Reviewed by Paul Horan, Lecturer in Nursing, University of Dublin, Trinity Colleg


One of the great challenges for people with Asperger Syndrome is that of understanding the subtleties of human communication. We all take the everyday metaphors we use for granted, but these metaphors can sometimes create a great deal of trauma for people with AS, I say this from bitter and sometimes funny personal parental experience.

With their use of simple language and a range of everyday images, the author and illustrator of this book achieve a pleasant balance in trying to explain a range of metaphors such as ‘letting the cat out of the bag’, or ‘I heard it from the horse’s mouth’. Having a child with AS who has a passionate interest in horse racing, I can really relate to the complications of saying, ‘I heard it from the horse’s mouth’. My son’s response to such use of language would be saying, ‘Did Fields of Joy (horse’s name) really tell you he was going to win the race?’

Quite often metaphors create visual images that are vague and difficult to understand, which can be very stressful for the child with AS. I suppose in many ways the salutary lesson in this volume is that the use of sarcasm and vague imagery in communicating with children with AS is inappropriate. We need to say what we mean and mean what we say.

This is a useful text which may have benefits in understanding everyday metaphors, not just for people with AS but for a wider readership. The book closes with some useful hints as to how the book could be used as an aid to learning.

WHAT DID YOU SAY? WHAT DO YOU MEAN? An illustrated guide to understanding metaphors, by J. Welton. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London. ISBN 1-84310-207-2.