AUTHOR: Eileen Riley-Hall
PUBLISHER: Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2012)
Continuing with our series on girls and women with autism, Autism Daily Newscasts concludes with book reviews on three of the books mentioned in previous articles.
Author Eileen Riley-Hall prefers to talk about differences, not disabilities, in this book about the conditions that fall within the “autism spectrum”, especially autism and Asperger’s syndrome. If anyone should know what these differences are and how to cope with and ultimately embrace them, it is Riley-Hall. She is a mother of two teenagers, both of whom fall under that autism spectrum category.
Her writing comes from the parental position of truly having “been there, done that”, and she has turned her experiences into practical, caring advice for other parents so that they may help their children and themselves if they are going through a similar situation.
It’s admirable that the author is willing to lay bare her struggles and triumphs as well as those of her daughters’ in order to help shine light on girls, the “research orphans”, as she puts it, in this field of medicine. Because fewer females than males seem to fall into the autistic category, less emphasis is placed on them by the medical community.
Many girls go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by those who feel the conditions are more prevalent in males. This only enhances the sadness, anxiety and isolation that females and their families suffer, according to Riley-Hall.
When her daughters were finally diagnosed, the author searched for books on the subject to help her better understand their conditions. She found them informative, but depressing and clinical. She’d hoped to find the type of book she finally wrote herself – a book that informs but inspires at the same time. Parenting Girls on the Autism Spectrum, clearly defines what the characteristics of autism and Asperger’s syndrome are. But beyond that, it offers help and hope to parents so that they are better prepared to face the emotional challenges involved in raising a daughter within the autism spectrum. Chapter topics include teaching parents and children that it’s ok to admit you’re not having a great day with the condition, and helping a daughter to discover the unique gifts that many with the conditions possess.
Riley-Hall includes quotes from inspirational women such as Helen Keller and Louisa May Alcott. An English teacher by profession, she writes for publications dealing with the autism spectrum and her writing skills shine through beautifully in this book. This is no clinical, psychologist-written book, it’s one parent speaking to other parents about her experiences.
It feels as though Riley-Hall has made it her mission to present as upbeat an approach as possible, suggesting that parents celebrate the special qualities their daughters have. It doesn’t shy away from the difficulties – not at all. It presents all the information necessary to get a better understanding of the conditions, yet the tone is that of a wise and experienced friend sharing her knowledge and compassion.