If you or a loved one has autism, you know that sometimes the only people who understand what you’re going through are others going through similar experiences.
Here are 10 memoirs about autism written by people who have been there. The list includes some titles our readers recommended, along with a few of our own selections.
Tammet has savant syndrome, an extremely rare condition in which people with autism also have mind-blowing intellectual capabilities. Rather than interpreting numbers as simple values, the way the average mind does, Tammet sees them as colors, shapes and textures. This helps him achieve amazing feats, such as calculating the day of the week on which someone was born based on the birth year and memorizing more than 20,000 digits of Pi. Tammet takes readers on a fascinating journey of his own mind in this moving account of all the colors and textures that comprise his world.
Higashida was nonverbal and just 13 years old when he wrote this series of explanations about living with autism, using a Japanese alphabet grid to compose his words. The Reason I Jump is comprised of short essays, each of which begins with a common question he faces about autism, like “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” or “Why do you ask the same questions over and over?”
Growing up in the 1960s, before a name for his diagnosis existed, Robison always struggled to fit in and never understood why. In Look Me in the Eye, Robison chronicles how he acclimated to a world he didn’t understand, from surviving an abusive childhood to dropping out of school to working on Pink Floyd’s sound team to eventually starting his own business — all before he was finally diagnosed with autism in 1996.
One of the best-known writers and speakers with autism, Grandin, an animal scientist, explains how her autism enables her perspective as a scientist and how she’s learned to utilize that perspective to revolutionize the way livestock is treated in the U.S.
Five years into a marriage accentuated with quirks and peculiar routines, Finch was diagnosed with autism. Though he and his wife finally have an explanation for his behavior, it doesn’t make life too much easier. Finch realizes that if his marriage is going to be successful, he needs to be a better husband. In In The Journal of Best Practices, he describes with humor and love how he improved his marriage, one hard-earned realization at a time.
After a therapist suggests Fields-Meyer grieve for the child his son, Ezra, “didn’t turn out to be,” the dad sets out to do the opposite: love his child for exactly who he is. This sweet memoir depicts his bond with his son through the first 10 years of Ezra’s life, giving readers glimpses into the tender moments as well as the struggles that accompany raising a child with autism.
Garvin’s’s older sister, Margaret, was diagnosed with autism at age 3. This compelling book portrays with humor and intimacy what it was like to grow up with an older sibling on the spectrum and reflects on how Garvin’s childhood experiences with Margaret continue to affect their relationship as adults.
Just before Suskind’s son, Owen, turned 3, he suddenly became mute, stopped understanding speech and could no longer eat or sleep with ease. Diagnosed with a regressive form of autism, Owen’s only source of comfort was the Disney movies he loved. Life, Animated is his father’s gripping account of his family’s story as they learn to reach Owen the only way they can: through Disney dialogue.
In this unique dual-perspective memoir, Judy Karasik narrates while Paul Karasik uses comics to express what it was like to grow up with their older brother, David, who has autism. Their story follows David from childhood through middle age, divulging a family’s strange inner world that the Karasiks always considered perfectly normal.
In 1980, Peyton Goddard, 6, was diagnosed with severe autism and deemed “worthless” by everyone but her parents. But at age 22, Peyton, who still lacked the ability to communicate or control her body movements, surprised everyone by typing “I am intlgent” on a keypad, revealing a gifted mind that had remained stifled her entire life. I Am Intelligent is a first-hand account of how low expectations and labels can harm children with special needs and urges the importance of treating them as respected members of society.
What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our previous round up of books about disease and disability.