Rachael Lee Harris' brilliant memoir is important because she integrates her first-person life experiences with the rarely-viewed thought processes of an Asperger's mind. Her childhood was an intense autistic haze, yet she remembers details with such acuity that the pages almost turn themselves. Harris' prose is witty and insightful.
Rachael's school years were difficult and she was constantly misunderstood—no surprise, because this was twenty years before Asperger's Syndrome had been recognized. Her first grade teacher reported, "Rachael is here physically, but that is all." She vividly remembers feeling mortified when the sisters disciplined her with a leather strap in front of the whole school for not following the strict parochial school rules. Her demeanor did not indicate remorse, however; instead, she smiled and giggled, angerinhg the sisters even more. Asperger's children are often misinterpreted, because showing true emotions is difficult for them—information not known at that time.
Rachael seldom made eye contact. This was interpreted as shyness, though she was never shy. Her active imagination made her time alone much more exciting than when she was forced to socialize with her peers. Family remained her fortress throughout her youth. Her mother never doubted Rachael's ability and intelligence. The girl spent her lunch periods studying in the school library; it was the key that unlocked her future. She scored at the top of her class in English and History. Graduation was a relief. "As the school gate closed behind me, the whole world and all its possibilities opened up before me," she writes.
This chronological memoir pulls the reader through Rachael's life with a strong thread of hope. I admire the author's courageous approach to life, and her forthright style of writing. Her pragmatic perceptions lacked the emotions that at times seem to cloud the views of non-autistic people. I was surprised by some of the life choices she made. Her mettle impressed me. When she made mistakes, she blamed no one, but instead contemplated the facts, corrected her course and carried on.
Apparent throughout the memoir were her concrete thought processes and her need for routine and order, which Aspergers need in order to organize their chaotic world. Similarly, her story illustrates how difficult abstract thinking and expression has been for her.
Today Harris is a registered psychotherapist specializing in Asperger's Syndrome. She is happily married and has a son. The challenges she overcame to find the life she wanted are an inspiration. Life is not fair, yet this is a woman who feels blessed to live the life she's lived. Readers will not only gain insight into Asperger's but also feel renewed by the unique spirit of Rachael Lee Harris.
Rachael Lee Harris is a registered psychotherapist specializing in Asperger's Syndrome and High Functioning Autism providing a unique contribution to the field of Autism Spectrum Conditions(ASC) therapy and research form her unique perspective as a woman who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. She continues to improve the quality of life of children and adults on the Autism Spectrum, as well as their caregivers and partners through her private practice, speaking engagements, and retreats. She has also given academic presentations. Visit her website.
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