Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Review: Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults, by Zosia Zaks

Zosia Zaks has written a number of insightful and informative pieces on the topics of autism and Asperger’s, and you can find some of her work on the GRASP website, as well as in Autism Asperger’s Digest magazine. Recently, I wrote about her essay on empathy in my blog Social Skills for Kids, which I write to parents of children on the autism spectrum. Her most comprehensive work to date is the book Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults (2006, Autism Asperger Publishing Co.).

Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults is an insider’s guide to many aspects of life on the autism spectrum. Zosia Zaks has a master’s degree in Technical Journalism, and, like many adults with Asperger’s Syndrome, was not diagnosed with Asperger’s until the age of 31. In the first half of the book, entitled, "Life", Zaks takes on concrete and straightforward topics such as the practicalities of managing sensory issues, household chores, shopping, travel and healthcare. From her insider perspective, the author gives step by step instructions and detailed tips for a number of situations, like putting together a sensory emergency kit of items such as sunglasses and headphones, or sample schedules for managing clutter and organizing the home. This is the kind of practical, step-by-step information that will be useful for those who are struggling with the details of daily life. There’s also some brief but concrete and specific advice for attaining career success, including choosing an appropriate job and managing social issues at the office.

The second half of the book, entitled, "Love", is where Zaks shows her full range as a writer and the book really comes to life. The "Love" section of the book focuses on relationships, from friendship, to dating, to committed partnerships. Zaks skillfully shifts back and forth from abstract concepts, such as falling in love, to concrete tools like defining acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. The author continues to write in a practical and useful manner, but she discusses more emotional topics, like dealing with conflict, social isolation and the very real differences of life for males and females on the autistic spectrum.

There are also sections on internet dating, relationships with non-spectrum partners, and the different levels of friendships. This section also includes extensive materials on how individuals can keep safe while interacting with others, and a discussion of the pros and cons of disclosing an autism diagnosis.

I recommend this book to those on the autism spectrum and to those who care about someone on the spectrum. The first half of the book can function as an ongoing, practical reference, almost like an instruction book for adult living. The second half is much more, something to read and consider, and a way to deepen your understanding of relationships, whether you’re on or off the autism spectrum.

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