for example, if they have ADHD.
The book is written as a guide for how autistic teenagers might feel as they try to navigate secondary school and adolescence, and the difficulties and confusion that may occur. There are pages with more general information, and others which are obviously drawing upon the personal details of Rowe’s experiences. The transition from childhood to adolescence can be difficult for many autistic people and Rowe briefly discusses some of the difficulties that occur – such as the fact that routines and socialising in childhood are often organised by parents, whereas adolescents are often trying to navigate taking over the responsibility for their own routines and how and when they want to socialise.
Reading the sections explaining why specific parts of school (such as drama lessons, the school environment, and P.E lessons) were difficult were like reading parts of the checklists for why I struggled with those lessons and those environments, I suspect they will resonate with many autistic people, not just autistic girls. Then there are other sections on socialising, managing social energy, and the different places in Rowe’s world and how levels of anxiety can change across those places. There is a lot of information in a relatively short visual guide but I personally didn’t experience any kind of information overload while reading it.
One section that didn’t really resonate with me was near the end, discussing why girls with ASD are special. It used examples such as girls with ASD being highly emotional, caring and understanding of others, and of being gifted. So as someone who has always struggled enormously with emotions and empathy and responding to the emotional needs of others (often feeling like that part of my brain is running multiple steps behind and somewhat dampened), it was a familiar trait list for autistic girls and women that I’ve never felt describes me. Obviously, other autistic people are different and others may find this relatable.
The use of visuals throughout helps to make some of the points easier to understand either by accessibility of presentation or specifically as a diagram or visual demonstration. The one accessibility point I pondered over (and I don’t know the answer to) was how easy it would be for some people with colour-blindness or other needs related to colour to read the sections where there is white against bright orange, green, blue and red.
Overall, this is a solid addition to the long-running series of visual guides that Alis Rowe writes – it’s straight-forward and informative and gives specific examples of one individual as a starting point for autistic teenagers to think about and discuss their autism with other people.