I bought Working the Double Shift on Kobo about a month ago, but didn’t read much of it because I hadn’t installed Adobe Digital Editions on my new computer so had to get out my old one to read. A few days ago, I decided to see if the Digital Editions file was small enough that I could download it on my mobile Internet connection, and it was. I finished the book within a few days and have been fascinated by it.
Working the Double Shift is a raw honest autobiography from a young woman with autism. Feeling that the current books on autism were not a fit for her, Christine decided to write a memoir covering different topics as well as the emotional process of a person with autism. The book covers her journey from birth to college and how she learned to find her voice and path in life as well as interventions and approaches that worked for her. This memoir also brings awareness to different social issues regarding autism and adulthood.
I’ve read a few books by adults with autism spectrum disorders, but all were diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at an age I haven’t even reached yet. Christine Motokane was diagnosed with classic autism at age four. This does provide a different perspective, as she got intervention early on and didn’t have to go through life undiagnosed and unsupported. In this sense, I can to some extent relate, as I too got supports early on, albeit for my blindness.
Motokane describes her school life really well. She describes her difficulty with transitions from elementary school up until college. She also describes her anxiety about even the utterance of the word “independence”. When speaking at a conference as a young adult, Motokane meets a professional who speaks about interdependence being more important than independence. This resonates with her and it does with me, too.
Motokane’s anxiety about independence is shown through a variety of behaviors, such as her difficulty handling menstruation and her “immature” interests. I can relate to these. I find that finally this book clarifies that anxiety about independence is not necessarily about low self-esteem, but can also be related to fear of transitions.
Throughout the book, Motokane talks about her sometimes unhealthy attachments to and relationships with various support people in her life, and her issues with making friends particularly in middle and high school. Her high school is public, but like mine, it was populated by upper-class kids. In addition, Motokane faces the challenge of being one of only a few Asian-Americans in a predominately White school. Then again, her race doesn’t seem to play an important role in her experience of exclusion, since she mentions it in passing. Fortunately, by early adulthood, Motokane discovers a group of people she does fit in with.
A really important skill Motokane describes learning is self-advocacy. In childhood and most of adolescence, she simply goes with the goals set forth by her parents and support team, although she does show some resistance (for example, by vandalizing the communication diary between her aide and her parents). This is often seen as a “behavior”. As she grows up, however, she learns to stand up for what she believes in. Despite her mostly positive experience with behavioral intervention and her mother’s involvement in a pro-cure organization, Motokane is adamant that autistic people should not be “normalized”. She also feels that autistics should be able to find their own voice (and I assume she means this somewhat figuratively, also including non-verbal autistics). This is the main reason Motokane has written the book.
Title: Working the Double Shift: A Young Woman’s Journey with Autism
Author: Chrisitne Motokane
Publisher: Xlibris US
Publication date: February 2014