“Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome” Book Review
Author: Luke Jackson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2002
Reviewer: Arliss Kurtz
This delightful and easy to read book (endorsed by well-known author Tony Attwood) was written by a 13 year old boy from the United Kingdom named Luke Jackson. Luke has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. In his book, he eloquently, humorously and adeptly offers insight into the world of adolescents with this diagnosis as well as children who have more challenging symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which he gained primarily from lived experiences with his two brothers. Luke’s firsthand accounts will be helpful for other adolescents who have been diagnosed with ASD, as well as their parents, family members, therapists, school staff and team sport coaches (to whom he writes a heart-wrenching personal note).
Although the name of this book can initially be off-putting, Luke explains that “freak” and “geek” are names he was often called when being bullied. He wrote this book to help other adolescents who are on the spectrum understand and accept the unique social, emotional and behavioural challenges that ASD presents and thereby offers the benefits of peer support which challenges the sense of isolation and exclusion youth on the spectrum can experience. Included among the many topics areas that Luke highlights are: specialty interests and perseverations; academic challenges; social awkwardness and unintentional faux pas; bullying; sleep disturbances; sensory sensitivities; common co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; pharmacological interventions; peer relationships; romantic interests and sexuality; literal interpretations of verbal interactions; and the benefits and risks of diagnosis disclosure. Luke’s optimism, humour and accurate explanations of Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as his forthright accounts of the emotionally and sometimes physically painful results of how others’ lack of understanding can result in discrimination, misguided behavioural interventions by adults and bullying by peers offers the kind of support and psycho-education that can only be offered by someone who has lived through these experiences.
Freak, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome will additionally aid parents, teachers, coaches and professionals to develop an increased empathic understanding of the adolescent who is on the autism spectrum, gives suggestions for more attuned approaches in their interactions with them and provides numerous suggestions for addressing a wide variety of sensory, social, emotional and behavioural issues these adolescents commonly face. Luke’s well-researched suggestions also include numerous resources and web-sites for further information.