“Safety Skills For Asperger Women” by Liane Holliday Willey | Book Review

This was recommended to me by two therapists, and I finally read it! Here’s my review.

safety skills

Title: Safety Skills for Asperger Women
Series: N/A
Author: Liane Holliday Willey
Published: Kingsley Publishers, 2011
My Rating: ★★★★★

Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis

Life with Asperger Syndrome can be a challenge at the best of times, and trials and tribulations that neurotypicals take in their stride can leave Aspies perplexed and unsure of how to solve problems and keep themselves safe, both physically and emotionally.

Liane Holliday Willey explores the daily pitfalls that females with AS may face, and suggests practical and helpful ways of overcoming them. The focus throughout is on keeping safe, and this extends to travel, social awareness, and general life management. With deeply personal accounts from the author’s own experiences, this book doesn’t shy away from difficult issues such as coping with bullying, self-harm, depression, and eating disorders. The positive and encouraging advice gives those with AS the guidance to safeguard themselves from emotional and physical harm, and live happy and independent lives.

This book was recommended to me because two therapists thought it would be relevant to my experiences and be extremely helpful for me. Put simply: It really was. This book covers a number of areas of life, how they might be difficult for a woman with AS/ASD, and gives tips and advice on how to manage. It covers all sorts of areas, from navigating social situations to identifying and dealing with bullying and manipulation.

I found the style in which Safety Skills is written to be very clear, and extremely helpful. Even when it was telling me things that I already knew, they were very often things which I knew but had never before known how to convey. Thanks to this book, I have words to explain difficulties I’ve had which up until recently I’ve dealt with in silence. I also appreciated that this was all coming from the point of view of a woman with AS, not a clinician without it, meaning there are wonderful passages like:

I’m not sure why, but apparently [neurotypicals] are prone to think the following topics are not meant for casual discussion:
* political viewpoints
* personal fears and insecurities
* past interpersonal relationships
* religion
* personal finances

“Some even believe these topics should never be raised at functions of any kind. Too bad for me, because some of my most favorite obsessive interests are in the list, but I’m learning (after decades of offending people without meaning to) that I should avoid these topics unless someone brings them up and seems wholeheartedly interested in an open debate. But even then, I’ve made some past faux pas by not knowing when to end the debate and close the discussion. It’s clearly up to you to discuss whatever you like, but be warned these subjects stir up something in [neurotypical] people I can’t figure out.

Framing matters in this way serves to communicate that NT culture isn’t necessarily better, it’s just that because it’s the majority people with ASD have to learn to navigate it. That I really appreciate. All attempts to help me socialise me before have been from an angle of “normalising” me, and that has only ever damaged my self-esteem.

Another wonderful thing about this book is that it is written about and for women with ASD, and is about how women experience and respond to their ASD. I think that the topic is still very much slanted towards the male experience of ASD, and our experience is different. It just is. Even the foreword (written by Toy Attwood) succinctly describes some of the issues girls and women specifically will face.

One criticism I’ve seen of this book is that it reads more like a memoir than a survival guide, but I think that this helps it to serve as a survival guide. It’s helpful to have a real-life example of the situations being talked about, and to be honest it also made me feel less alone. So many of the situations of the described were similar to things that I’ve been through, and though none of these situations are nice, it is nice to know that there are people in the world having the same struggles as me … and who are learning how to deal with them.

Admittedly, I did find that some of the advice was excessively obvious, but maybe that advice would be more helpful to children. (Though, paired

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to women with ASD.

Females with ASDs often develop ‘coping mechanisms’ that can cover up the intrinsic difficulties they experience. They may mimic their peers, watch from the sidelines, use their intellect to figure out the best ways to remain undetected, and they will study, practice, and learn appropriate approaches to social situations. Sounds easy enough, but in fact these strategies take a lot of work and can more often than not lead to exhaustion, withdrawal, anxiety, selective mutism, and depression.

— Dr. Shana Nichols

Not to mention that this book contains one sentence which just hit me: Neurotypicals make living look so easy.

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