Living and loving with Asperger Syndrome: family viewpoints

John Harrison, a father who has Asperger Syndrome, reviews Living and loving with Asperger Syndrome: family viewpoints by Patrick, Estelle and Jared McCabe.

Like an MP, I must start by declaring an interest – I have been married for 25 years and we have two children in their early 20s. I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) five years ago.

This book describes the experiences of an American family where the father has AS. Different parts of it are written by the husband, the wife and their teenage son. While there are other books where partners describe the effect AS has had on them, I am not aware of any where a child comments. I was therefore looking forward to reading this book, but although it was of some value, the way it was written left me feeling that the son was somewhat precocious. On the other hand, it seems that issues raised by AS have not always been addressed within the family. One example was when the son said he was going to be in by 8pm, the father would get angry if he was two minutes late, whereas from my own experience of my children in these circumstances I should only think about starting to worry at around 8.30pm!

The book sets out the family’s experiences and it is not good to generalise from such experiences. While possessing some common traits (though not everyone possesses every one of these traits), people with Aspergers have as wide a range of personalities as neurotypicals – in other words, ‘normal’ people. The book does tend to generalise, however. For instance, on page 110 it says “The non-AS person must be willing to be extra committed and faithful to the relationship if he wants to befriend his AS acquaintance. So, having a relationship with an AS person is harder since both individuals need to be more accepting of each other’s differences”. Inevitably, because of my condition, I have not made as many friends as others have; however, I can think of friendships I have formed which, as far as I am aware, have come naturally and have not required special efforts by either party.

Apart from the use of American language and examples of incidents cited to illustrate points, the American background does not really affect the main message of the book. The family members featured in the book are clearly committed Christians as this is occasionally alluded to and Patrick McCabe, the husband/father with AS, is a full-time Christian worker. I personally would have liked to see more of an exploration of how the family relates Christianity to Aspergers, but others with less of an interest in this area might be grateful that this is not pursued.

If you want to read only one book on AS, this is not it! You would end up getting a rather skewed view. However, if you have already read up on this subject, for example because you or a family member or friend has AS, you could usefully pick up more information from it.

Living and loving with Asperger Syndrome: family viewpoints , by Patrick, Estelle and Jared McCabe. 2003. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 1 84310 744 9. Price: £12.95. Available from www.jkp.com.

First published in Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood international, Issue 56, Winter 2006/2007.

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