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Book Review: All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome

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Book Review: All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome Cover image courtesy of Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The Bottom Line

By Kathy Hoopmann; 65 pages. From the book jacket: "Touching, humorous and insightful, this book evokes the joys and challenges of raising a child who is different. It leaves the reader with a sense of the dignity, individuality and potential of people with Asperger Syndrome."

This looks like one of those cute gift books, but it's got a serious purpose: to provide a description of Asperger syndrome behaviors in the context of a creature for whom independence and aloofness is a point of pride. It's a clever, charming package.

About the Guide Rating

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Pros

  • Excellent idea for explaining Asperger's to children
  • Also useful for explaining it to relatives who won't sift through piles of technical material
  • Cat photos are pretty darn adorable
  • Puts a positive spin on AS behaviors
  • Clearly a labor of love, for both children with AS and their feline friends

Cons

  • By necessity, this is a simple gloss on AS
  • You have to have a certain appreciation for whimsy
  • Could well have been shorter without compromising its goals
  • Photos that require caption in addition to text less effective than ones that speak for themselves
  • Dog lovers will growl!

Description

  • Page 1: "The first signs of Asperger Syndrome are usually picked up very young." (Photo of tiny sleeping kitten)
  • Page 2: "An Asperger child looks at the world in his own unique way." (Photo of kitten with paws framing eyes)
  • Page 3: "He likes to be near those he loves, but doesn't want them to hold him," (Photo of cat with serious expression)
  • Page 4: "preferring squishy places to a hug." (Photo of kitten wrapped in blanket)
  • Page 5: "Instead of coming to people for comfort, he may be overly attached to a toy ..." (Photo of kitten with stuffed dog)
  • Page 6: "... or a pet." (Photo of cat with frog in jar)
  • Page 7: "It's possible he is extra adventurous with no sense of danger" (Photo of cat on roof)
  • Page 8: "and he uses up some of his nine lives all too quickly." (Photo of cat on fence above "Beware of the Dog" sign)
  • Page 9: "An Asperger child often has exceptionally good hearing, and loud sounds and sudden movements may scare him."
  • Page 9 (cont'd): (Photo of cat with back arched and hair standing on end)

    Text and photos continue through Page 65.

Guide Review - Book Review: All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome

It's a great analogy, when you think about it. Unlike dogs, who thrive on attention and love and pursue it with big brown eye contact, cats are noted and even revered for taking and giving affection purely on their own terms. We expect felines to be a little prickly, a little quirky; it's in their nature to look at humans with a skeptical eye and an air of "What are you on about?" Children with Asperger syndrome may not be as fuzzy and cuddly as the kitties in the photos that fill this book, but it's easy and somewhat enlightening to think of their puzzlement at silly human social customs and cautions as being calculatedly catlike.

Each glossy page of this slender, square book has a color photo of a cat or kitten in an appropriate pose, with a short bit of text describing an Asperger's relative behavior and sometimes a caption written on the photo to explain the critter's state of mind. The language is simple and written in large letters, making this a nice choice for explaining AS to young siblings or classmates. It may also be a good little volume to pass on to older relatives who don't quite know how to handle your child's quirks, and aren't quite willing or able to read those reams of reports and research you've been passing their way. It gets some serious business done in a non-threatening, unchallenging way. If the reader in question loves cats, all the better, because there are some real cuties in here.

Books like this are necessarily simplistic, and some readers may be discomfited by the combination of cutesiness and a serious subject. But sometimes simplicity is a virtue, and a kindly package like this one can be invaluable in providing enlightenment to others and empowerment to your child. It makes you wonder what other diagnoses could be matched up this way. I've met some dogs with ADHD, to be sure.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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