I was very fortunate to have been sent a copy of Is That Clear? by the authors, Zanne Gaynor, Kathryn Alevizos and Joe Butler and I wanted to be able to write a review before their virtual book launch on 3rd November 2020 at 7.30pm - you can get tickets here.
If I'm not wrong, the above book is a brand new update to the previous book Is That Clear? Effective Communication in a Multilingual World, seen here. For the purposes of this blog post, I'm going to look at the new book which is being launched in a few days, but this does not discount the value of the previous book.
The first thing I notice about the book is that it's extremely well laid out and easy to follow. The design team have done a marvellous job and it's clear that it's been really thought out.
In her introduction, Joe Butler gives an excellent overview of why books like this are needed - and I'm hoping that by reading it, digesting it and using it, it will help me communicate better with my sister, who was diagnosed as being autistic as an adult. What strikes me in her introduction is the number of people who potentially experience autism in their daily lives - this includes people diagnosed, undiagnosed and families - 2.8 million people in the UK according to the National Autistic Society.
The book is clearly set out in different overarching chapters:
- Adapting your language
- Inclusive not exclusive
- Different ways to communicate
... and then gives ten steps allistic (non-autistic) people can take to ensure more effective communication. What the book does emphasise though, is that every autistic person is different, and what is presented in the book are possible ways to create more effective communication.
Each section in every chapter, such as Giving Instructions in adapting your language, show how language and our language choices may pose difficulties. Each section ends with very useful 'Action Items', which give the reader ideas on how to be more effective. This, I think, is one of the standouts of the book - it gives readers practical, actionable advice that can easily be tried in every day life. I did not realise many of the language points the book makes may be troublesome for people, and it's certainly opened my eyes on how I can communicate better.
The section on Different Ways to Communicate is excellent, and now I'm more understanding of why my sister hates talking on the phone. It's a revelation! Again, like previous sections, the book gives helpful tips on how anxiety on the phone can be reduced or avoided altogether. This section also deals with non-verbal communication, writing and visual aids. The book even has appendices, looking at some of the points raised in the book, with activities for the reader to complete.
Overall, I think this is a must-read, but not only a must-read, but a must-action for anyone who is involved in communicating with people. This can be in a business setting, with friends or family and at school or university. In my own field of ELT, I believe that a book like this would be essential for teachers, writers and editors to be aware of and to digest - it would help those on the spectrum feel a little bit more included if their teacher was to understand more effective ways to communicate.