Review – I’m Not Naughty- I’m Autistic

I’m Not Naughty – I’m Autistic – Jean Shaw


A few years back, someone recommended this book to me. It was the first autism-related parent biographies that I had ever read. When I was recategorising my books on my tablet (which is a repetitive behaviour that I tend to do more than actually read when I’m under stress), I could not remember a thing about this book. So I decided to re-read it.

This book is written by Jean Shaw (Jodi’s mum) but as if it were Jodi speaking/writing. Except, Shaw makes it quite clear multiple times throughout the book that she has no idea what Jodi is actually thinking so it’s predominantly a lot of presumptions and her own words but frames as though her son was saying them? This makes it all the more difficult to read some of the things written in this book.

Autism comes in many forms, none of which are pleasant. The range spans from severely autistic through to Asperger’s down to the ‘anorak’.

Now I’m not typically the biggest fan of my own autism – it causes me a lot of problems and is generally a net negative in my life. I also worked with autistic young people whose distressed behaviour often ended up in furniture being thrown, property being destroyed, and people being seriously injured. I say this because this means that I am often not too bothered when people write about these kinds of things in relation to autism – I don’t really have a problem with some of the negatives or more difficult aspects being portrayed. So the fact that I winced reading sections of this book is a big deal.

I have tried to make the story as humorous as possible but in reality there is nothing funny about autism. It is invisible but demanding. When autism struck my beautiful little boy it ruined his life and the ripple effects spread throughout our family.

I don’t know if it’s worse because it’s written like it’s Jodi saying it? Maybe that is what makes it all the more unpleasant to read because it’s then multiple sections of Jodi “talking” about all his failings and problems and his families quest to sort them out. If a child actually spoke about themselves the way Jodi is supposedly doing so in this book, they would be an unhappy child indeed.

There’s also the usual topics emerging – the regression following the MMR, strange and dubiously backed up “treatments” for autism. Then Son-Rise makes an appearance and is (as it always is) portrayed as this wonderful accepting intervention for autistic children; the the Gluten-Free Casein-Free diet turns up and we almost complete the set, just lacking the ABA card. I suppose the biggest divergence from portrayals similar to this is that Jodi doesn’t make a miraculous recovery following one of the afore-mentioned interventions. Which I guess makes this book even more frustrating because good portrayals of young people with autism who also have learning disabilities or who need a high level of support and care are quite lacking.

When I was about six or seven years old we were on holiday in a caravan and I wanted to go swimming. Now, as you know, I love water but hate having wet clothes so didn’t want to put on my swimming trunks which were still damp from the previous session. To my parents’ amazement I simply took out Mum’s hairdryer and dried them.

There are parts of this book which get better – although there is a touch of hypocrisy to some of it when there is a section about not accessing the views of autistic children and young people and speaking over them when Shaw has written a whole book putting words into the figurative mouth of her son. When the horrible and judgmental responses of strangers are written about, there will be many autistic people and their family members who can relate, whilst the sections of this book which recount Jodi’s many amusing encounters throughout his childhood and adolescence are at times a pleasure to read – it’s just intermingled with all these other pieces that are just not pleasant to read at all.

I’m not quite sure why anyone recommended it to me now I think on it…

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