3 min read

3 Books I Recommend Reading to better understand Neurodiversity

3 Books I Recommend Reading to better understand Neurodiversity
Photo by Thought Catalog / Unsplash

My 12 year old Daughter is Neurodivergent and I have only just found out.

She is currently getting an assessment as she is having huge difficulties at school.

I've been devouring books on neurodiversity, to improve my understanding and interactions. Here are three that I highly recommend!

They're well worth the time.

Book #1: Strong Female Character by Fern Brady

This is the book that made me realise that my daughter may be Neurodivergent, after reading an extract in the paper.

Fern Brady is a hugely successful Scottish comedian who found out she was autistic in 2021 at the age of 34.

She did not realise she was Neurodivergent until her partner started reading books on the subject during lockdown. Once Fern read them too she realised that they were describing her perfectly. She had been through many medical practices and been misdiagnosed with an array of mental health issues through her life.

But could now see they had missed her autism as they were using the wrong criteria.

“You can’t be autistic,” a psychiatrist assured the teenage Fern Brady. “You’re making eye contact. And you have a boyfriend. So no, you don’t fit the criteria.”

She wrote this book on her life story, from her early life and misdiagnosis, to her time at university, abusive relationships and her experiences of working as a stripper.

Fern wanted to challenge the misconceptions of what Autism looks like and the inbuilt sexism and stigmas.

Funny and Moving at the same time

Ferns story moves from hilarious to troubled and sad but always remains unpredictable and impossible to put down.

This book is an incredible insight into the world of an Autistic female and all of the ways that diagnosis may be missed in early life.

Often Autism is more obvious in young males which is why it was often thought to be a "Male Disease"

Autism is neither a disease, nor a male only preserve.

This book provided invaluable insight into the challenges my daughter encounters and offered practical solutions for improving her situation and speaking with healthcare professionals.

Book #2: Untypical by Pete Wharmby

Untypical was recommended to me on Twitter and was the perfect follow up to Strong Female Character.

Similar to Fern, Pete was also diagnosed as neurodivergent in his 30s and felt that a better understanding of Autism, its traits and misconceptions was the key to improving real world interactions and institutions.

The lack of useful literature that he found on receiving his diagnosis inspired him to write Untypical.

It is estimated that one in thirty people is neurodivergent.

Untypical aims to improve the world at the point that neurodivergent and neurotypical meet.

Through real life experiences and years of masking Pete explains the difficulties of negotiating a world built for neurotypicals.

Rule 1: You should never ask for something directly. If you want something, you must imply or hint your need for it … somehow.

The book teaches the Neurotypical why the Neurodivergent can react or behave differently and the best way to respond.

The importance of saying what you mean and not using evasive "polite" language to hint at a request. The knowledge that the blunt replies or closed off body language is not a personal slight. And that sometimes we all need a quiet break from the world.

Many of the clear lessons I learnt in this brilliant book helped me to explain to others, such has my daughters school, ways to improve their interactions with her.

Essential educational reading

I wholeheartedly believe that this should become the standard text, for all teachers, managers and leaders to ensure that they understand a difficult and complex subject.

Book #3: The Cassandra Complex by Holly Smale

The Cassandra Complex is the only non fiction book on my list.

It's a fantastic novel written by Holly Smale, a neurodivergent writer, who, similar to the Pete and Fern, was diagnosed with Autism at 39.

Cassandra is Autistic and when, her boyfriend leaves her, she gets fired and the cafe runs out of banana muffins, all in a single day, it feels like her world is collapsing.

Then Cassandra discovers she has a gift. She can travel back in time. Cassandra uses her newly found power to try and fix the last 3 months and change her destiny.

Time travel doesn't have all the answers

You would expect that having the ability to close your eyes and go back to any point in the last 3 months would make things easier.

It turns out this is not always the case.

Cassandra learns more about people she had misunderstood through repeatedly having to relive interactions. She realises that not everyone she perceived having bad intentions actually did. But through trial and error she slowly learns to bring friends closer and to accept any future consequences of bad judgement.

The Cassandra Complex is a funny and touching novel that is jam packed full of entertainment and has won worldwide acclaim.

There are many more great books out there but these are the three I found both the most entertaining and helpful.