Living Independently on the Autism Spectrum: What You Need to Know to Move Into a Place of Your Own, Succeed at Work, Start a Relationship, Stay Safe, and Enjoy Life as an Adult on the Autism Spectrum by Lynne Soraya
My rating: 5 of 5 stars ★★★★★
Living Independently on the Autism Spectrum is an instruction manual for adulthood written for high functioning autistic adolescents and adults.
The book systematically goes through all the major milestones an adult must meet in order to achieve and maintain independence, and explains how to learn the skills & carry out the tasks involved step for step, while addressing the aspects that autism tends to make extra difficult.
Soraya starts with the internal psychological foundation for being an independent individual: like self-advocacy, self-awareness, boundaries, social communication and managing emotions; and then moves onto the external aspects of an independent life such as how to find and afford a home; how to budget, how to get around; be safe, plan a career and get a job, how to navigate a workplace; how to make good friends and be a good friend, as well as dating and long term relationships.
The book is well organised, specific, constructive, pragmatic, easy to read and full of useful references to assist with further learning. I find it extremely useful. I read it because I hoped to get a better overview over all the practical adulthood skills I’m supposed to master long ago;-), get a better understanding of workplace dynamics and good social scripts for various situations, and that is precisely what the books gives.
I also think it may be a useful read for any adolescent (whether autistic or not) looking to move away from their family; as well as many adults who don’t feel they have the full grasp of all the skills demanded of grown-ups.
Highlights: the aspects I liked best:
- Self-awareness : “strange engine noises” as a metaphor for detecting signs of overload before it is too late
- Learning about people: people watching and all its (entertaining) not-to-dos
Explaining one’s differences and limitations without antagonising people (partial disclosure)
- Clarity in communication, the pitfalls of assumptions, how to be a good listener and how autism can be an advantage in communication
- Setting boundaries with family
- Budgeting and estimating living costs and necessary salary
- Leasing arrangements with flatmates (not that I need that now, but always wondered how it works)
- Time management, prioritisation and housework
- Driving – sensory/mental overload & safety
- Job search techniques (although not all of them are realistic in my case), including job interview preparation. Also, self-employment considerations
- Navigating the workplace including appearance, social etiquette, understanding hidden cues, diplomacy, office politics and how to build social support systems
- Sensory issues and the need for accommodations, partial VS full disclosure
- Friendship skills and relationship skills
- All the useful references
Americanism. Some of the advice seems practically and/or culturally irrelevant outside of America. For example:
- The apparently high risk of being shot by the police: I get the impression from the book than American police officers have a “shoot first, ask later” Western movie approach to atypical behaviour. That may be a relevant risk for some people, but probably only in America due to America’s world infamously liberal weapon laws and high crime rates
- The strong focus on personal safety, which makes up a big chunk of the book
- The strict corporate dress codes. I’m not sure if dress codes are really so strict for typical workplaces, or if that is specific for US corporate culture (Pantyhose, really?) Then again, I don’t have that much white collar work experience and maybe I am just being naive
- What is a credit report? Apparently an essential factor… I take it that is a US thing as well
In summary, Living Independently on the Autism Spectrum explains step by step how to establish and maintain the foundation for a healthy & happy independent adult life. It goes through all the major milestones of adulthood and addresses common autistic challenges associated with each life aspect. I think the book does an excellent job.
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