Getting a Life with Asperger’s: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood by Jesse A. Saperstein.
Perigee, Penguin Random House, New York, 2014.
YA/new adult self-help, 220 pages including resources.
This is a self-help/life advice book specifically aimed at helping the autistic teen or young adult lead a productive and satisfying life. The author uses examples from his own life and that of others he knows as well as general practical advice.
This was a dollar store find from a while ago. I have a general interest in autism, so I bought this although I’m quite far from the target audience. While this is not a book I will keep, it could have a great deal of value to the intended audience.
After an introductory section where Saperstein tells a little bit about his life, and a chapter for identifying if you are in need of this book (I’m not), the rest of the book contains chapters that break down various areas of life into concrete steps. There are examples and lists in every chapter. Some are more helpful than others.
In particular, the two chapters on jobs (one specifically for interviewing, and another for employment in general) seemed useful. The chapter on romance was less helpful and mainly gave strategies to avoid and ways to not be taken advantage of. I think this is because Saperstein has less personal experience of success in this area. While this book is an advice/self help book, it definitely has Saperstein’s personal spin on it. He includes a chapter on gaming addictions and talks a lot about methods of disclosure – in general he’s an advocate, but provides examples of who to disclose to (your girlfriend, your boss) and who not to disclose to (the mailman, your mechanic).
At several points, he makes useful comments that apply to a broader group. To continue the quote that I used in the sub-heading:
“It has also led to similar interactions with authority figures that have been positive and brief in their confrontational nature. It is critical to train police officers on how to recognize citizens with developmental disabilities and react appropriately, but much of this success will fall on our shoulders.” page 61
One aspect of this book that I did not like was that the author felt negatively about his own weight gain, which transferred into fat shaming in a few places. His goal was to motivate people to be healthier, but it could be offensive due to the way statements were worded and his own obvious disgust with his personal unhealthy choices.
Saperstein has a common autistic characteristic – he is very blunt and not always tactful (and I’ve known plenty of neurotypical people who struggle with this too). I also was disappointed that a joke was made in chapter 10 (Beating a Gaming Addiction) about Saperstein’s Sims character becoming pregnant – it didn’t seem intended as transphobia but was still not appropriate.
Large portions of the book are simply practical advice and probably things that young adults have heard dozens of times before. However, coming from a peer who has conquered similar struggles, they may hold more weight.
Finally, in the epilogue I just had to mention something. Back in 2014, Saperstein wrote:
“Someday Sesame Street should introduce a Muppet who is on the autism spectrum.” page 196
He spends several pages developing this hypothetical Muppet before closing with some final advice. The end product was quite different, but Saperstein’s wish has become a reality, as an autistic Muppet named Julia debuted on Sesame Street this year.
Overall, this is a book aimed at a specialty niche market: autistic young adults between 16 and 25 years old. Although there were points that specifically referred to autism, this book could also be useful teens or young adults from other neurologically atypical groups. It may be of use by some other groups such as counselors or parents, but is really aimed at young adults themselves. I’ll pass my copy to a young woman I know in this stage of life right now.