Liane Holliday Willey is an accomplished woman by any standards. She holds a doctorate in education, specializing in the fields of psycholinguistics and learning style differences. She’s an avid horsewoman and owns an equine boarding facility. She’s a married mother of three. She also has Asperger’s Syndrome.
In the last 12 years she’s written several widely acclaimed self-help books for those with the syndrome as well as their families. She is the Senior Editor of Autism Spectrum Quarterly and a popular keynote speaker. Her books offer more than hope to the Asperger community. They offer insight, practical skills, and a variety of applicable suggestions for managing everyday life.
Her first book, Pretending to Be Normal: Living With Asperger’s Syndrome, describes growing up undiagnosed. As a child she struggled with extreme aversion when people came too close, and had great difficulty tolerating noise, unfamiliar places, and disruption in routines. She thought obsessive-compulsive disorder, literal thinking, math dyslexia, and sensory integration disorder were part of her “personality.” Her problems became more obvious when she left home for college. But it wasn’t until one of her children was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome that Willey recognized her own issues with “social action impairments, narrow interests, an insistence on repetitive routines, speech and language peculiarities, non-verbal communication problems, and motor clumsiness.” Pretending to Be Normal reads like an information-filled memoir, but the real strength of the book can be found in the appendices. There Aspies will find concrete suggestions for dealing with employment issues, sensory perceptions problems, and making conversation. Neurotypicals will find useful points for understanding those on the spectrum.
Willey’s second book, Asperger Syndrome in the Family: Redefining Normal, is an honest and touching account of her family life as it wraps around her daughter’s and her own Asperger’s Syndrome. Like her first book, this is filled with information that can be illuminating as well as practical. Willey offers the following in this book:
Fast Facts For Those New To The Aspie World
*more truthful than not
*obsessive about their favorite interests
*principally unable to understand others’ point of view
Aspies tend to:
*have low self-esteem
*enjoy time spent with older and younger people more than time spent with same age peers
*interrupt people while they are in mid-sentence
*find eye contact a difficult skill to master
*have very vivid nighttime dreams
*have poor executive functioning skills
*have average to above average IQ’s
*find it difficult to do more than one task at a time
*have high pain tolerance
*be very ethical and moral
*find introspection very difficult
*be very vulnerable to stress
*vocalize their inner thoughts
*find emotions difficult to discuss or understand
*have difficulties with interpersonal relationships
*have strong verbal skills
*copy others’ behavior, words, accents, and appearance
Willey’s third book, Asperger Syndrome in Adolescence: Living With the Ups, the Downs and Things in Between, steps away from memoir-based information to offer direct self-help. This volume features a foreward by a 14-year-old who is on the autism spectrum and includes the work of a dozen expert contributors. It addresses a range of topics including friendships, disclosure, emerging sexuality, education and therapy issues, planning for the future, self-advocacy, and assuring safety.
Willey’s newest book is a handbook of downright necessary information for women with Asperger’s Syndrome. Titled Safety Skills for Asperger Women: How to Save a Perfectly Good Female Life, it offers help overcoming problems that may not seem complicated for Neurotypicals but are common pitfalls for Aspies. These include being safe and aware in a variety of situations at work and while traveling. It also provides exacting advice for coping with depression, bullying, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and much more.
The author’s approach is accepting and inspirational. She demonstrates her outlook in these affirmations from Asperger Syndrome in the Family:
Self-Affirmation Pledge for Aspies
I am not defective. I am different.
I will not sacrifice my self-worth for peer acceptance.
I am a good and interesting person.
I will take pride in myself.
I am capable of getting along with society.
I will ask for help when I need it.
I am a person who is worthy of others’ respect and acceptance.
I will find a career interest that is well suited to my abilities and interests.
I will be patient with those who need time to understand me.
I am never going to give up on myself.
I will accept myself for who I am.
Laura Grace Weldon is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending as well as Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm with her family where she's working on her new project, Subversive Cooking.com. and blogging optimistically.