One of the ways I have found support throughout my journey is through books. I have always loved reading. Reading is an escape and can literally make you feel like you are in another place.
For awhile, I did not read books about autism. I really, really didn't want my whole life to be about autism.
I wanted to keep books simple and easy.
I wanted them to be my escape to a story of a 25-year old New York socialite who falls in love with the waiter at her favorite coffee shop when she is engaged to marry a Wall-Street mega-millionaire.
Books became the opposite of my reality. Until one day I came across a book that changed this for me entirely.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
My son was diagnosed at 2 years old. He could not talk. He could not tell me how he was feeling. He could not explain to me why he did certain things the way he did them. Sometimes he still can't-BUT, this book made me realize that I was taking everyone else's viewpoint into consideration on how to begin tackling this journey-everyone but his. This book helped me flip the script on my viewpoint. It helped me to begin to see things from that little 2 year old's eyes. I no longer avoided reading about autism.
I dove in.
I will say that I focused really hard on only finding books that presented autism in a positive way. I know this life is not all rainbows and butterflies and that is not what I am saying I needed these books to portray, but I really avoided books that presented autism as a problem or a burden.
I have compiled a list of phenomenal books for you to check out(pun intended). These books are for different audiences and have different viewpoints. Some are written by clinicians, some are written by parents, and some are written by autistic individuals themselves. They can be used as mechanism for support, education, inclusivity training, and taking you to a different place-just like that simple, silly book about the 20 year old socialite. They can help take you to a place where you begin to see the beauty of autism and individual differences. I have included a link to purchase these books, but I also want to suggest to always check your local library. I have found many of them there-free of charge and full of hope!
For Parents. Family, Community Members
Author: Ellen Notbohm
Overview: "A child’s voice leads into each chapter, offering a one-of-a-kind exploration into how ten core characteristics of autism affect our children’s perceptions and reactions to the surrounding physical, sensory and social environments. Every parent, teacher, social worker, therapist, and physician should have this succinct and informative book in their back pocket. Framed with both humor and compassion, the book lists the top ten characteristics that help illuminate—not define—children with autism."
Author: Barry M. Prizant
Overview "A groundbreaking book on autism, by one of the world's leading experts, who portrays autism as a unique way of being human. Autism therapy typically focuses on ridding individuals of "autistic" symptoms such as difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant offers a new and compelling paradigm: the most successful approaches to autism don't aim at fixing a person by eliminating symptoms, but rather seeking to understand the individual's experience and what underlies the behavior. "A must-read for anyone touched by autism... It conveys a deep respect for people with autism and their own unique qualities. Filled with humanity and wisdom, Uniquely Human "should reassure parents and caregivers of kids with autism and any other disability that their kids are not broken, but, indeed, special."
Title: Forever Boy
Author: Kate Swenson
Overview: "When Kate Swenson’s son Cooper was diagnosed with severe, nonverbal autism, her world stopped. She had always dreamed of having the perfect family life. She hadn’t signed up for life as a mother raising a child with a disability. At first, Kate experienced the grief of broken dreams. Then she felt the frustration and exhaustion of having to fight for your child in a world that is stacked against them. But through hard work, resilience and personal growth, she would come to learn that Cooper wasn’t the one who needed to change. She was. And it was this transformation that led Kate to acceptance—and ultimately joy. In Forever Boy, Kate shares her inspiring journey with honesty and compassion, offering solace and hope to others on this path and illuminating the strength and perseverance of mothers."
For Classmates, Younger Siblings, and Little Friends
Author: Sonia Sotomayor
Overview: "Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful. Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges - and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages listeners to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we're not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask."
Author: Kate Gaynot
Overview: "This is a special education children's picture books that introduces autism. When an autistic child joins a mainstream school, many children can find it difficult to understand and cope with a student that is somewhat ‘different’ to them. This story encourages other children to be mindful and patient of the differences that exist and to also appreciate the positive contribution that an autistic child can make to the group."
Title: My Brother Charlie
Author: Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Overview: "Charlie has autism. His brain works in a special way. It's harder for him to make friends. Or show his true feelings. Or stay safe." But as his big sister tells us, for everything that Charlie can't do well, there are plenty more things that he's good at. He knows the names of all the American presidents. He knows stuff about airplanes. And he can even play the piano better than anyone he knows. Actress and national autism spokesperson Holly Robinson Peete collaborates with her daughter on this book based on Holly's 10-year-old son, who has autism."
Author: Julia Cook
Overview: "This heartwarming story features Zak, a young boy living with autism who wants you to understand how he experiences the sights and sounds of the world around him. Zak knows he’s not quite like his siblings and classmates. Bright lights and big crowds send him into freak-out mode. Hugs make him uncomfortable too. His atypical behaviors, from flapping his arms to
spinning his body, seem so out of place. But for Zak, that’s just how he copes. Despite some uncommon behaviors, Zak’s desires and disappointments are as ordinary as any child’s. As Zak describes his point of view, young readers gain a better understanding of his behaviors as he teaches them important lessons about fairness, patience, curiosity, and independence. Uniquely Wired is written for K-6 students and all those who live, work, and play with children on the autism spectrum or those who have other special needs. Tips for parents, counselors and educators are included at the end of the book to help all children understand the unique gifts kids with autism have."
Books written by Autistic Authors
Author: Naoki Higashida
Overview: "You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within."
Author: Kerry Magro
Overview: "What happens to autistic children when they become autistic adults? While the popular image of autism is with children, Autistics on Autism, a tell-all compiled of 100 adult autistic voices, will help you understand autism from the point of view of the next generation of leaders within our autism community. Autistics on Autism will share with you topics about autism: receiving the diagnosis, early intervention, overcoming obstacles, disclosure, acceptance, and what helped them succeed both in K-12 and college with a learning disability."
Author: Temple Grandin
Overview: "Here, in Temple Grandin's own words, is the story what it is like to live with autism. Temple is among the few people who have broken through many of the neurological
impairments associated with autism. Throughout her life, she has developed unique coping strategies, including her famous "squeeze machine," modeled after seeing the calming effect squeeze chutes have on cattle. She describes her pain and isolation growing up "different" and her discovery of visual symbols to interpret the "ways of the natives" "Thinking in Pictures also gives information from the frontlines of autism, including treatment, medication, and diagnosis, as well as Temple's insight into genius, savants, sensory phenomena, etc. Ultimately, it is Temple's unique ability to describe the way her visual mind works and how she first made the connection between her impairment and animal temperament that is the basis of her extraordinary gift and phenomenal success.
All my love and support, Anna