Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the fastest-growing diagnosed issues today. Currently about one in every 68 children have been identified as being on the spectrum. It's a widespread issue, but still one that people struggle with.
Dr. Harold Reitman wrote Aspertools: The Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger's, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Neurodiversity based on his experience as the parent of a child who wasn't diagnosed until after college. However, it's not just for parents - this book gives great tools for anyone dealing with someone on the autism spectrum, and even those who are just a little bit "different."
My favorite aspect of the book, besides its practicality, is its positive tone. Being different isn't something to be ashamed of, but rather just something that makes a person unique. It may make it harder to form relationships, but it's well worth it. Dr. Reitman's daughter weighs in as well, sharing what its like to grow up in a world that still doesn't understand autism, and how traits of ASD can actually be strengths as well.
I had a chance to interview Dr. Reitman to learn more.
What was the inspiration behind the book?
My daughter Rebecca for whom I have respect beyond fatherly love, has had 23 brain tumors, survived two major brain surgeries and must deal with epilepsy and learning disabilities. Despite all this, she earned her prestigious degree in Discrete Mathematics at Georgia Tech, and today is living her dream of tutoring students with learning disabilities in mathematics with her unique method. She is also now pursuing her Masters Degree in Applied Psychology.
While in college, she encountered numerous challenges, as well as an irrational system governing our universities despite all the great teachers and staff. Against my wishes, Rebecca chose to risk her graduation to fight the system. She so inspired me when she emerged victorious, that I wrote, produced and co-directed the fictional movie inspired by true events, “The Square Root of 2”, starring Darby Stanchfield of ABC’s hit TV show “Scandal” (14 million viewers)
Thereafter, Rebecca interned at a private school in Georgia, founded by a couple to work with and help children with learning disabilities, particularly Asperger’s. I was startled to learn from the founder, after she interviewed Rebecca, that Rebecca herself also has Asperger’s syndrome!
Amazed at my own ignorance, this clueless parent became determined to learn all about Asperger’s Syndrome. Although I am a medical doctor, I knew little or nothing about the autism spectrum and neurodiversity! As I began to intensely observe the behavior of my daughter and her students, I learned that ALL of our brains are different, we are ALL “part Aspie” and we can no longer afford to run our educational system, workplace and world as “one size fits all.”
I wanted to help not only the Aspies themselves, but all the parents, family, and friends, who love them, the teachers who teach them, the employers who employ them, and society as a whole.
That is why I then wrote the book, “Aspertools: The Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Neurodiversity” That is why it is just the first in a series of books and documentaries. The time has come to recognize the reality of neurodiversity and neuroscience in our lives. I hope to align with like minded organizations and individuals who want society to “get it”. One size does not fit all.
Why is it so important to understand Autism Spectrum Disorders?
Society needs to understand and embrace Neurodiversity for the benefit of ALL of us. Autism spectrum disorders themselves are just part of a larger spectrum. The numbers of those on the spectrum are increasing exponentially as we speak. Every individual is unique. We must harness the gifts and abilities of each, give help to those who need it to maximize their potential, give the training we need, and this will benefit ALL of society, all businesses, all schools, all individuals.
I call them Aspertools, and I think my book is full of them. Just like the Motherhood Moment, simple tools you can really use. One example is OBSERVATION. It is always amazing to me how many caring, loving parents and 3rd parties have not taken the time to clearly identify the particular hyper-interests and best communication pathways of the individual. I was a totally clueless dad who is now a bit less clueless. My daughter Rebecca tells people, “I always knew my dad loved me. But now he understands me better. And he is learning more. Sometimes, good intentions are not enough.”
Dr. Harold "Hackie” Reitman is a retired orthopedic surgeon, former professional heavyweight boxer, CEO of PCE Media LLC., philanthropist, author and movie producer. His recent release, The Square Root of 2, is a fictionalized adaption of his daughter's challenges at college. He received the Emerald Society 2000 Humanitarian of the Year Award, the Healthy Mothers-Healthy Babies 2002 Honorary 'Mr. Mom' Award and the Florida Medical Association's 2002 Harold S. Strasser, M.D. Good Samaritan Award. He is Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the American College of Surgeons, and the International College of Surgeons. Dr. Reitman resides in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and is the proud father of Rebecca - the inspiration for his book. To learn more, please visit www.aspertools.com.
Available online, at bookstores, or order directly from the publisher; www.hcibooks.com