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On the Spectrum

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Member Reviews

I'm an adult-diagnosed autistic Catholic, and Bowman's profound, beautiful, and necessary book soothed a very rumbly place inside my soul.

This collection of essays ranges in length and focus, but they all bear Bowman's signature frank, earnest style. I appreciated his commitment to honesty and vulnerability from the opening pages, which outline one of his darkest experiences, one that nearly cost him his marriage, his family, and his very life. Depression, anxiety, and trauma are common among autistics -- whether diagnosed in adulthood or childhood -- due to years of skewed interactions in a neurotypical world; Bowman gains our trust as a narrator by confronting these painful truths up front.

In the words that follow, he moves skillfully from grief to joy, isolation to community, building a vision of possibility and hope. I especially enjoyed his discussion of his autistic experience of place, and how he approaches environments through physical presence, research, and literature. His piece on the dangers of bad literature (and how the dishonesty of bad storytelling is an affront to the autistic core sensibility of honesty) was also invigorating and wise, an indication of the depth of his gifts as a teacher.

His discussion of the intersection of his autism and his Christian practice resonated strongly for me, particularly his self-recrimination about not always being able to engage in Christian service in standard and expected neurotypical ways. He notes, “Because I have to engage life at such a profound level in order to enter into any Christian service, the good news is that it generally has a transformative effect on me… if I can say yes.” That “if” can be a hard and lonely place to reside, and his discussion of the ways he is honoring both his God-given gifts within the context of his God-given natural limitations is a strong opening gambit toward a larger conversation within individual church communities about building paths for active discipleship and ministry for people with all kinds of disabilities.

If there is anything this book lacks, it is an acknowledgement that, for all his challenges, Bowman’s support needs are lower than many other autistic people’s. His vision of community-supported life would be much more challenging, if not impossible, for someone with intellectual and physical disability or communication differences related to their autism. There is a great (and paradoxically inaccessible) need for #OwnVoices stories about autistics with higher support needs, who are often consigned to bleak state-supported living, over-medicalized or even torturous programs, and subhuman theories of mind… even within the walls of Christian churches.

Bowman is lucky to have supportive family, friends, and colleagues, and he acknowledges this. But that nexus of support was built through painstaking conversation, hard work, honest feedback, and many mistakes along the way. This is how Christian communities are built, how we manifest the Kingdom of God on Earth. I’m grateful for Bowman’s entry into the public work of carving an openly autistic space in those endeavors.
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Daniel Bowman Jr.’s
On the Spectrum
Being intently interested in all things relating to the medical/neurological field, I was very pleased to be offered a copy of this book by NetGalley. Daniel Bowman, Jr. a professor of English at Taylor University, was diagnosed in his 30s to be on the autism spectrum.  He takes us through personal experiences in his working and family life, as well as showing us the importance of religious faith in his life.
I was looking for answers and was not disappointed. By being given a window to the life of David Bowman we are made to appreciate that neurotypicals are simply another subgroup of people, just as are autistics: contributing, struggling, growing, integrating and learning at various speeds and intensities. The autistic experience is as varied as are the neurotypicals’.
I particularly loved his playful description of neurotypicals using language often used to describe autistics with deprecating statements such as the following.  NTs find it “difficult to be alone”, are “intolerant of minor differences in others, socially and behaviorally rigid”, they “frequently insist upon the performance of dysfunctional, destructive, and even impossible rituals as a way of maintaining group identity.” NTs find it difficult to communicate directly…” and also “There is no known cure for Neurotypical Syndrome.”
Well played.
An excellent writer, Bowman is able to describe the intricacies of thoughts that he felt as he tried to navigate in the Neurotypical world. His paralyzing anxieties were well described allowing the reader to better understand how we can all as a society alleviate much of this suffering by being more accepting and understanding to the diversity of all human experience.

“Autism isn’t an illness. It is a different way of being human” Bowman attempts to change the pathology paradigm adopted by clinicians, parents, and educators alike and hopes to expands ones thinking to accept the neurodiversity paradigm which would include rejecting destructive language that “reinforces the assumption that Autism is intrinsically a problem.” 
His message is well taken. And I believe now that if we can all embrace a world whereby paths to growing and conducting each life can be vastly different from our own experience, yet equally acceptable, we will all be better for it. It is necessary to address each individual with an open mind and intent to accept differences. 
This book is an intellectual read and is to be appreciated by giving time and thought to the various essays. Thank you again to NetGalley for the opportunity to critique this book.
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Daniel Bowman Jr. does a beautiful job in this book at weaving his experience with Autism and his faith. I highly recommend all Christians read this book, especially those who are neurodivergent, in the disability community, or strong advocates for the community. 

Bowman's journey towards a diagnosis is one that many people know. It isn't easy to find someone who will take the time to diagnose, expensive to get it done, and not an easy process. Self-diagnosis is valid and super common in those who are neurodivergent. I wish there were more support and understanding in this experience.

As someone who is neurodivergent and has experienced difficulty with diagnoses, I related to much of this book.
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As an #OwnVoices author, Daniel Bowman Jr. gives a vulnerable, open, and intimate perspective on his experiences as an autistic adult. In the first few chapters, Bowman generously lays out the difference between a pathological view of autism and an embrace of neurodiversity: "A neurodiversity paradigm asserts the basic fact that autism doesn't need to be fixed; it simply needs to be understood and accepted." He gives examples that clearly explain the problematic nature of treating autism as a disease.

But in addition to these basic ideas about autism and how we should view it, Bowman also writes beautiful essays about his personal experiences navigating a world built for neurotypical people. In particular, I really enjoyed his essay about riding his motorcycle and how it helps him to regulate his sensory needs. 

As the parent of an autistic child, I am always seeking to learn and listen to first-person accounts of how I can best support and celebrate my son's neurodiversity. And like Bowman says, "there is no autistic point of view. There are as many autistic points of view as there are autistic persons." But his point of view is incredibly valuable and I am glad to have listened.
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With thanks to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is a series of short #ownvoices pieces about autism, faith and life. Like Bowman, I am autistic. We are both creative types. We were both diagnosed as adults. Nonetheless, I’ve read a lot of nonsense about autism in my time, so Bowman was going to have to work to win me over. 

He did.

I must admit, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book when I first picked it up. I had some difficulty connecting with the rather roundabout and metaphorical approach to language. Bowman will suddenly meander off into talking about cornfields, or his favourite shirt, or a tree – but he’s a poet, so he gets a pass on that one. It does always come back to a point about autism. I think this might make it a love-or-hate book for many. If you think that’s the kind of thing that might put you off, it probably will.

It’s a relatively short book but it’s by no means an easy read. It’s challenging for two reasons. First, Bowman will force you to think, pulling in novels, poems, Christian scripture, and philosophy in order to make his point. Secondly, if you’re not autistic, you’re probably going to have to re-evaluate what you’ve always thought about autism in a way that might be uncomfortable. Nothing said here is revolutionary. Most of it has been shouted from the rooftops by other autistic people, including myself. Another autistic voice is always welcome on this roof, though. 

There are a few little slip-ups (yes, the average life expectancy for autistic people is thirty-six years, but that’s largely because of common comorbid conditions like severe epilepsy, which can be fatal in themselves.) But there’s so much that is relatable. I cringed along with him when he talked about people touching him unexpectedly, the backhanded compliments, the “but why aren’t you, a real person, more like [fictional character written by a neurotypical person]?” I didn’t connect so well with the section about faith and autism, but it’s right there in the title so it’s not like it was unexpected. I’m sure those essays will be of value to many; they just didn’t do much for me.

The most interesting part was the interview section in the final quarter of the book. In this section, Bowman doesn’t just talk about how autistic people think, but directly reveals it. Over and over, he answers the exact question he is asked, which is not necessarily the question the interviewer thought they were asking. When the interviewer clearly expects a broad answer (a more neurotypical way of thinking) Bowman begins by narrowing down to a fine point and being clear about what he is and isn’t speaking about: there is no one answer. This is how what you’ve said relates to me, and me only. 

That aspect really spoke to me. On the one hand, answering the exact question you’re asked gets you good grades on essays. On the other, you get called impolite constantly for some reason. 

This book is a precise and specific exploration of exactly one autistic person’s life, and is clear that it doesn’t claim to be anything else, even if some of the experiences within have far broader connotations. If you want to understand more about autism than you did before, read the thoughts of this Bowman chap. He’s smart and eloquent. And then keep reading.
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I got this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
Everyone in all levels of the church will benefit from reading Bowman's book. There is so much value for all members of the Body that are apart of our churches. Bowman gives us a series of essays that will open up our hearts to our autistic brothers and sisters in the church. Even if you think you are open and affirming to all humans, you will be challenged and convicted in making a more neurodiverse community.
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Growing up, I never heard about autism. I was out of college before I even met someone that had been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. However, I want to know as much as I can about how to help them, especially when it comes to serving in church. That made this book one that I really wanted to read.

Through the compiled essays, you can get an idea of how people on the autism spectrum experience everyday things. Thankfully, more people are working to undo stereotypes, but there are still those that think neurodivergent people just need to try harder. I realize I still have more to learn, but reading this book gives me a foundation to work with.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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The first half of On the Spectrum acts to normalize much of the language, such as “spectrum” and “neurotypical,” while providing a picture of a human being’s life dealing with Autism. Each chapter varies between seemingly broad focus stories and direct spectrum experiences in the Christian life. Some chapters are brief, and though my version was digital, I doubt they would take up three pages.

This book feels disjointed or scattered to a reader (meaning myself) who typically bounces between biography, history, and theology. There is nothing wrong with this, but one should know this before picking the book and expecting any typical trajectory. Bowman himself alludes to this early on stating, “it may feel a little different at times from more linear memoirs.”

Because most of what I review is theologically oriented, I think a simple note is required: the author and I would disagree on several such topics. Nevertheless, it is not necessary for the majority of this book. Daniel Bowman invites the reader to learn about his life, the various ways in which it is typical of anyone, and how it is drastically different because of possessing a “neurodivergent” brain. Towards the end of the book, three chapters contain interviews the author gave to various people: a high school student, a mother to an autistic child and writer, and a pastor. These interviews offer a more specific glimpse of a person living day-to-day with autism.

Reading through the book causes me to appreciate being married to a counselor. Autism spectrum disorder is frequently a topic of conversation. Because she regularly works with kids and sees patterns, she is able to educate parents and provide referrals to those able to diagnose. All that to say: autism has become normalized for me. Yet, it is because my wife has to provide basic ASD education to parents of children that I realize it is not generally well known. It is not easy to write a book chronicling your personal challenges, and for that, I appreciate On The Spectrum.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley for review purposes. Comments are my own.
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Wow! Daniel Bowman, Jr.’s memoir/collection of essays is a must read for the Church. As more adults are diagnosed with autism, it can be hard to understand how to love, support, and understand their neurodiversities. Many memoirs and books about autism are written by parents, educators, psychologists, and about children. It’s rare to find books written about autism by autistic adults. On the Spectrum is a look into the world of a Christian with neurodiversities. I really enjoyed reading this book and I learned so much. As a body of Believers, we must come together to support and encourage the gifts, talents, and diversity of the members of our church. On the Spectrum challenges long held stereotypes and misinformation and allows the voice of someone with neurodiversities to tell their own story. It’s a powerful reminder and teaching moment to see the beauty of how God created each one of us and to allow us to use our own voice to share our stories. I highly recommend this book to pastors, parents, teachers, and really anyone! With 1 in 45 people diagnosed with autism, the chances of you being in community, loving, teaching, or parenting one is great. Read this book to gain insight and show the people in your church and your life you care to learn more about them and their often times overlooked beautiful differences. 
I just reviewed On the Spectrum by Daniel Bowman Jr.. #OntheSpectrum #NetGalley
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I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for offering a free copy of the ARC in return for an honest review of the book. As the author, Daniel Jr. Bowman states, it's so important that we read stories by #OWNVOICES in all areas of literature. I'm happy that more memoirs are being published by autistic people. I enjoyed following the thoughts that Daniel Bowman shared in this memoir about his life and work. It was interesting to get inside of his thoughts and to learn more about neurodiversity. I liked that Daniel shared many stories, poems, and authors that he has read and enjoyed. There were several times that I created lists of authors to read as I read Daniel's memoir.  My only wish was that Daniel shared more stories about his wife and children. I really enjoyed the stories he did include about them and wished for more about how those relationships worked.
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Daniel Bowman, Jr. a professor of English at Taylor University was found to be on the autism spectrum in his thirties. In On the Spectrum, Professor Bowman brings together his life experience with autism, his beliefs as a Christian, and his love of the arts. I found the writing interesting and intellectual. I enjoyed the essays on the art of writing as a Christian with autism and the interviews he included at the end. He gives honest insight into his world and credit to his family. If you are interested in learning more about the spectrum and how it affects adults, this is a book with great insight. It is not however a light read, so be prepared to take your time and delve into Professor Bowman's book essay by essay. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Every once in a while, a book comes along out of nowhere and simply blows you away. For me, Daniel Bowman Jr's "On the Spectrum: Autism, Faith, and the Gifts of Neurodiversity" is such a book.

I'd not heard of Bowman until stumbling across Bowman's upcoming release despite the fact that we share a Midwestern home state, a lot of theology, and an interest in the world of disability - in Bowman's case Autism and in my own Spina Bifida/Paraplegia/Amputee/Brain Injury.

It was like when I discovered that Shannan Martin, another writer of faith, is an Indiana resident. I instantly wanted to drive up, say hey, have coffee, and talk about life.

After having recently read yet another expert's opinion on church and theology and disability and having once again been disappointed by what I read, I approached "On the Spectrum" gingerly and with low-to-modest expectations.

"On the Spectrum" brings to light the phrase "nothing about us without us." Indeed, the greatest benefit for me of "On the Spectrum" is that Bowman immerses us in his world of living with Autism from tackling the inevitable comparisons to Temple Grandin to dealing with high school academic challenges to wondering about "outing" himself while working in the often high-pressure tenure-seeking academic world and, of course, to the everyday life of faith.

There isn't a page of "On the Spectrum" I didn't love because this book is filled with truth-telling and stories demanding to be heard. Bowman, who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 35 after having put the pieces together in his own heart and head, speaks of Autism in a way that no non-Autistic theologian or academic or religious researcher ever could. While this is not to say that those other voices are not valuable, Bowman has the stories that need to be told.

"On the Spectrum" is simultaneously memoir and a collection of both short and longer essays. Bowman writes more like a Rachel Held Evans or a Shannan Martin than he does your typical theologian. This is not to say there isn't tremendous intelligence in "On the Spectrum." Indeed, there is. Bowman is a professor at Indiana's Taylor University and his writing beautifully balances being intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant.

For those of us who embrace the power of natural supports and true community rather than a life in paid supports, "On the Spectrum" is a powerful vision of how beautiful this life can be. As a person myself who left the "system" in favor of seeking true community that would both empower and provide the supports for daily life I need, I resonated greatly with Bowman's honesty about daily living, daily challenges, daily triumphs, personal relationships, marriage, mentors, life in the professional world, and even the challenges of travel.

Truthfully, as much as I use the word "disability" here and I believe it to be an important word to use there's also an awareness that rises from the book that we are often more disabled by society and the church's response to our diagnoses than we are by the diagnoses themselves. Autism, of course, presents with its everyday challenges and they portrayed realistically here. Yet, when the church is ultimately doing its job Autism, or neurodiversity, becomes a gift and a part of what makes the tapestry of faith so rich. "On the Spectrum" is, indeed, a realistic portrayal of neurodiversity and also a celebration of it.

Bowman is successful, another story of living successfully with autism among many, as a college graduate, professor, writer, speaker, husband, and father among many other "roles." He recognizes Autism for the challenges it presents but also for the ways in which it has helped him succeed.

While my challenges are different (though Autism has long been tied to Spina Bifida and I checked off more than a few common traits with Bowman), the truth is that "On the Spectrum" has emotionally and intellectually informed my own living with spina bifida and its related diagnoses. I've resonated with Bowman deeply - we both unexpectedly went to college and we're both creatives who value the role of creativity in living AND, of course, we share our faith journeys. Yet, perhaps more than anything, we both share a willingness to share our journeys and all they're hilarious and frustrating quirks and foibles.

For any church claiming to be truly celebrating of diversity and disability in all its forms, "On the Spectrum" is mandatory reading as it speaks to the church experience and it speaks outside the usual structures and programs to which people with disabilities are so often relegated. We are not your charity...we are your brothers and sisters and so much more.

"On the Spectrum" is one of my favorite books of 2021.
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Although I’m not especially fond of nonfiction (by which I mean, I usually avoid it), I decided to request On the Spectrum by Daniel Bowman Jr., from NetGalley. The publisher provided me a free Advanced Reader ebook in exchange for this review.


The book interested me because of its description, which had to do with viewing the gift of autism through a Christian lens. I am a Christian who has recently been (self) diagnosed with Autism— specifically, Aspergers, which is now identified, instead as being “on the spectrum.” Like the author and others referenced in the book, the diagnosis has brought a lot of clarity for me.

When I began the book, I was intrigued to learn that Bowman, like myself, was diagnosed in adulthood. He self-diagnosed and then received a professional diagnosis, while in his thirties. Bowman’s description of this process, which was often uncomfortable for him, reminds me of my own discomfort speaking with a psychiatry grad student (as part of a Psychology course when I was an undergrad). Indeed, one of the aspects of the book that I most enjoyed was its relatability. Bowman places strong emphasis on the need for #ownvoices in Autistic representation and, as an Aspie, myself, I was able to commiserate with many of his recountings of personal experience. Because I’m new to the diagnosis, I also enjoyed one or two personal “aha” moments, where I realized that certain personality traits of mine (which I hadn’t yet connected with Autism), were linked to autism.

At the same time, Bowman emphasizes throughout that his experience is not the autism experience. Repeatedly, Bowman writes, “If you’ve met one autistic person… you’ve met one autistic person,” bucking flat stereotypes of what it means to be autistic.

When he does reference traits shared by those with the autistic “operating system” (I really liked this analogy), he advocates for a shift away from the pathology paradigm, which describes autistic traits as deficits. Bowman acknowledges the many differences between neurotypicals and neurodivergents (a term which encompasses other learning differences, such as ADHD), but emphasizes that autists aren’t lacking.

This is a major theme throughout the text, which is comprised of essays: The idea that neurodivergents have unique skill sets to share with the world, and shouldn’t be expected to play by the rules of the neurotypical system. Referencing eye contact, for instance, Bowman mentions instances when people have shut him out of conversations because of his lack of eye contact. Bowman argues that this treatment is unfair because it penalizes autistic people who are unable to pick up/ demonstrate these basic social skills. As an autist, I feel that it is important to think about how our social behaviors, or lack thereof, are affecting the other person. While social situations may present additional challenges, I believe I am accountable for how my behaviors affect another person.

Bowman references the tension between the need to adapt to one’s environment (in the context of neurotypical society), while also seeking to be understood, writing, “I’m drawn to this balanced view.” Throughout the text, Bowman does address both sides of the scale, leaning more heavily toward the adaptation angle in the introduction and emphasizing grace and understanding throughout the majority of the text. For this reason, passages pertaining to the challenges (and potential pitfalls) of autism particularly resonated with me. For instance, Bowman notes that, in his interactions with his wife, his need for safety and stability may overreach to the point of attempting to control her. Insights like these were very important, to me, in the reading, because, even as I embrace the ways that God has made me beautifully unique (even my brain looks different than a neurotypical brain!), I also do not want to use autism as an excuse for bad behavior. At the same time, I find that it is valuable for me to recognize that I am dealing with challenges that others are not facing, and to give myself grace for that. With that said, as an autist, I think I would have liked to have seen a little bit more emphasis placed on how our tendencies affect others. HOWEVER, I do not think this was the author’s purpose, given that (I suspect) there is a lot of material already written on this topic. Plus, I think that this book was written more for neurotypicals than for those on the spectrum.

In that sense, I believe Bowman accomplished what he set out to do: to “make some sense of” his life, in a way that is “useful” to the audience. Bowman does not claim to have “arrived,” and provides personal narrative that is vulnerable and (in my case) relatable. His transparency is truly commendable, as well as empowering. Having read this work, I feel that I can lend my voice and experiences to the autistic community, without being afraid of misrepresenting it. I am “one” autistic person, and like Bowman says, do not claim to represent the entire community.

Highlights

• I especially related to Bowman’s descriptions of the challenges of fellowship in a church setting. This was one of my favorite essays

• Likewise, the essay on serving in the body of Christ, which touched on feelings of guilt as a Christian, was relatable and helpful for me.

• My other favorite essay was about the parable of the tares. Bowman quotes commentary about the Lord being the one to pull our weeds, which was a powerful statement for me. I think this may be my biggest takeaway from the book

Overall Impression:

The book was not what I expected it to be. Based on the subtitle, I thought that the book would be geared more toward autists, rather than neurotypicals. I was expecting to read more about how autistic people bring specific contributions to society. Instead, the book seemed geared toward neurotypicals who are seeking greater insight into the life of an autistic person. However, this is made pretty clear in the introductory material, and I believe that the book does achieve its stated end. I do really like that this is packaged as reflections from one person in the community, providing insight into the community without claiming to speak for everyone.

The author described autists as a marginalized people group, likening us to persons of color and members of the LGBTQ community. Bowman is progressive in his opinions and advocacy and I resonated with his comparison between autism and race. At the same time, Conservative Christians may not resonate with all of the opinions expressed. I recommend this book for its insight into what autism looks like, particularly with reference to creativity. I do not, however, agree with every belief the author espouses.
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Stylistically, this was one of the best-written memoirs I've read in a long time. Bowman does a great job of bringing you into his perspective, showing the complex situations that come with autism as well as helping neurotypical readers reorient the way they think about the subject.
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I made it a point to get this one in during #AutismAcceptanceMonth, even though it doesn't actually release until August. 

This is apparently officially a "collection of essays", but the organization works such that it never feels disjointed, as other efforts of this vein I've read tend to do. But that could just be my own #ActuallyAutistic mind working similarly to Bowman's.

If you've ever heard of the late great Rachel Held Evans, and particularly if you like her style, you're going to enjoy this particular book. Bowman has a roughly similar background to Evans (and thus even rougher similar to myself) in that he has experience in the Baptist church and now finds himself in a more progressive mainline church, and in both of their cases are more academic-oriented to boot. Thus, even while explaining his own version of the intersection of faith and Autism - and on being Autistic more generally, but through that lens - his words really do evoke the same kinds of tones Evans' work did.

This was enjoyable for me due to the *lack* of constant "Autistics need government intervention" diatribes that so many books make their central point of Autism - even from among fellow Autistics (such as Eric Garcia's We're Not Broken, which publishes a week earlier and which, IIRC, I posted about here roughly a month ago). Instead, Bowman's life and thoughts flow more closely to my own, with key community members becoming mentors over the eras and helping him naturally become all that he now is.

Indeed, if I have a criticism of the book - and I do, though it isn't large enough for a star deduction - it is the emphasis on an "official" Autism diagnosis. I trust docs as much as I trust politicians these days - which is to say, I don't trust them to accurately tell me the color of the noontime cloudless sky, and verify it myself. And one does not need someone else to dictate a word based on their own understanding of it, particularly when that person isn't even living with the thing in question. And this ignores the very real, sometimes very negative, real world repercussions of having such an "official" label.

Still, for anyone interested in knowing more about what life is really like as an Autistic, this truly is one of the better books I've come across in my own readings. Very much recommended.
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