Book by: Haley Moss
Review by: Jean C. Fulton
Department of Academic Advising
Haley Moss is a trailblazer. A talented artist, college student with High Functioning Autism (HFA), and nationally known autism advocate, she is also the author of two books. In this latest, Haley explains that she’s just finished her first year at the University of Florida “after a lot of hard work, stress, anxiety, and some fun and excitement too” (pp.17-18) and wants to share her experiences. Although she says she did her best to prepare, reading in depth about going to college and talking with older students who were on the autism spectrum, she still did not feel adequately informed. So she went through her first year like a secret agent, and this is her report back – to help others get ready for college and whatever lies ahead. Chatty and informal, Haley addresses the reader as “you” throughout and hopes that by the end of their journey, she and her fellow students (or students-to-be) will have become friends. It’s no surprise that she has developed quite a following.
Intertwining personal experience and practical advice, Haley illuminates aspects of college large and small – from finding the best seat in class and buying textbooks to knowing what to expect from professors, the importance of maintaining a positive online presence, and how to handle stress. For readers who don’t have or want friends, she offers the best advice she says she received: “be your own best friend” (p. 146). Haley does not assume much background of her readers and often goes into considerable detail. At times, depending perhaps upon the subject under discussion, this may be distracting to some. But more often than not, it’s likely to be useful to many. As an example of the latter, Haley knows the uncertainties that job interviews bring, especially for people with autism, and she counters by investigating the fine points of five distinct types (including Skype), explaining for each what it entails, how to prepare, and how to dress. In the especially thought-provoking last chapter, her parents weigh in, and Haley asserts, among other things, that “it is up to you to give them less of a reason to hover around like helicopters” (p.151).
Although Haley directly addresses advising only briefly, she none-the-less offers advisors a perceptive and candid glimpse behind the scenes, an expanded sense of what students may be thinking, feeling, dealing with. This reviewer, an advisor at a college whose programs are designed for those with learning differences, meets weekly, one-to-one, with advisees on the autism spectrum. Each student is decidedly different. Yet, interaction with one sometimes informs work with another and always provides food for thought. Reading Haley’s take on college is likely to similarly expand the field of possibilities for academic advisors. Recommended to those who have experience working with students on the spectrum as well as those starting out, this book makes a noteworthy contribution towards increasing understanding of students with HFA in higher education. It’s also likely to help students in its intended audience recognize that they are not so alone.
A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About.
(2014). Book by Haley Moss. Review by Jean C. Fulton. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 160 pp., $19.95. ISBN 978-1-84905-984-8.