A Girl Like Tilly: Growing up with Autism ISBN: 9781785921636
Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016
Because there are fewer girls on the autistic spectrum, there are fewer book in the literature as well. This is a very good one. It takes Tilly from babyhood almost to adulthood, and on the way we see all the different problems she has, the misunderstandings, the daydreaming, the concentration on particular interests, the inability to talk appropriately to her friends, her lack of social skills, and her dependency on home and family. The book starts with Tilly as a baby. She is hard work, doesn't really like cuddles, but doesn't want to be on her own. As she gets older, she is often 'off with the fairies', making up stories and wanting to be with her imaginary friend Simon. She can remember all sorts of unusual things, but isn't good at practical things like tying her shoes or catching a ball. She talks to Gilbert her cat, who seems to understand her problems, but her friends don't want to hear about Gilbert over and over again. She won't go to birthday parties because she doesn't like wearing dresses and prefers tea at home. School becomes a nightmare as she gets older, because her reading and writing need lots of help, and schoolmates are often unkind. It is only when Tilly is a teenager that her loving grandmother realises that big help is needed, and a psychologist diagnoses autism. Her world becomes more understandable to her parents and brother as they learn more about what this means and why her needs are different from others. As she becomes a young woman, she knows that she is herself, that she is interested in all sorts of things such as history, music and computer games, and that she will get help with learning social skills and academic ones as well. In some ways a painful read as Tilly grows up with so many problems, but it is also positive and hopeful. The remarkable illustrations in pinky-beige colours on a white background, with a blue string representing Tilly's thoughts and worries are brilliant. The illustrator, Ellen Li, says that she likes to use new perspectives, and her approach is evident in this book. Excellent for parents, teachers and children alike, it will provide real understanding of why girls on the autistic spectrum are 'special' too. Available from Amazon, from good bookshops, and from the publisher: www.jkp.com.