Partial Review of Tony Attwood’s *The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome*

I picked up a used copy of this book (actually I believe an earlier edition of it possibly), and had started to read it, but with the combination of the writing, and the fact that after having spent well over a month almost entirely outside, in snow and cold, it still smelt far too much for me to be able to read without reacting to it.

I recently (October 17th) ordered a new copy as I found it at a price that seemed reasonable new.  I have been reading it a bit at a time (trying to read at least a few times a week, preferably at least twice in a day) little sections.  I have got to Chapter 2 now, (just starting) so this is a very preliminary review so far.

** Warning Spoilers **

** Note I use the term Asperger’s Syndrome  throughout as this is the language the author uses.  I personally prefer to use “disorder” first language, and use the term autism and related terms, he has placed him self strongly on the side of believing that the creation of Autism Spectrum Disorder is a problem, as he sees that it would “harm his patients”.  **

Sorry, I feel that with some people they need that information.  I have been chastised for spoiling things for far less than I expect to explain about what I’ve read so far.

Tony Attwood considers Asperger’s Syndrome to be a disorder primarily.  He tries to hide it with statements like, “In summary, maybe we should consider the comment from an adult with Asperger’s syndrome who suggested to me that perhaps Asperger’s syndrome is the next stage of human evolution.”  He isn’t stating that he believes that to be a true statements.  Nor does he even state that it is even vaguely suggested that it is.

There are a few points which he makes in the introductory, and first chapter which I found particularly harmful.  One that he makes over and over again is that people who have Asperger’s Syndrome, should “learn social skills”.  This is never more apparent that he feels that, when people with  Asperger’s Syndrome will claim that there is “nothing wrong with them” when they run into situations where the communications ends up breaking down, and that this is entirely a negative coping strategy.

The way I feel about the issue is that personally I do have issues with communications which make certain types of communications very difficult for me.  I usually only make note of these issues in advance, when I am looking specifically at what may be issues which may need accommodation.  I am aware of these issues, and I know what may or may not help me.

When I end up in a conversation with someone (especially when we are trying to accomplish something) and the other person is communicating in a manner which makes it very difficult for me to process what they are saying, I try to express that what they are doing is making it difficult for me, and try to get the person to better understand where I am coming from.

I know full well that attitudes like Tony Attwood’s allow for people to behave in ways like I experience with the local BC Transit office.  I try to call for a simple request (twice I called to confirm whether or not I had been accepted to the HandyDART service) and rather than being told simply the status of it.  I was twice given a long lecture about why the status was the way that it was, and have twice been told that different pieces of mail had been sent to me which after several months neither have arrived.

I then after I had confirmed my acceptance I later attempted to book a trip with them, and I found that the trip likely would have required me to wait 3 hours, in a town where I am very much not accepted, really have nothing much that I even could do, and quite honestly probably could have almost been able to walk home in the time I was expected to wait.

Not only that, I find out that there is a note on my file “interrupted and hung up”  which is indeed correct, but I interrupted because the person kept talking over me, and I hung up because the person refused to ever make any effort to change behaviour in order to accommodate me.  This is from a disability transportation service?

So, yes, while I believe a “complete lack of social skills” is somewhat problematic, I have yet to meet a single person anywhere on the autistic spectrum (including people who have never communicated with me using verbal language (words)) who have such atrocious social skills that they believe they are never at fault for any communications issues that exist.

If a person on the spectrum does respond in that way, it almost certainly because that was the behaviour demonstrated to them so often that they learnt that while others don’t really accept it from them, they are quite willing to demonstrate they have no interest in trying to communicate in a way that works for them.

In almost all communication with people I am very direct.  I also tend to be very verbose unless I am talking to someone I know quite well who I know that “egg salad” is all I need to say.

And then I often yell very loudly at the dog using entirely non-verbal, non-vocal language, and she listens very well when I do so.  No I am not making a statement there that lacks logic.  I do mean that I communicate loudly and clearly to her, in ways which do not involve words, or even the use of my voice.  It decreases the possibility of miscommunication, it increases the chances that she will not be confused by other verbal messages she may receive.  It is very effective.  It also is very much communication.

Now…  On to another issue which I felt really was even worse.  While he barely covered the issue at all, he managed to make it even more clear, and even more problematic that people with Asperger’s Syndrome “Should not be allowed to transition genders until their Asperger’s Syndrome is fixed (oh by the way, it never is)”.

This attitude I have seen prevent at least one person from getting any assistance in transitioning, even preventing the prescription of cross gender hormones, the allowing of presentation in a cross gender way, or even public acknowledgement of a desire to change his name.  In the particular situation this person ended up calling 911 (in the United States) because he felt that he was at risk of harming himself.  And he ended up shot and killed by the police because despite his efforts to try to get them to stop shouting at him because it was confusing him they continued to shout, and he continued to be incapable of complying because he wasn’t able to even understand what was being said.  And in the end they shot and killed him.  He was asking for help because he was afraid that he would hurt himself.  And he got murdered by police.  Why?  Because of the combination of both of these attitudes that Tony Attwood makes a good point of promoting right from the beginning of his book.

This really probably is more than enough said.  It’s really also probably entirely unfair, but I needed to get my thoughts down to this point.  The fact that I am willing to read further means that there are voices there which I really would like to hear from.  One of those voices is one I feel I know very well (I’ve read her unedited which I think very few people actually have been able to, and while she posted that with saying that, “no one understands what I write when I write unedited” it felt like the most clear piece I ever read from her) even though I honestly have never spoken directly to her.  Oddly, he has quoted her in such a manner which gives to me the strong impression that he doesn’t understand her.

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  1. Michael Orem
    Posted 2017 February 25 at 18:46 | Permalink

    I have to agree with you on Tony Attwood . I find it strange or rather arrogant of some neuro typicals such as Tony Attwood who would like to dictate to Aspergers how to talk, how to walk , think and blah blah. He doesn’t even understand the basics of an Asperger mind. He should ask Aspergers about how Aspergers think not tell Aspergers how Aspergers think since he will never know that as a Neuro Typical and that’s why alot of his work is purely based on his NT way of assumption.

    • JigmeDatse
      Posted 2017 February 25 at 20:40 | Permalink

      I have read further, but I keep bogging down on it. It continues to be the last part of the reccomendations which I was given with the autism assessment that I haven’t felt that I have given enough of a go for. I’m I think almost half way through it. I always find it takes forever to get through the middle 1/3 of a book.

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