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 quirky -
but accepted and valued - seems to have the assessment of her
parents, physicians, and others early in her life. Her
peculiarities - inability to find her way in unfamiliar places, and
extreme aversion to people coming too close to her, to noise, to
confusion - became a devastating issue when she left home for the
unfamiliar environment of college. From then on, Willey straggled
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.
"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, Willey shares, with
insight and warmth, the daily struggles and challenges that face
many of those who have Asperger's syndrome. The last part of the
book consists of appendices which provide helpful coping strategies
and guidance, based on the author's own experience, for a range of
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