The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide

The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide
Siena Castellon, illustrated by Rebecca Burgess
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Sienna Castellon, the seventeen-year-old author is an award winning anti-bullying campaigner and autism advocate; she is on the autism spectrum, and is also dyspraxic and dyslexic, and has ADHD. She is also gifted in physics and maths.

As we learn, her journey thus far has been anything but easy, so who better to write this book subtitled ‘How to grow up Awesome and Autistic’ than she, especially, as she writes in the first chapter, ‘I view my autism as a strength and as an advantage, a modern day superpower.”

Essentially Siena has compiled a comprehensive and detailed manual for readers of twelve plus about living the best life a young female with autism possibly can in a predominantly neurotypical world.

She covers such diverse topics as embracing who you are then deciding with whom to share your autism and how, to clothes and fashion ,

dating, sex and sexuality.

Other sections focus on bullying: face to face

and cyberbullying are covered in separate chapters and strategies for coping with both are discussed.

Self-esteem is key throughout: people with autism do not need pitying, they need understanding is another key message. The neurotypical brain is wired to socialise; in contrast most autistic brains need a fair amount of time alone for the mind to settle and the senses to be soothed.

On the topic of senses, Siena devotes a whole chapter to ‘Managing your sensory sensitivities and sensory overload.’  Siena mentions the relatively simple steps that some supermarkets, cinemas, airports and the like have taken to create a more inclusive environment for people with autism.

Throughout the authorial voice remains both earnest and compassionate; and in between her narrative are some comic style pages drawn by Rebecca Burgess that encapsulate what has been said in a particular section.

Yes, this book has a specific target audience in mind; however the insights it offers need to be shared with everyone. I’m a primary/foundation stage teacher and over the years have taught dozens of children with autism (mainly boys) and have some degree of understanding of neurodiversity. Nonetheless I welcomed the insights I gained from this guide and thoroughly recommend that all educators, parents, indeed anyone who hopes to ensure that all females on the autism spectrum have the very best possible chance to flourish, should read it and carefully consider this enormously wise young woman’s words. Surely that is every one of us, isn’t it?

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