Why I felt compelled to write…
Nurturing Your Autistic Young Person is my third book – it’s just the first one which has made it to publication! The first two were abandoned at a skeletal stage when it became obvious that I just didn’t care enough about writing them. But for this book, I probably cared too much. There was so much I wanted to say, and only 80,000 words to say it in!
So why was it so important? Well, not only had our own family been through the baptism of fire of a late autism diagnosis for both our teens, but as CEO of Autistic Girls Network charity, I am contacted daily by others in the process of navigating an impossible system. A system which still puts those of us with neurodivergent brains (those with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourettes and more) firmly in the bracket of medicalised language, but also considers neurodivergent behaviour and thought patterns to be somehow less desirable and valuable than neurotypical ones.
Let’s make no mistake: the system is wrong, based on heavily outdated research and attitudes that haven’t caught up with the century we’re in. Luckily, change is coming. Not as fast as we’d like it to, but it’s coming nonetheless.
So what’s the book all about? It’s the book I’d like to have read when my daughter got her autism diagnosis, seemingly out of the blue. It’s also the one I’d like to have read when my son was diagnosed at 18, presenting completely differently to his sister. That is to say, it’s very clear that every autistic person is different, just as we are all different.
This book is a one-stop shop for parents of tweens and teens only just being assessed, who were diagnosed quite recently or who suspect they might be autistic. It tells you what to expect and how you can help. It supports you to support your autistic young person, and to advocate for them in the wider world which doesn’t yet have this new understanding. Though directed mainly at parents, it’s just as important for school staff and there’s a hefty amount in there about school, since that’s the place where teens and tweens spend most of their time, and sadly also often the place which causes them the most trauma as an unrecognised autistic young person. That trauma doesn’t need to happen, and the more everyone who comes into contact with this young person understands about an internal presentation of autism – one almost opposite in some ways to the ‘classic’ presentation we all think we know – the less traumatised they will be.
I’m in lots of Facebook groups full of parents who feel unsupported by the professionals they thought would help them, because the system doesn’t allow them to help most of the time. I can’t fix the system, although I’ll give it a good try. But I can help everyone who reads the book to understand their autistic young person a little better, and to create an environment where they will thrive. Open your minds and come on this journey with me. You won’t regret it.
Nurturing Your Autistic Young Person by Cathy Wassell is available to pre-order.
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