About the Author
Luke Jackson was only thirteen years-old when he wrote his first book, A User Guide to the GF/CF ( gluten-free, casein-free) Diet for Autism, ADHD and Asperger Syndrome. He comes from family of three sisters and three brothers – one is autistic, one has ADHD and Luke himself has Asperger Syndrome. The family lives in London, England.
Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome
Luke Jackson has the amazing ability to be himself even though all the adults around him are trying to help him turn into something he is not–a normal teenager. He embraces his Asperger Syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism) , geekiness and nerdiness and advises other teens with Asperger Syndrome to do the same. He writes with total confidence about his disorder: “Some people call Asperger Syndrome a disability. I call it a gift.” Luke’s honesty, humor and self-deprecation make his book delightful to read. He illustrated it himself with funny drawings of his life.
Telling His Struggles to Help Others with Autism
This book will no doubt help many teenagers with Asperger Syndrome and autism simply because Luke understands and “feels their pain.” For example, he writes about junior high school where “I had all sorts of problems with bullying, sound sensitivity (why on earth they have to deafen everyone with a bell, numerous times a day, I will never know), understanding what I was meant to be doing, forgetting stuff and being too slow at most things. Everything is so busy at school and everyone else, all the kids and all the teachers, seems to have a purpose and I never have quite fathomed out what that purpose is. It is like being in a game without knowing any or the rules or passwords.”
Luke is at his best when he simply writes about what it is like to feel left out and without the “rules and passwords.” He tells about his awkwardness around girls: “Whenever I am within ten meters of anyone that I fancy I feel as if I have suddenly changed from Luke Jackson, the class nerd (which I don’t think is too bad) to Luke Jackson, the class cockroach.”
He writes about being very young and wearing a balaclava (a kind of earmuffs). “I used to wear it twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The reason I liked my balaclava so much was it was more than just a comfort. It served a purpose. The first thing it did was to shield my ears from some of the noise that went on all day every day. I have very sensitive hearing.”
Luke’s chapter on the bullying he experienced for almost a year when he was a preteen is particularly heartbreaking. He describes how a band of boys tortured, teased, and sometimes cornered him like an animal to beat him up. He hid it from his mother for almost a year. When he finally told her, her confronting the bullies only escalated their violence. He ended up changing schools.
For Luke, learning that he had Asperger Syndrome gave him a wonderful sense of relief and happiness. When he accidentally discovered that he had symptoms similar to Asperger Syndrome after reading a magazine article, his mother confirmed his suspicion. “I finally knew why I felt different, why I felt as if I was a freak, why I didn’t seem to fit in. It was not my fault! At first, I wanted to run out and tell the world. I felt like charging out into the streets and shouting, ‘Look at me, I have Asperger Syndrome!”
In the book, Luke’s advice is heartfelt, but sometimes misguided. He criticizes “pushy parents” who insist that their teens with high-functioning autism socialize. He advises it is better to spend long hours alone playing video games if that is the preference. In a family of seven children, Luke has plenty of peers constantly around him. He misses the point that most children with autism need to practice socializing to build skills for their adult lives. Like every teenage boy, he does not see the purpose of homework except as torture from teachers. He seems ready to lead a worldwide movement against homework assignments.
Yet some of his advice is excellent. Going on a gluten-free, casein-free diet radically changed his life for the better. He encourages all children with high-functioning autism to try it. He also advises teens with autism to discover “the world of books.” In a chapter called “Precise parents make cheerful children,” Luke tells parents that they have to be specific in their instructions to autistic teens. If you tell us to tidy our rooms, you have to explain what “tidy” means. In addition, his advice on how to deal with girls is side-splittingly funny.
Luke Jackson wrote the book to help other teenagers with Asperger Syndrome and autism , but he truly believes the disorder is a gift. “To cure someone of Asperger Syndrome would be to take away their personality,” he says. “And to take away some really cool attributes too.” Luke’s positive attitude, humor, and warmth make this remarkable book a real delight to read. He is the best import from Britain since the Beatles.
Jackson, Luke. Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence (London: Jessica Kingsley Publications), 2002.