Review of Dear Diana: Diana’s Guide To Independent Living
Dear Diana: Diana’s Guide To Independent Living: For Adolescents And Young Adults With Different Learning Styles And Special Needs
By Diana Bilezikian
Published by AAPC Publishing: Shawnee Mission, Kansas. 2014: 207 pp.
As if parents of special needs children didn’t have enough to keep them up at nights, concerns about their children’s futures, loom especially large. The issues these families struggle with while the children are in school –negotiating the complex dance with school systems about appropriate placements, assuaging social slights from peers, or simply figuring out what success and progress mean for their children—fade into the background when these young adults leave school to attempt independent living.
In this poignant, brave, touching and incredibly practical book, Diana Bilezikian, a graduate of Scarsdale High School and Chapel Haven, a New Haven, CT., program for independent living for young adults on the autism spectrum, as well as those with developmental and social disabilities, offers an insider’s guide to handling the challenges of daily life for those who see the world in a distinctive way.
It’s an impressive accomplishment, and an invaluable resource. Bilezikian serves as a translator for those who may not understand the often illogical and confusing ways of the world. Recognizing that many of those on the autism spectrum are quite literal, Bilezikian identifies many English idioms that simply make no sense to the population she targets—phrases like “catch a bus” or “down to the wire”—and explains what they mean.
Tasks that most 18-year-olds manage to figure out when they graduate from high school, like opening bank accounts, cleaning their own places, and understanding how to behave in a work environment, are often baffling and bewildering to young adults with developmental and social disabilities.
In this accessible how-to book, Bilezekian uses a letter/advice column format to discuss topics and provide answers to such concerns as managing money, avoiding impulse shopping, figuring out public transportation, avoiding internet scams, checking mail daily and paying bills regularly, performing job tasks, and even understanding the importance of personal hygiene and good grooming. She recognizes that many young adults with social disabilities need assistance with concepts like: respecting someone else’s personal space, asking appropriate, rather than inappropriate questions, when meeting someone new, or even knowing how to give and receive compliments. Bilezikian tackles table manners and roommate situations, too. Nor does she avoid the sensitive topic of intimate relationships with boyfriends and girlfriends, confronting questions about when to engage in sexual relationships and why using a condom for protection against sexually transmitted diseases matters.
Bilezikian has performed an important service for her community; this volume belongs in the hands of every family with special needs children, and every young adult with special needs, who is bravely venturing into the world.#