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Recommended Reading

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Adult life is more complicated than it's ever been, and sometimes you just need someone to point out what you need to know. This beautifully written and printed book offers straightforward information on important topics like budgeting, career, communicating in all the various contexts you'll need to communicate, navigating the minefield of social media, driving, voting, insurance, rent, roommates, cooking, cleaning, food shopping, transportation, and what to do when things go wrong.

Trauma is a fact of life for neurodivergent adults. More generally speaking, one in five Americans has been molested. One in four grew up with alcoholics. One in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Bessel van der Kolk is a psychiatrist, author, researcher, educator, and one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma who has spent more than three decades working with survivors. In this book he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He also explores innovative treatments, from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga, that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Ultimately, this book offers new hope for reclaiming lives.

Launching an autistic or twice-exceptional human into the world is a confusing process for parents because these remarkable beings must forge their own path on their own timeline. With nearly 30 years of clinical experience with neurodiverse young people and their families, as well as nearly a decade of running a private middle and high school that nurtures these types of students, the author provides perspective, tools, and case studies for parents to help their teens and young adults make their way into independent adulthood.

This valuable resource for individuals with Asperger Syndrome offers a blend of personal insights and thoroughly practical advice in an effort to demystify neurotypical behavior and provide readers with a roadmap to understanding, acceptance, and personal growth. Marc Segar's life, though tragically cut short in 1997, left a profound impact on the world, and this book stands as a testament to his experiences and wisdom. From understanding body language and navigating conversations to dealing with humor and conflict, Segar covers a wide range of topics with clear and unambiguous language. He goes beyond sharing personal anecdotes and provides actionable advice on various aspects of life, such as education, jobs, traveling, and personal security. He also touches upon the nuances of social interactions, highlighting the unwritten rules that many take for granted but can be perplexing for someone with Asperger's. Segar's emphasis on the importance of a positive mental attitude and his encouragement to see the brighter side of situations is both uplifting and empowering.

Declarative Language Handbook by Linda K. Murphy, MS, CCC-SLP

If you are dealing with someone who tends to be inflexible or gets emotional and defensive when you ask questions or place demands on them, this book is for you. Using declarative language (as opposed to imperative) helps the person feel competent, connected, and understood. It naturally creates opportunities for learning in areas of seeing the big picture, reading nonverbal communication, problem-solving, perspective-taking, and self-advocating. If it's someone who is struggling to do what they know they need to, they will feel empowered to get the help they need rather than feel shamed by their challenges. This book is written for clinicians, teachers, and parents of kids, but it's a perfect guide for parents and spouses of autistic adults as well. They will thank you!

A successful Harvard and Berkeley-educated writer, entrepreneur, and mother, the author was stunned to discover as an adult that symptoms she struggled with, which had only ever been diagnosed as anxiety, were considered signs of autism and ADHD. Between a flawed medical system that focuses on diagnosing younger males and the way women with ADHD and autism tend to mask, get overlooked, or get misdiagnosed with something else, women often don't learn about their neurological differences until they are adults. I consider this book a paradigm-shifting study that is a must-read for anyone trying to understand how highly sensitive females with autism, synesthesia, ADHD, and sensory processing disorder have been missed and underserved by the medical and mental health establishment.

Written for workplace leaders on how to be more inclusive and unlock their workforce's potential, this book is an accessible primer for everyone about the gender spectrum, pronouns and their usage, identifying and changing harmful gendered language, and being more inclusive.

I work with many of my clients on organizing their living spaces and maintaining some semblance of tidiness. There is so much shame associated with not keeping a tidy home, and KC Davis seems to have gotten inside the minds of my clients and written a book that reframes the process of cleaning and organizing into something kinder and gentler than what most people are telling themselves in their heads. She includes practical solutions and an executive functioning-friendly version of the book where you can skip specific chapters if you are just looking to quickly implement solutions.

Is This Autism? A Guide for Clinicians and Everyone Else by Donna Henderson, PsyD, Sarah Wayland, PhD, and Jamell White, PhD, LCSW-C

"Is This Autism?" is a must-read for anyone wondering if they themself might be autistic, autistic individuals looking for validation of their life experiences, and the people who love them and want to understand them better. Neurodiversity-affirming, this book offers a deep dive into the wide presentations of autism, especially in those who mask their traits. Readers will gain insights into the latest research and the personal experiences of autistic individuals with more than 100 actually autistic contributors. By highlighting both challenges and strengths, this book provides the most comprehensive understanding of autism I have found in a single book. If you are going to read one book about autism, make it this one. Highly recommended!

In this book, John Elder Robison unveils his journey as an undiagnosed autistic individual and a life marked by social hurdles yet brightened by his engineering prowess. The memoir shares Robison's early challenges, contrasting his social struggles with his exceptional electronic skills, showcased through anecdotes about his work with bands like KISS and Pink Floyd. His late Asperger's diagnosis at age 40 became an obvious inflection point, guiding him toward self-advocacy and autism acceptance. The book elucidates the challenges faced by undiagnosed autistic individuals, highlighting the potential for a fulfilling life with understanding and support. It offers insights into how self-awareness, acceptance, and a supportive environment can foster thriving adulthood for autistic individuals, presenting a hopeful narrative. This is a must-read if you seek an entertaining way to broaden your understanding of autism and increase appreciation for the resilience and contributions of autistic individuals who spent their childhoods in survival mode due to a lack of understanding by themselves and those around them. This memoir also provides a concrete example of how over time, skills that may have been delayed can come into full bloom later as an adult, and life can just get better and better despite early hardships.

The Loving Push by Temple Grandin, PhD and Debra Moore, PhD

There are few books that have impacted my approach to parenting an autistic child more than this one. The authors talk about how to provide "the loving push" needed to get autistic young people out of their comfort zones and exposed to new situations where they can learn new skills and discover passions that enable them to live their best independent lives.

Written by "an autistic ADHDer living with bipolar and in recovery with borderline personality disorder," this amazing self-guided workbook is designed to help the neurodivergent reader acquire skills in mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and sensory needs. It includes affirmations such as, "It's okay if most strategies and tools designed for and by neurotypical people don't work for me." One of the exercises is about creating mindfulness with your pet. There's an entire section on managing sensory needs. Great stuff!

Neuroqueer Heresies by Nick Walker, PhD

This book is written by one of my favorite authors, Nick Walker, a queer, autistic scholar and college professor who has played a key role in the evolving discourse on human neurodiversity. She has an incredible way of explaining the history, foundations, vocabulary, and future implications of the neurodiversity paradigm -- and the why behind it all.  Accessible for laypeople, if you read only one book on neurodiversity, make it this one!

Diagnosed with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) as a teenager, Harry Thompson reflects honestly in this memoir on the ups and downs of his life -- family, romantic relationships, school, work, mental health, and his teenage struggle with drugs and alcohol. By embracing neurodiversity and emphasizing that autistic people are not flawed human beings, Thompson demonstrates that some people merely need to take the "scenic route" in order to thrive and reach their full potential. His raw honesty is alternately shocking, hilarious, and sad. In the end, his message is hopeful for the future. Alternatively, hear him speak about this topic in a 45-minute presentation available on YouTube linked above.

I spent years while homeschooling my son looking for something practical I could use to explicitly teach executive functioning skills, and every other book I read left me feeling confused. I understood what executive functioning challenges were since I was living with them every day, but I had no idea how to help. This book is so well designed that it can be used effectively by professionals and non-professionals alike. Includes an assessment so you can measure skills before and after using the workbook. Use the coupon code THRIVE50 at checkout to get 50% off!

This is a great comprehensive guide that includes resume tips, job-related resources for people with disabilities, knowing your rights, dealing with workplace discimination and harassment, and additional resources.

If you are a parent trying to help your teen or you are an adult on the autism spectrum struggling with the mechanics of making friends, this is your book. Much support is available for children who struggle with friendships, but nothing is as appropriate or helpful as this book targeting teens and young adults. However, the concepts are universal whether you are 19 or 99. The culmination of years of research, this evidence-based approach breaks down complex social behaviors into concrete, easy-to-understand concrete rules, and steps. Includes a DVD of examples.

Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin, PhD

I've read virtually every book Dr. Grandin has published, and this one ranks among my favorites. Dr. Grandin has an exceptional ability to explain how her brain works and pull science and other's people's experiences into the narrative as well. This is a great read if you're trying to better understand the autistic person in your life or explore whether you might be autistic yourself.

I love this text by Gerald Hughes. He provides an exhaustive list of stims, strategies, and sensory exercises to help autistics reduce stress, release excess physical and emotional energy, improve focus and attention, and avoid meltdowns and shutdowns. Also fun for allistic people!

Unmasking Autism by Devon Price, PhD

It seemed like everyone I knew was reading this book, so, of course, I had to check it out. It's the only book on this page I don't highly recommend. I was very enthusiastic about learning from an autistic social psychologist about the autistic experience and specifically the phenomenon of masking and unmasking. Dr. Price completely lost me during a sensationalized rant about ABA therapy during which he asserted as fact things I know to be patently untrue through my personal experience. They were opinions frequently parroted by the autistic self-advocacy community without first-hand experience and without nuance that claim all ABA therapy is bad. Absolutely, there are many who have experienced ABA therapy as abusive, and I would fight for their right to protest against it, but when a subset of a community tries to have banned a therapy that may be the single most transformative therapy available to another autistic individual, that is a problem. If I look to someone to educate me on things I am unfamiliar with, and that person gets something I know about so completely wrong, it makes me wonder what else they are sensationalizing to the point of untruth. There is some fantastic information in this book, but I didn't want to have to wonder what was factual and what was untrue but presented as fact. Because I did not have the spoons to question and analyze everything I was reading, I chose not to finish this book.

One of the most famous autistic people on the planet, Dr. Temple Grandin was in her 30s when she discovered that not everyone thinks like she does -- in pictures, like a Google images database. This discovery led her to an investigation of cutting-edge research, which her remarkable brain was occasionally part of. In this book, she demystifies the differences between two types of visual thinkers: photo-realistic object visualizers like herself and mathematically-inclined “visual spatial” thinkers who excel in pattern recognition and systemic thinking. She contrasts these thinking styles with verbal/word thinkers for whom the world is increasingly geared. She describes how visual thinkers are increasingly being screened out in school and passed over in the workplace and implores us to stop wasting the gifts of these uniquely wried thinkers, which is driving a collective loss in productivity and innovation. She proposes new approaches to educating, parenting, employing, and collaborating with visual thinkers and makes a compelling case for how in a highly competitive world with complex problems, we need a diversity of minds to succeed.

One of my new favorite books about autism, reporter and Washington insider Eric Garcia uses his own life as a springboard to discuss the social and policy gaps that exist in supporting autistic adults in America. From education to healthcare, he explores how autistic people struggle with systems that were not built with them in mind. He also shares the experiences of all types of autistic people, including those with higher support needs, autistic people of color, and those in the LGBTQIA community.

Recommended Autism Reading
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