Tuesday, March 17, 2015

‘Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate’

Book cover: Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate by Cynthia Kim. Image depicts a woman shown in profile, wearing a thigh-length, sleeveless, flowered dress, walking down a street and swinging a purse that she holds onto by its strap.
I could thoroughly relate to Cynthia Kim’s experiences in Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, A User Guide to an Asperger Life (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015). Kim and I grew up during a time when our condition was not understood or documented to the degree that it is today.

“Like a lot of autistic adults of my generation, I made it well into middle age before realizing that I wasn’t just shy or weird or nerdy. That I wasn’t going to outgrow my quirks and wake up one day to suddenly find I was ‘normal.’”

With candor and honesty, Kim writes about early challenges: about being bullied and then later becoming a “mean girl” herself.

But Kim also identifies circumstances in which autistic people can thrive — for example, in sports in which you “compete” against your own best performance, even though you may participate as the member of a team.

Many of these revelations played out in my own life as well. During my final two years with a former employer, I played on its bowling team. With long-resented memories of being chosen last in P.E. every single time, league bowling was my first-ever positive experience with being part of an athletic team.

Kim writes with detail about the strengths and challenges that autism confers in the areas of social communication, relationships, parenting, body awareness, sensory impressions, emotional landscape, executive function — both from the perspective of adaptive strategies she arrived at pre-diagnosis, as well as through looking back at those experiences with that added insight.

Kim’s writing is a generous and enriching gift to people on the autism spectrum who were diagnosed in adulthood. How strongly did I relate? The most difficult part for me reading this as a reviewer was to suppress my urge to share similar experiences and keep the focus on Kim’s book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinion expressed is my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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