When the word “autism” is first used to describe one’s child, the parents might feel confused and a bit shattered. Autism can mean many things.
As someone told me, if you’ve met an autistic child, you’ve met ONE autistic child. Every one is different.” And that’s true. I had always thought that autistic people didn’t want to be touched, but my grandson can’t stop hugging. The first time he hugged his great grandfather, my dad just melted. He hugs his classmates who don’t really want to be hugged. People are on the “autistic spectrum.” They can be verbal or not. They can be brilliant or not. I could go on, but why not read about it in some of Jamestown Library’s books instead.
We’ll begin with fiction. Ginny Moon is teenager who does lots of regular teen things, but she is autistic. Some things that are sensible to most people are not sensible to her, and you can’t convince her otherwise. Ludwig Benjamin is the author of this novel for adults.
Authors write books about autism for young adults too. Things I Should Have Known by LaZebnik and On the Edge of Gone by Duyvis are two of them. The first finds the main character trying to find romance for her autistic sister. The second is futuristic, in which an autistic teen must save her mother and sister.
Even children’s authors are contributing. Mighty Jack is a weird version of Jack and the Beanstalk with Jack’s little sister being nonverbal. Janine is a picture book about a little girl with disabilities, who focuses on the positive.
At a luncheon several years ago, I sat beside a woman who has two autistic children. She seemed very happy to help me understand ways to avoid tantrums. If you would like some help understanding your child/grandchild/neighbor’s child, try reading Uniquely Human by Dr. Barry Prizant. This volume offers a different way of seeing autism, new insights, and strategies for families dealing with autism. Strategies that work!
Several books were actually written by autistic folks. I Am Intelligent was written by a mother and her autistic daughter, so it is a biography and an autobiography. The mother is obsessed with “curing” her daughter. I wonder how that worked out. The Game of My Life was written by Jason McElwain with help from Daniel Paisner. Jason tells his story of challenge, triumph, and growing up autistic. He was a school basketball manager, but the coach allowed him to play in one of the games when he surprised everybody with how well he could shoot.
“Autism Awareness Week” began April 9. Rootle the PBS kids channel aired special programs. If you want to check them out, go to pbs.org/parents/dinosaurtrain
Autism isn’t the end of the world, but it can be frustrating. Acceptance, strategies, and assertively advocating for the most help you can get from the school system are important. Knowledge is power. Read.