Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity, by Devon Price

Penguin Random House Audio, ISBN 9780593507353, April 2022

This is an insightful book about about being autistic, masking (bluntly, pretending to be neurotypical as well as one can), the important reasons to stop masking, and the risks and benefits of starting to unmask.

Dr. Devon Price is a social psychologist, a professor at Loyola University, and his work is published in peer-reviewed journals in the field. He's also autistic and transgender, and can fairly be said to have a deep personal understanding of the issues of difference, alienation, isolation, and denial of self that he discusses here, along with a professional, scholarly understanding of them that's surprisingly rare in psychological and psychiatric professionals. Autism has mostly been defined as a medical problem to be solved, by getting autistics to behave like neurotypicals, rather than helping autistics to understand and use our differences, and prompting the neurotypical world to make room for our differences and our strengths.

Because yes, we do have many strengths that come from our autism. Challenges, too, of course, but many of those come from living in a world mostly built for neurotypicals.

While the focus is mainly on autistic people, Price also includes ADHD and other forms of neurodiversity, and how being a woman, or from a lower socioeconomic background, or being a minority, or having other forms of disability in addition to autism, makes getting a diagnosis or any useful help and support vastly harder. The definition and description of autism was developed based entirely on cis white boys from economically very well-off families. Children who don't fit that description, and whose families don't have those resources, are far less likely to get a diagnosis, and are thus even more likely to be just punished, and effectively bullied, into hiding their autistic traits, including harmless, non-disruptive stimming, and passionate special interests--which harm no one, provide a wonderful outlet for interest and energy, and can enrich life in many ways. It was my passion for books and facts and finding things out that often frustrated people around me, but led to me becoming a librarian, a research librarian in biotech and law. It's a career I loved, and was quite successful in, even though I continued to struggle with social interactions and social cues, which I never received any real help and training with.

This is a fascinating and helpful book, that helped me understand some of my own life experiences, especially as a child, better. I think it would also be helpful to parents, coworkers, and friends of autistics. We're not just being difficult, and we do have a lot to offer if we aren't thwarted in our efforts to communicate and work.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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