As a title, Different…Not Less, brings out the truth that people with autism are to be valued. They can contribute to society. In fact, many of them excel in a particular profession precisely because of the strengths their autism affords them and an intense focus on an interest.
That is not to say that the problems faced are not real. Many struggle with social interaction.
Yet, often, all it takes is for family members, friends or colleagues to believe in them and to look past how different they are from “everyone else”. With acceptance and guidance, a person with autism can grow to be more self aware, and learn how to cope with his traits.
In this book, 14 individuals from around the world share stories on how they overcame difficulties related to autism to find employment and independence. Each contributor writes from a first person point of view on his family life, school years, work life, and relationships.
Every story is unique, personal, and priceless. Many of the contributors experienced bullying at school or faced prejudice from co-workers. But they were also “inspired to succeed by teachers and mentors who encouraged interests in skills and things they were good at.” (p7) The mentor may have been a family member, friend or colleague who provided guidance and encouragement (p3) as they moved from one stage of life to another.
Autism Expert Dr Temple Grandin who compiled these stories, made an effort to feature people from all walks of life and not just the “techies”. By taking on a broad definition of success, Dr Grandin brings out the idea in the title that each contributor is different but not less.
As such, while you get to meet the business owner of a computer server design firm and a senior program manager for Intel (successful techies), you will also encounter a tour guide, special education professor, psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner, retail employee, artist, nurse, psychologist, veterinary surgeon, physician, dancer, real estate executive, and creative designer of an advertising agency. We’ve highlighted a few in the following links:
- Karla Fisher’s ASD Page on Facebook and Wiki Page. Karla is a Senior Program Manager/Engineering Manager at Intel Corp. Karla was diagnosed with autism in 2011 when she was in her 50s.
- The Story of Fred and Leroy -My Mom Has Autism. Moppy Hamilton is a mum and retail employee featured in the book, Different…Not Less. Moppy only found out she has autism when her daughters had grown up. In this TEDx Talk. Moppy’s daughter, Wendy, presents about growing up not knowing why her mum was different. Wendy now raises awareness about Autism.
- Steven Shore’s story on the COH website. Also visit Stephen’s website AutismAsperger.net. Nonverbal until age four, and with much support from his parents, teachers, wife, and others, Stephen is now a professor at Adelphi University, USA, where his research focuses on matching best practice to the needs of people with autism.
- Anita Lesko’s story on the COH website, Also visit Anita’s website Born with Asperger’s. Anita was diagnosed with Aspergers at age 50, and lived the first five decades of her life without knowing about how Aspergers impacted her relationships and life. Autism though has not held Anita back from working to help others. She is anesthesiologist, author, speaker, trainer, and one of a group of leaders seeking to establish a mentor program for people with Aspergers.
Different…Not Less is available in Singapore’s Public Libraries.
About the Author: The COH Resource Team comprises volunteers, content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals.