When you exist on the “high-functioning” end of the autism spectrum, it’s easy to look around you and feel quite a bit less than functional. Watching your peers succeed in the venues where you’ve so often failed — relationships, careers, or simply managing those tiny travails of day-to-day life — can prove to be one of the hardest parts of living on the spectrum. It certainly has been for this reader. But out of that twinge of discomfort comes a desire to make that twinge go away. It isn’t easy: there’s no magic pill, no automatic software update, no closing one’s eyes and blocking it out.
But with JKP’s latest title, Been There. Done That. Try This!, I can take to heart the accounts of people quite like me who not only acknowledge these obstacles we face together, but also the ways in which we mustn’t make them worse, and ultimately, how we can overcome them. And though taking inventory of myself and the advice of others is harder than squeezing my eyes shut, the dividends are far greater.
Together, these self-advocates offer perspectives, life stories, and advice for not only living, but thriving in an often inhospitable world.
Under the auspices of the venerable Asperger’s expert Dr. Tony Attwood, leading self-advocate Anita Lesko, and “community organizer” Craig Evans comes a full chorus of voices from the autism spectrum: young, old, male, female, and global. Together, these self-advocates offer perspectives, life stories, and advice for not only living, but thriving in an often inhospitable world. Been There. Done That. Try This! addresses every major stressor in the life of a young adult with Asperger’s, from the personal to the interpersonal, from schools to offices, from trying to “pass” to disclosing a diagnosis. Each issue has its essayists’ anecdotal advice matched with Dr. Attwood’s professional insight, rounding out a comprehensive approach to meeting and defeating the challenges we face.
The most valuable lesson of Been There. Done That. Try This! is that it in its very title, it reminds us of an important axiom I fear we often lose sight of: that as unique as each one of us is on the spectrum, we’re just as mundane as we are unique, too. You and I are neither the first nor last person to wince under the hum of fluorescent lights, to get lost in our own worlds despite real-world consequences, to sit and wonder if there’s anyone in this world we’ll ever share a life with. So what a relief it is that there are people so expertly assembled here to lend us some firsthand counsel. For no one to have been there and done that would be a uniqueness I’d want no part of. Perhaps successful readers will one day find themselves lending counsel of their own.
Daniel Heinlein is the host of The Autism Channel’s flagship show: I Am Autistic.