Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed; Growing Up with Undiagnosed Autism offers exactly what the title suggests, author Jeannie Davide-Rivera’s real life experiences growing up with undiagnosed autism (specifically Asperger’s syndrome). For 38 years Rivera went through life misunderstood by others, misdiagnosed by medical professionals, and mistreated by her parents, boyfriends, doctors, and etcetera. Common consensus indicated all the trouble sparked from one source, Jeannie.
Jeannie Davide-Rivera provides ample examples demonstrating occasions where her parents credit their daughter’s quirky behaviors to simple defiance. For instance, Rivera recalls one particular Christmas dinner memory. On the way to Aunt Jenny’s house her father instructed Jeannie she will eat whatever food placed on her plate. This order aimed to preemptively counteract Rivera’s tendency to smell food before consuming.
To the neurotypical individual the father’s instructions eliminates the need to sniff the food. After all you must eat whatever placed on your plate. Whether you deem the smell appetizing or not holds no relevance. However, to Jeannie smelling the food remained a compulsive action called stimming. As the author explains in her book “Stimming can occur when the autistic child or adult is happy, sad, overstimulated, or anxious.”
She goes on to list possible stimming behaviors. “Foot flapping, pencil tapping, hair twirling, spinning round and round, smelling objects or people in some cases, and rubbing skin.” An undiagnosed aspie at the time Rivera obviously knew nothing about stimming. Thus when she sniffed her lasagna her father misunderstanding the action as defiance seems reasonable, at least initially.
Clueless for Too Long
Jeannie’s father reacted by smacking the lasagna and fork from his daughter’s hands. Rivera goes on to explain “From that night on, every time I smelled my food before eating, which was every time I ate, in front of my father he smacked the food out of my hands yelling ‘Just eat it!’… Eventually I became immune to the smacks.”
You think after a while her father might ask himself “Is Jeannie really so glutton for punishment? Maybe an underlining cause could explain her behavior.” A comparison to my life with cerebral palsy I feel places the perplexing reaction into perspective. At 13 when my posture started to worsen my parents decided to take me to the doctor, not continuously hound me “Sit up straight Zachary.”
Perhaps after the 45th smack, a revelation might occur for Jeannie’s father and by direct result an attitude change. Admittedly Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed makes evident the solution proved more difficult than just taking Jeannie to the doctors, because she did see doctors for other symptoms. Symptoms like sensitivity to light and irritableness to many fabrics. Rivera notes in the book “I wound up with several different diagnoses, which explained different symptoms, but none that explained them all.”
Successfully Creating Empathy
Reading the above section you may accurately conclude Jeannie Davide-Rivera excels at getting the reader to empathize with her. Ironic considering her book shows an autistic struggles empathizing. Yet Rivera’s ability to write in a conversational tone enables the reader to sympathize with her.
Sitting down with Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed feels like sitting in a room talking to a good friend. Quite the accomplishment given Rivera incorporates much information about unfamiliar concepts. Take for instance the following sentence “That is the way my mother described me (just a little bitch) She had no idea I was hyperlexic.”
My initial thought, “What does hyperlexic mean?” Rivera’s next sentence reads “What is hyperlexia?” Spot on, right? Such an occurrence adds to the book’s enjoyment factor.
The only flaws I noticed reading Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed involved a couple minor grammatical errors (for example “shot-guns” versus the correct “shotguns”). These errors prove minor enough and infrequent enough not to distract from the engaging read. Therefore I highly recommend Jeannie Davide-Rivera’s Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed; Growing Up with Undiagnosed Autism.
Grade: A- (Highly Recommended)
Availability: Paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Rivera’s website (autographed copies available here) www.aspiewriter.com; Audiobook courtesy Audible (an Amazon company) or iTunes; Electronically on the Kindle
*Disclaimer- Review based on the Kindle version