About the Author
Dr. Teresa Bolick is a licensed psychologist specializing in children and teenagers with autism spectrum disorders. Her other books are Adolescence: Helping Preteens and Teens Get Ready for the Real World and Asperger Syndrome and Young Children: Building Skills for the Real World.
Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence
Dr. Teresa Bolick’s book is a welcome contribution to the literature on adolescence and Asperger Syndrome. Most books about the syndrome address the problems of young children, even though adolescence is often the most challenging time for both Aspies and their parents.
Adolescence is a period in which Aspies begin to take more interest in other people. They crave social interaction, yet they feel more isolated than ever. The rapid physical growth and changes of puberty can cause mood swings. School can become more of a challenge because the student now has a variety of teachers in a larger, more complex setting. For parents of teens with Asperger Syndrome, adolescence becomes a “deadline decade” in which the pressure is on to help their child prepare for an independent life, employment and marriage.
Dr. Bolick designed this book as a guide to help parents navigate these uncharted and turbulent waters. She divides the book into ten chapters, covering topics such as self-control, learning, friendship, communication and independence. She presents each area and describes the problematic behaviors an Aspie may present in the first ten pages of each chapter. The final five pages of a chapter contain practical advice under the heading “How can we help?”
The descriptions of typical Aspie behaviors and even much of her advice will be familiar to those who have read other books about Asperger Syndrome. She cites many of the usual authorities and repeats anecdotes from famous adults with autism spectrum such as Liane Wiley and Temple Grandin. However, what really stands out in her work are the stories about real teens under her care as a clinician. The anecdotes bring the material to life and give it focus. They also reveal the author as a kind and compassionate listener who sees each person as an individual first with Asperger Syndrome as only one component of personality.
For example, readers get to meet “Ralph,” a high school junior, after his parents bring him to Dr. Bolick because he “talks funny” and upsets his classmates. It turns out that Ralph is speaking Arabic, a language he picked up when his father, an archeologist, worked in Egypt. Even his parents don’t realize that Ralph has also picked up Spanish, French and Hebrew. He mumbles in Arabic to himself when he feels angry. Before his work with Dr. Bolick, everyone considered Ralph to be an odd, unmotivated student with no real academic gifts.
There are only two drawbacks to Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence. The first is that Dr. Bolick often seems behind the times. For example, she writes that when she was a teenager in the 1950s and 1960s, “Guys called a girl a prude if she didn’t go ‘parking’ with her steady guy on Saturday night. Sometimes the steady guy threatened to break up if she didn’t at least go to ‘first base.'” Most of today’s parents were born long after the sexual revolution took place and would not relate to such statements.
The second drawback is that if parents followed her advice, it would take up almost every waking moment of their lives. She explains how to teach your teenager mathematical operations, how to take class notes, and how to help him get ready for school. She would have you practice non-verbal communication, help him when friends come over, and teach daily affirmations. Some of the advice is too obvious, such as “don’t bring weapons to school.”
Nevertheless, Dr. Bolick’s book is a useful tool for parents of teens with Asperger Syndrome. Parents could simply read through it or use it as a reference tool whenever a problem arises. Dr. Bolick shows intelligence and compassion even as she provides many useful insights.
Other Books by Dr. Teresa Bolick: