M. That’s what I’d like you to call me please. I’ll tell you why later.
Welcome to M’s world. It’s tipsy-turvy, sweet and sour, and the beast of anxiety lurks outside classrooms ready to pounce. M just wants to be like other teenagers her age who always know what to say and what to do. So why does it feel like she lives on a different plane of existence to everyone else?
Written by the students of Limpsfield Grange, a school for girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder with communication and interaction difficulties, M is for Autism draws on real life experiences to create a heartfelt and humorous novel that captures the highs and lows of being different in a world of normal.
A collaborative novel by The Students Of Limpsfield Grange School and their drama and creative writing teacher, Vicky Martin, M is for autism is like no book I’ve ever read before. Autistic girls and women rarely feature in fiction, and I cannot think of any portrayal of the condition I’ve ever read that rang so true for me.
M is anxious. Or more accurately, and she does like to be accurate, chased and tormented by anxiety. She explores the sensation and experience thoroughly as she tries to work out what is wrong with her (nothing, says her counsellor, nothing wrong, different) and what she could do to be normal, to fit in. Isn’t that what every girl wants?
It’s not actually what I wanted, but just like non autistic people, all autistic people are different. The fight for understanding, self control, and diagnosis is all described here, clearly and succinctly. I particularly love how her obsession is woven into her daily life and her life is built matter of factly around her obsession, because that is how it is. The effect of her autism on M’s family and potential friends is covered (not all families break up, but some most certainly do) and the relationship between M and her mum, told from both viewpoints, is in some ways one of the most difficult parts to read. The contact between M and her counsellor, Fiona, (I love the visual aspects of this part of the book) serves to explain to M and to us much of what can be confusing around autism, and as well as strengthening the narrative, it adds to the informative aspects of the story.
This is a very short book. I wanted much much more. I want to know all of M’s story and more about her family, particularly her father. But the plus side of it being so short is that I will be very happy to recommend this to anyone and everyone who would like a glimpse into the world of a female autistic teenager. (It should be required reading for all teachers for a start. )
It’s not just boys. And we don’t grow out of it. We may mask it better, squash down the anxiety and tics and obsessions but they are probably still there for all of is to some degree. (I’m chewing the inside of my lip as I write this on my phone in the garden, power is off in the house just now. Can’t make a coffee. Twitch. ) But that doesn’t make us wrong. Or lesser. Or broken. I like the undercurrent of positivity in this story, and that too rings true for me. What girls like M (and the women like me they grow up to be) need is understanding.
Disclosure I was supplied with a copy of this book by the publishers JKP Books via Netgalley. Amazon and publisher links are affiliate links.