I write from the perspective of a non-Autistic mother of a child on the Autism spectrum, which is just a small segment of the global knowledge available about Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Far more valuable to me than my own experiences are those shared by Autistic people, which I refer to collectively as “Autism First Voices” because, after the voice of my son, those are the first voices I want to consult for guidance and suggestions to best support my son.
For that reason, I am always glad when I learn of new resources coming from these Autism First Voices, adding to the collective knowledge of us all, filling in more of the rich tapestry that is Autism.
One of these is a book being released this week offering another Autism First Voice perspective – Look Into My Eyes by Dan Jones. Mr. Jones has Asperger’s and has spent much of his professional career working with children, teens, parents, and families. He has also spent many years working as a hypnotherapist. He is married and has been with his wife for over 15 years.
I recently had the chance to learn more about how Mr. Jones came to develop his book.
AM: What made you decide to write this book?
DJ: The story behind why I ended up writing the book starts with my dad’s death.
When my dad died I was clearing out his flat. I grabbed things that I wanted to keep that reminded me of him – like his backgammon board, old photographs, and lots of letters. As my wife and I were looking through the letters, she started reading out loud a letter she said described me pretty much as I am today. It was a letter my dad wrote to social services to get them to look into what was ‘wrong’ with me, stating that he felt I needed to see a psychiatrist.
My dad described my behaviors, including things like he doesn’t seem to realize that toys are for playing with, and he doesn’t seem to understand how to say please and thank you, and other social norms that he should know at his age, and only does these things when prompted.
The responding social worker report, which was also among the letters, said that they spoke to my Granddad and mum who both felt nothing was wrong with me, and that it was just my dad trying to cause trouble. No one saw me, and no-one did an assessment.
This revelation about what I was like as a young child came against a backdrop of having spent years working in children’s homes. One of my managers had even said she felt that I had Asperger’s.
This discovery that I was different from a young age, made me start to think about my life, about challenges I have had – often silent challenges I’d kept to myself, and how things could have been different.
Following my diagnosis as an adult, I wanted to help others, and to gain greater insight and understanding about myself and my behaviors and reactions to things.
These were my two reasons for writing the book, an autobiography through the lens of Asperger’s which shared the positives and challenges of being on the autistic spectrum. I wanted to have insight and learn more about myself, but also more importantly to help others. I wanted parents to understand their child’s inner world, to understand their behaviors from within their world, not from the parents’ perspective.
I wanted friends to understand their autistic friends. I wanted employers to be able to support employees with autism, and hopefully understand them better and have ideas for how they can get the best out of their autistic employees. And I wanted to help those with autism to gain some understanding about their inner world, and skills for engaging in the outer world.
I wanted to write a positive and helpful book for those with autism, and those who engage with people with autism.
AM: How was the book received when it was published?
DJ: Readers commented was that it was fascinating and they wished that I had included more content in the book expanding on various useful bits of information. Plus, I was giving talks about my personal and professional experiences with Asperger’s, and people would ask questions they felt would have been good to have explicitly written about in the book, so I noted these questions down as things to answer ‘one day.’
This led me to writing a second edition in which I added a chapter written by my wife about her experiences being married to someone with autism, where she shares the positives and the challenges, and discusses how the relationship started, through to getting married, and how our relationship is now; and there is an extensive chapter of tips and strategies covering areas for parents/carers, teachers, friends, and employers, as well as tips specifically for those on the autistic spectrum, including tips for areas like interview skills, shopping, dating, social skills, and tips for being at work.
The tips and strategies come from my personal experiences with autism, as well as my almost two decades of professional experience.
The book is Look Into My Eyes (Second Edition) by Dan Jones, being released this week and available in ebook from most major ebook retailers (Kobo, iBookstore, Kindle, Barnes &Noble), and in two paperback versions, one version available from Amazon, and one version available from most other book retailers (such as Waterstones, WH Smiths, Barnes &Noble, etc.).
I received no compensation for this article. I am an Amazon Associate which means that if you click the product link and make a purchase, I will receive a small payment from Amazon. It will not change the price of your purchase.