A little girl, a free spirit, loved to spend hours absorbed in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. She saw herself as a caterpillar, “set free upon endless green, nibbling at the gifts before her.” That is, “until the rain came.” Caterpillar became Butterfly, lovely and able to reach great heights. However, as she did so, her world became both smaller and larger. Everything was unfamiliar and ever-changing. With all that was good, also came evils Caterpillar had never known. Yet she was able to see “Caterpillar Land,” and realized that “butterflies don’t have to let go of the caterpillar to fly.”
In the same manner, Samantha Craft goes between adulthood and childhood, relating each one to the other. The challenges of Butterfly are those of an autistic woman on the higher end of the spectrum – Asperger’s. Craft offers 150 vignettes of “everyday Asperger’s,” providing an insight into living with – and ultimately accepting – the condition. Though most of the time, Craft speaks as Butterfly, in some of the pieces, she ventures into memories of her childhood and teen years, when she was Caterpillar. These vignettes are not in chronological order. I fact, at times they seem random, a reflection of the thought process of someone with ADHD, a condition that often accompanies autism. Yet, everything is held together by the book’s theme of describing life with “Everyday Apserger’s.”
Early on, Craft refers to herself as “an autistic woman” and “an Aspie,” not “a woman with autism” or “a woman with Asperger’s.” These conditions are not something she has; they are who she is. This is the essence of the neurodiversity movement, as described by Craft’s colleague, Steve Silberman, in his groundbreaking book, NeuroTribes.
Craft writes with a spirit of humor and warmth, both of which are present even in her darkest moments. Craft earned respect and gained a following with her essay, “Ten Traits (Females with Aspergers,” which is included here. Since then, more and more women (and men) with Aspergers have recognized themselves, identifying with Crafts adventures and misadventures, and Everyday Aspergers is the product of ten years of such essays. “This journey is all about my identity,” says Craft. “I’m trying to figure out how Asperger’s defines who I am as an individual.” This early essay sets the tone for such questions as what role she would like to play, as an alien dropped down from “Planet Aspie” to a world in which they are wired differently. Or is she different? Most likely, in keeping with the theme of neurodiversity, we are all different. That said, Craft still acknowledges the importance of people with Asperger’s in recognizing when they commit social faux pas and how to best adapt to society at large and find peace within themselves.