I wish that I had been able to read this book before I retired from work. I briefly worked with a guy who had autism. After a while his demeanour soured the relationship, and I transferred to another department. This book, Keep Clear written by Tom Cutler, states on the cover ‘My adventures with Asperger’s.’ I thought that maybe this could help explain what made my workmate how he was. I got more than I bargained for.

Tom Cutler, the author, has already written several humorous books of note, then, after experiencing a traumatic middle of the night ‘panic attack’, he sought a diagnosis as to what was happening to him.

He explains with rapt attention to detail, how he found out that he was somewhere on the accepted scale for ‘sufferers’ of Asperger’s syndrome. His sense of relief is almost tangible to the reader. Tom Cutler came to terms with it once he understood as best he could how it affects the individual. This is uniquely explained in many ways throughout, and I have to say that it is a revelation to learn how it can have devastating ripples for the person with ASD.

Inside the book, he gives a version of one of the tests, simple box ticking answers, but it is a scary lesson, if you yourself take the test. I am not going to disclose my results here, but suffice it to say, there are more people that have the symptomatic traits of Asperger’s/autism than we are led to believe.

This book is so well written. One can experience the often frustrating events that regularly befall people with Asperger’s, and how hard it can be to cope. Once identified, the individual begins to recognise similar traits in relations, parents’ behaviour formerly ignored because of familiarity, siblings, off-spring, the list goes on.

The book is in turn funny, serious, mind-boggling, confusing, educational, and at the end, one feels much more accepting of people, and that cannot be a bad thing. I still deplore arrogance and elitism, which abound in today’s society, but I now try to be more sympathetic to others, just in case they are struggling.

What was amazing was the revelation of how many people with ASD have prominence in our lives, the late M.P. ‘Tony’ Benn, or Enoch Powell, Sir Antony Hopkins the actor, even Abraham Lincoln. One almost feels that you could pick someone, discreetly analyse his or her individual day-to-day behaviour, and make a judgement. I, for one, have an apparently annoying habit of over stirring my coffee, perhaps this is symptomatic of Asperger’s? It is fascinating to read the myriad ways that we, as individuals, can be so different.

This entire book also serves as a biographical account of how Tom Cutler grew up. How his isolation and attempts to ‘fit in’ became a chore. Small talk at social events was far beyond his reach as he progressed through his life; it still is, of course. Yet, now he understands what is different about him, he is better set to cope with the fall-out or even avoidance before the inevitable faux pas are made.

This is a superb book that we should really make the time to read. I learnt a great deal from it, it explains a lot that I never understood, and I hope to be a better person as a result.

Reg Seward 5*

Keep Clear by Tom Cutler
Scribe UK 9781911617563 pbk Nov 2019