Top critical review
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on November 5, 2010
Tony Attwood has authored the comprehensive guide to Asperger's Syndrome (AS). It is exhaustively detailed and will appeal to those preferring a complete treatment. Attwood is a leading expert on autism spectrum disorders and well qualified to introduce this topic and explore it in depth.
The first two chapters introduce Hans Asperger's early observations of children with "mild autistic personality disorder" and their unique pattern of social, emotional, and linguistic differences. He identifies AS on a continuum of natural abilities between autism and normal ("neurotypical"). The relative advantages of seeking a confirmed AS diagnosis are explored along with possible misdiagnoses such as ADHD or a mood disorder. Newly diagnosed "Aspies" may slip into one of four common compensation strategies: reactive depression, escape into imagination, denial and arrogance, or imitation of a "normal" model. Readers are acquainted with formal diagnostic criteria for AS and several scales and questionnaires useful for diagnosis.
Chapters Three through Eleven discuss the distinguishing features of AS in depth. Each chapter covers research findings, individual differences, coping strategies, and AS strengths as well as challenges. AS individuals have different experiences with social understanding and friendship, teasing and bullying, "theory of mind" in understanding others, understanding and expressing emotion, hobbies or "special interests," language, cognitive ability, movement and coordination, and sensory sensitivity. The treatment of each feature is coherent and comprehensive. The summaries which follow each chapter are excellent outlines of key ideas and conclusions.
The closing four chapters explore the implications of AS for attending college, embarking on a career, and succeeding in a long-term romantic relationship. Usefulness of psychotherapy for AS individuals and their family members is also explored. This book's appendices are well-organized and add significant value. The glossary and reference section are extensive. A separate Resources section points readers to self-help materials, Asperger biographies and autobiographies, AS-focused fiction, and other useful books.
This book is a high-quality reference. Its only real weakness may be derived from its strengths. The book's coverage is so extensive that it is by necessity quite long. Any reader who feels a need to read all of it--as many of its target audience will--must spend significant time learning about all aspects of AS before grasping the overall picture. This is time well-spent, but readers might consider looking through all of the chapter summaries first to give themselves a working overview.