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Pretending to Be Normal: Living With Asperger's Syndrome Paperback – May 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Asperger's Syndrome is one of the constellation of conditions known as autism. As both Willey and her young daughter have AS, her life story provides a startling look at how those with the syndrome experience the world. Willey grew up knowing only that she was somehow different, extremely intelligent, and extremely quirkybut accepted and valuedseems to have been the assessment of her parents, physicians, and others early in her life. Her peculiaritiesinability to find her way in unfamiliar places, and extreme aversion to people coming too close to her, to noise, to confusionbecame a devastating issue when she left home for the unfamiliar environment of college. From then on, Willey struggled mightily until she reached the safe haven of marriage to an outstandingly sympathetic partner, a fulfilling job teaching college, and motherhood. When her own daughter, one of twins, was diagnosed as an infant with Asperger's Syndrome, Willey immediately recognized herself: ``social action impairments, narrow interests, an insistence on repetitive routines, speech and language peculiarities, non-verbal communication problems and motor clumsiness . . . each of these symptoms is manifested in a variety of unique and diverse ways.'' Willey here compares her own experiences with her daughter's, her daughter's with her twin sister, who doesn't have AS, and the childhood peak in intensity of her daughter's symptoms with her own waning symptoms in middle age. In her appendices Willey offers extensive practical help and resources to AS sufferers. But even those not directly affected by AS will find this an eye-opening view into a parallel world. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


'This accomplished author demonstrates incredible insight into her AS, and how it has shaped her life. She is courageous in sharing with the reader moments clearly painful to recall, which offers parents a rare peek inside the world of their children. At times mesmerized by her poetic style, Willey is the first AS author to effectively convey the emotion and isolation experienced by these individuals.'- ASPEN Newsletter'For families living with "Aspies" and professionals working with them, this is highly recommended to further understand the challenges of Asperger Syndrome'- Joan Wheeler, Coordinator, Regional Services'This autobiographical narrative details the life of a woman with Aspergers Syndrome (AS), a mild form of autism. It focuses on the obstacles she confronts, her means of overcoming them, and her ultimate recognition and acceptance of her status as an "aspie"...The book will be an aid for people who have AS and it may be even more useful for those who do not have it, but who are close to someone who does.'- Disability Studies Quarterly'The book will be of great benefit to everyone concerned to help children and adults with mild Asperger's syndrome, but most of all to the people who are themselves affected.'- Child Psychology and Psychiatry'The author is a university lecturer who found that many of the puzzles of her own life fell into perspective when, after several years of knowing one of her twin daughters was different from the other, she eventually found someone who listened and explained Asperger's Syndrome. She vividly describes her own difficulties and emotions as she herself grew up with Asperger's Syndrome...Her story is told simply and through it we gain insight into what it is like to lose your way in your own home town, be assaulted by your heightened senses and attempt to unravel the mysteries of social communication. In the appendices she describes the strategies that have been of most help to her. This book is a testimony to the exceptional qualities of those who have Asperger's Syndrome.'- Therapy Weekly'Before reading this book I had some academic knowledge of the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome which had stimulated my curiosity about what it might be like to suffer from the condition. I looked forward to reading the book to see if it would help me to understand how a person with Asperger's might think and feel. I was not disappointed. The book is well written and easy to read and I found it hard to put down. I felt the author's descriptions of her struggles to communicate with others and cope with sensory overload gave me a real insight into how Liane thinks and feels. It also gave me food for thought about conformity pressures in our society and how we treat people who seem different from the norm... This is a hopeful and optimistic book. Liane is a doctor of education and she is happily married with three children. I used the words "suffer from Asperger's syndrome" deliberately in the first paragraph as that is how I saw it. Liane has a different view - she does not minimise the difficulties she has had to face but she does not wish she was different. She challenges us to think about what we mean by the word 'normal' and to be less rigid in our thinking about 'normal' behaviour. I believe this is a valuable read for all counsellors and will give them much food for thought. Asperger's syndrome occurs with varying levels of severity. Hopefully, reading the book will help counsellors to work more effectively with clients who may have the syndrome to some degree and to avoid labelling them as difficult. It would also be very useful for clients where they or one of their relatives might have Asperger's Syndrome.'- Relate News'Liane's autobiography will allow others to understand the world as perceived by a person with Asperger's Syndrome ... I strongly recommend this book for teachers as it will provide the previously elusive reasons for behaviours that were considered unconventional or appeared to be abnormal. Specialists and therapists who diagnose and treat such children will find the book a treasure trove of information and insight ... [this book will be an inspiration for thousands of people throughout the world.'- From the Foreword by Tony Attwood'Pretending to Be Normal reads like an information-filled memoir, but the real strength of the book can be found in the appendices. There Aspies will find concrete suggestions for dealing with employment issues, sensory perceptions problems, and making conversation. Neurotypicals will find useful points for understanding those on the spectrum.'-

Pretending to be Normal tells the story of a woman who, after years of self-doubt and self-denial, learned to embrace her Asperger's syndrome traits with thanksgiving and joy. Chronicling her life from her earliest memories through her life as a university lecturer, writer, wife and mother, Liane Holliday Willey shares, with insight and warmth, the daily struggles and challenges that face many of those who have Asperger's Syndrome. Pretending to be Normal invites its readers to welcome the Asperger community with open acceptance, for it makes it clear that, more often than not, they are capable, viable, interesting and kind people who simply find unique ways to exhibit those qualities.The last part of the book consists of a series of substantial appendices which provide helpful coping strategies and guidance, based on the author's own experience, for a range of situations. This positive and humane book will provide not only insight into the Asperger world which will prove invaluable for the professionals who work with people with Asperger's Syndrome, but also hope and encouragement for other people with Asperger's Syndrome, their families, and their friends.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 173 pages
  • Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 1 edition (July 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853027499
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853027499
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Liane Holliday Willey,EdD is a bestselling author, motivational speaker, and autism advocate. Liane's Doctorate of Education with a specialty in pschyolinguistics, along with her personal Aspie experiences, makes her uniquely qualified to speak on learning differences, diversity in the workplace, and to advocate for those on the Autism Spectrum. An expanded version of her most renowned book, Pretending to be Normal, will be re-released this summer.
Liane spends her free time with her family, the horses at her equestrian show barn, books and the TV. You can read Liane's blog at her website ~

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

394 of 410 people found the following review helpful By THE AUTISTIC WEREWOLF on January 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am proud of this writer for sharing her insights. The Autism Spectrum has many variations. She is definately on the highest end of the functional curve. It took me 40 years to understand enough about humans, their world with its complex social instituational and workplace expectations to keep a job. I only barely function well enough to remain employed now with lots of help. I manage my autistic issues within the parameters of most human social tolerances. I have mastered living alone in human society with few exceptions.

I picked up the book upon reading the first few pages most of her experiences were immediately familiar to me. I guess where she and I diverge is in the fact she has done so well socializing with the humans. She also seems to have an understanding of human society, culture and its sophisticated ways that shocks me. My struggle has been hard, I have come from total backwardness to bare basics functionality in this world. I am not jealous of her success I respect it but she sounds so normal and in control it scares me.

I guess thats the problem. She sounds as if she has everything about her AS under control. For me managing the anger and other issues associated with tantrums, desires to self mutalate, desires to fight those who touch me, make sudden loud noises among other things is a constant battle I am not always so certain I will win. Many times if things get too rough at work I have no alternative but to leave before I lose control and revert to feral instinct driven primal less appropriate resolutions of workplace situations.

Her book almost frightens me because for some on the AS spectrum things are not that neat, cut, dry and controlled.
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131 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Suzie on February 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and compared to Liane I have been a lot less successful at having a more mainstream life. If I don't tell people I have Asperger syndrome they think I am strange, stupid, and unpleasant. If I do tell people I have Asperger syndrome the first thing they always say is how `normal' I seem despite it. I guess telling people you have AS lowers their expectations of you and the standards they judge you by, totally altering their perception of what you are like.

There is no question that Liane has been more successful at living a normal life than the majority of people on the autistic spectrum manage, which is no doubt why she chose the title `Pretending to be Normal'. There are many thousands of people like her who have always been different but who have found ways to fit in, deep down though they perhaps feel they are not being as true to themselves as they could be... they might feel ashamed of the secret difficulties they are so good at hiding and overcoming, or they may resent other people not being aware of the effort they are putting in all the time to keep up appearances.

It's easy for neurotypical readers to complain that she was not as severely afflicted as they were hoping, or that she doesn't fit the rain man stereotype of autism they like to cling to, but that is totally missing the point... if this book has one message it is that amongst the wide diversity of the autistic spectrum there are at one extreme people like Liane, and because the problems they experience are hidden they are in many ways more alone and isolated than those for whom they are more obvious. Why shouldn't she tell her story? It is as valid as anybody else's.
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147 of 155 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
My 9-yr-old son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome after five very frustrating years spent in public school trying to figure out "what was wrong" with him. When he was diagnosed, I had never even heard of Asperger's Syndrome, however, when I was 6 I was diagnosed with Hyperactivity, ADD, "Autism-like-tendencies", "anti-social behaviors" and aggressive personality disorder (along with having an IQ over 130) I have been researching Asperger's Syndrome to try and help my son, but reading this book was like reading my own autobiography. In my egocentric way of thinking, I have thought for over 40 years that I was the only adult who had these personality quirks, social interaction difficulties and problems with skills and coordination, etc. I just assumed that these were personality flaws that I should be able to conquer. I wish that I could meet the author, give her a hug and tell her "hey---I am just like you." This book is a MUST for teachers, nurses, social workers and school counselors who work with autistic and Asperger's children--it gives an insight into Asperger's like no other book on this subject that I have ever read.
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106 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Kundratula on March 2, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was disappointed with this book. First, I was surprised to read that the author has not been formally diagnosed with AS, although she admits that fact in an early disclaimer. This becomes more of an issue as Ms. Willey asserts that her AS traits are 'melting away' with age, a possibility that is as unprecendented as it is unbelievable from her own narrative. There were parts of the author's life story that came tantalizingly close to important revelations, but never went the extra step to realization. Still, her story held my interest enough to complete it. I would recommend "The Essential Difference" by Simon Baron-Cohen more highly than this book.
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