I’ve read three autobiographies from autistic writers: Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison, Thinking In Pictures by Temple Grandin, and now a new one–My Autistic Awakening by Rachael Lee Harris. She is a colleague of Tony Attwood, a renowned psychologist who has worked with autistics for years. In fact, Attwood is one of the foremost authorities on Asperger’s Syndrome.
Rachael’s introduction begins by telling you about the man who Asperger’s Syndrome is named after, Hans Asperger. His “little professors”, as he called them, went on to diverse fields because his studies unlocked their potential. She then goes on to say “My Asperger life…can never be viewed in isolation; it can only be viewed through the prism of environment, upbringing, temperament, life experience, and personal values.” This is why we stress that autism is a spectrum: there is no constant.
Rachael was school at a Catholic School with many of the trappings often associated with Catholic Schools in fiction and reality. She would often play by herself than with others because she felt as though the other children were too noisy. She views her childhood mostly in a positive light. I find this both novel and pleasing. Often in the Facebook groups for autistic people that I frequent, the Christian religion is viewed through a negative lens. It was refreshing to see an autistic whose life was enriched by religion.
She then goes on to talk about her adulthood. For a good portion of her life, she joined a Carmelite nun. Today, she is no longer part of that convent, but she has never left Catholicism. Although she is no longer a nun, she still views it as a positive impact on her life, as its rigidity was something she adapted well. She eventually became a psychotherapist, which is how she met Tony Atwood. She has pursued romantic relationships, both positive and negative, and now has a child of her own. I like that she presents both the positive and negative aspects of her life.
This was a beautifully written book that I would recommend to anyone who wishes to learn more about autistics such as myself. Here is a life of positives and negatives–a life well-lived, as the subtitle says. It is an enlightening book and you can tell this is a writer who cherishes her unique God-given intellect. I too believe that autism is a special gift that God bestows upon those souls he feels have a specific potential. It is an excellent book, and one of the best I’ve read on autism.