Book Review: Smile & Succeed for Teens

Smile & Succeed

by Debra Muzikar

In the last decade the world has changed dramatically. Today’s teens unlike prior generations have grown up with iphones, ear buds, tablets, and apps. Although many teens may be digitally savvy they may lack the personal skills needed to make new friends or land a job. Smile &  Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World by Kirt Manecke  is an easy-to-read “crash course” in people skills for teens of all abilities. Since people skills is a deficit for many on the autism spectrum, it is especially relevant for autistic teens and young adults.

The book is easy-to-read and peppered with fun illustrations and quotes from teens and inspirational quotes from others. It also has tips for people communicating on the internet or via email. For example, emoticons are included and tips such as saying please, thank you and you’re welcome are just as important via texting or emails as they are when talking to a person.

With unemployment rates of autistic adults hovering around 90 percent, a book like Smile & Succeed, can be beneficial. However, some of the suggestions may prove to be difficult  for some on the autism spectrum. For example, making good eye contact while seen as important by many employers can be extremely difficult for those on the spectrum for many reasons which I have discussed before. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is a good, accessible manual for teaching the fundamentals of people skills.

A Positive Attitude can be a person’s biggest asset

The power of  smiling and attitude is emphasized throughout the book. No matter what skills a person has, a bad attitude can hinder a person’s job opportunities and potential to make friends.

Special Educators will benefit from this book

Special educators who are working with students on employment and transition skills will find this book  easy to use. It is packed with fun graphics. One of the pictures shows a person ready for work – nice clothes, shirt tucked in, current resume, hair combed, fresh breath, good posture, and of course a big smile. For those who have trouble remembering all the steps to get ready for work, copying and taping this image to the bathroom mirror may be a good reminder. In addition, the book has a list of further reading for each chapter at the back of the book, which can supplement transition curriculum.

A supplemental life-skills curriculum (which goes along with this book) created by teachers for teachers is available on the SmiletheBook website for $44.95.

Put down your Iphones

Caveat: this section does not apply to those who use Ipads or other communication devices in order to communicate.

While electronic devices, such as games and iphones, have their place in the modern world, the reliance upon these devices has created a problem with being present in real-time with families,friends,  employers, customers and  teachers. A wired tip from Smile for Success: “When a complicated or personal issue is at stake, talk to the person face-to-face or by phone rather than texting.” Texting on your iphone during work hours can create a bad impression.

The book also provides do’s and dont’s for emailing at work.  In today’s twitter society proper English may have little importance, yet in the business world writing in complete sentences, limiting the use of abbreviations, and correct spelling are important when emailing co-workers, customers, or bosses.

I recommend this book

This book review has only touched on a few of the chapters in the book. At only $9.95 Smile & Succeed for Teens is a great bargain. The book has won  Mom’s Choice Award.

I recommend it not only for teens but for adults as well.  This book is available online at

Other related book reviews:

Autism and Learning Differences: An Active Learning Teaching Toolkit


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