As if teens don't already have enough to deal with, teens with Asperger's syndrome have a whole extra set of issues and most have difficulty knowing how to handle typical teen stresses and questions. Francis Musgrave, founder of AS Active, a UK charity that supports families and children with autism, has followed his 2012 book The Asperger Children's Toolkit with The Asperger Teen's Toolkit. This new book can be a great go-to resource for teens with Asperger Syndrome and their families.
Covering topics that teens deal with--self-image, relationships, emotions, bullies, social media--Musgrave lays out coping strategies and alternative expressions that teens can use. Self-aware teens can read his tips for self-care, positive attitudes, human connections, bouncing back, etc., and build their own "pyramid of strength."
Musgrave doesn't shy away from some of the really tough issues like cutting, eating disorders, sex and relationships, and explosive anger. He gives helpful strategies for focusing and deescalating. His tone is positive and affirming. One section that bothered me was the gender identity section. As he listed a variety of gender identities, I had to wonder if this is really healthy and helpful. I could imagine a developing bundle of hormones reading that and thinking, "Hmmm, so many options, what will I decide on?" I am frankly troubled by the growing emphasis on gender fluidity for children and teens, and can't help but think that it will have destructive, or at the very least confusing, consequence for most kids.
My favorite part of the book is Part 3, in which Musgrave talks about pursuing interests. Not only can music, pets, gaming, and drama be excellent outlets, these are areas in which teens with Aspergers can truly excel. Like any teen (or adult, for that matter) becoming accomplished at something you love is rewarding and can create a sense of worth and positive self-image that compensates for other areas.
The Asperger Teen's Toolkit is worth a look for teens and their parents and educators. My guess is that teens won't read this cover to cover, but it is arranged in such a way that teens can easily be directed to relevant sections to address needs they have.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!