Wednesday 27 March 2024

Girl Unmasked {Autism Book review}

'Girl Unmasked - How Uncovering My Autism Saved My Life' is an awesome new book written by 22 year old Emily Katy.

(*Underlined text and the pictures in this post are affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but it won't cost you any extra!)

Emily has a brilliant blog called Authentically Emily where she has been sharing some of her experiences for the past few years, including those from the time when she was sectioned and placed on a children's mental health unit at the age of 16. She wrote this book because she felt there were a lot of things she needed to tell the world, but also in order to help others who might be experiencing a similar journey. Diagnosed with autism after that inpatient stay, at the age of 16 years (and 10 months) old, Emily is one of the many autistic girls who have flown under the radar and then hit rock bottom before finally receiving a diagnosis. That then helped her come to understand why she had felt so different for many years, and a subsequent ADHD diagnosis followed. 

The book begins with the recounting of a panic attack that happened at some point during Emily's secondary school years and following on from that we are taken back to when she was just eight years old, playing with her siblings in a garden. This sets the scene for a chapter that is intended to debunk the myth that all autistic individuals have no imagination; Emily goes on to explain the difference between creative and social imagination. 

In chapter two Emily shares about some of the special or 'specific' interests she has had through her life and the autism diagnostic criteria about restrictive and repetitive interests is considered. Emily believes this is unnecessarily negative and she shares information about evidence showing the positive impacts that special interests can have, and their association with good wellbeing. In chapter three Emily discusses masking, bullying and the ways in which some of her peers did not react positively to her. I'm sure these will be experiences that many other autistic children can relate to.

In chapter four Emily talks about some of the challenges of moving into secondary school, giving a run down of a typical school day and the kind of overload that can build up for a multitude of reasons. 
Some helpful, reasonable adjustments that could be made in the school environment to help autistic children are shared in the form of a list - lists appear through out the book and Emily gives us a list about why lists are great on one of the first pages (I'm with her, I love a list!). I especially liked this one that states what Emily likes about being autistic:

The rest of the book delves into Emily's anxiety, panic attacks and depression, openly discussing her mental health difficulties and her challenges with OCD, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. It is packed full of helpful advice that I know will help others who are dealing with these issues, and that includes the individuals themselves, their parents and those working with them. This is a deeply personal but also matter-of-fact account; all the chapters are written in a thoughtful and positive manner and in a way that could empower others.

Emily tells us in the first page of Girl Unmasked that she loves books, and how writing has been a coping mechanism for her. The fact that she has clearly read so many books in her life so far is reinforced by the standard of her own writing, which is not only honest and open but also descriptive and engaging, as the excerpt below shows:

Emily references and quotes many other books and articles throughout, in a way that doesn't interrupt the flow of her own writing but gives us the chance to learn more through notes and credits at the end. I highly recommend this page on the Authentically Emily website where Emily has created a variety of infographics about different conditions.

Girl Unmasked is a great insight into autism for anyone who is ready and willing to learn more and I highly recommend it. Particularly helpful for mainstream education staff and healthcare professionals, especially those who work in mental health support. It could also be extremely helpful and reaffirming for any autistic individuals who feel they are growing up 'unseen' and misunderstood, and for those for whom that stage has passed but who might find comfort now in realising they were not alone.

Girl Unmasked, out now, available from all good bookstores, and from Amazon here: Girl Unmasked

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