Pretending to Be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome Review

Quite a number of years ago, I wrote a review of Liane Holliday­-Willey’s book, Pretending to
Be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome, which was published back in 1999. I am
revisiting an old friend as this book has been a mainstay for people wanting to better understand
what living with a milder form of autism is all about. After reading this book for a second time, I
was just as moved and affected by what Liane had to say as I was back then.
Liane starts out by writing about her life as a child with the whirl of sounds, sights and smells
just being too much for her and her feeling as though she was stuck on a Ferris wheel that
wouldn’t stop! This resonated so much with me as I felt that same way too; everything was
fascinating, yet too bright and too loud and too smelly. What was especially poignant was her
experience in middle school when she had difficulty keeping up with other swimmers on the
swim team. Nonetheless, her grades and her high intelligence helped her to get into college and
to earn a doctorate in education. She also met a very kind and understanding man who became
her husband; they shared a common dislike of large crowds and social gatherings and they
married and had twin daughters.
Holliday­-Willey pulls no punches about the difficulties she has experienced with sensory
processing, understanding social cues and learning how to navigate life’s complexities. A
monkey wrench fell into the works when she found out that one of her daughters was on the
autism spectrum!, Then came another revelation; she discovered ASD traits in herself and
discovered that she had ASD as well. This opened up a whole new world for her, a world of
anxiety and fear but also of wonder and discovery. She saw how being on the autism spectrum
actually enhanced some of her abilities and brought out new capabilities that she never even
dreamed of!
This book is an oldie but goodie as we see both the negative and the positive side of being on the
autism spectrum. Yet, the truths are the same and the wisdom that she imparts is timeless and
valuable ­this has to count for so much!

TITLE: Pretending to Be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome
AUTHOR: Holliday-­Willey, Liane
SUBJECT AREA: Asperger Syndrome ­Autobiography
PUBLISHER: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
NUMBER OF PAGES: 175 (Includes list of references)

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