Book review: But you don't look autistic at all by Bianca Toeps
Last Autismeweek (early April) the book But you don’t look autistic at all by Bianca Toeps was published. A title that appeals to me in particular, because I often hear that statement. It is not a compliment, and in her book Bianca explains why it isn’t.
The book starts with a very strong metaphor, which clearly describes what Bianca’s autism feels like. The writer, who spends several months a year in Japan, wrote: “I’m an alien everywhere, but in Tokyo I have an excuse.” As a foreigner, you are not supposed to know the social rules that are common in Japan. But suppose you are a Japanese… Then the expectations become very different!
Bianca pays extensive attention to the diagnostic manual and how it does not do justice to the experience of having autism. The diagnosis criteria are based on the traits most notable to the outside world. For example, problems with social interaction are front and center, while people with autism themselves will probably say that stimuli processing issues are hindering them most in everyday life.
The author of But you don’t look autistic at all has a strong opinion about what autism is and she gives words to subjects that, for example, are not yet given much attention in health care services, but which many people with autism have known for a long time. She writes about how people with autism are often taught to ignore the signals from their body, because where their boundaries lie deviates from what is seen as normal. Bianca also pays attention to the focus on tight schedules for autistics: is that actually helpful? And what about physical complaints that often go together with autism?
The last chapter lists “Eight things we don’t want to hear anymore”, in which Bianca explains, among other things, what is wrong with the statement “but you don’t look autistic at all”.
The book is very recognisable to autistic readers. Especially if you are about the same age as Bianca (34), her life story will probably take you back to your own childhood. Because Bianca is very aware of how the outside world views autism, the book is also ideally suited for reading by family members and carers. Bianca writes in a very contemporary and humorous way about what it is like to be autistic (and a woman and an entrepreneur), how the outside world reacts to this and what influence that has on autistic people.
The outside of the book, with the cover designed by Bianca herself, looks great. I also found the inside very pleasant to see, and Bianca’s writing style reads nicely. The font is easy to read, the layout is clear and the order is logical in most respects (although the stories of a number of other people with autism included in the book sometimes came out of the blue for me, but ultimately contributed to supporting the message of the book).
This text was translated with the help of Google Translate. The original blogpost is in Dutch.