April is National Autism Awareness month. Below are my thoughts on two books that supplement the understanding of autism.
I SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY: A FIRST LOOK AT AUTISM, a picture book by Pat Thomas, a psychotherapist and counselor. The author explains some of the behaviors of autistic children including their rituals, fear of loud noises or crowds, repetition of words or phrases, avoiding eye contact and insistence on routines or habits. Some children are nonverbal and some are gifted in math, music or numbers.
She explains their brains work differently which means they see or interpret situations unlike me or you which may make them scared or nervous. The book is written in language that is kid friendly and would encourage a conversation between parent and child.
I feel the best part of this book is the last page. The aim of this book is to help children who have siblings or classmates understand what the perspective is from the child with autism. The last page also includes tips to help parents and teachers foster an understanding of what autism is and to promote interactions with children who have autism.
RAIN REIGN by Ann M. Martin is a middle grade novel. Rose Howard is a 12-year-old girl with Asperger’s, high functioning autism, in 5th grade and has an aide with her during school hours. Rose loves rules, numbers, especially prime numbers, and homonyms. When someone breaks the rules, she yells out and brings it to the attention of her teacher, dad or uncle. She recites prime number or homonyms when she is frustrated or scared and finds noises and crowds stressful.
One day, her dad brings home a stray dog. It is his gift to her. She names the dog Rain because the dog was found in the rain and rain (reign) is a homonym. Rain is lost during a hurricane and Rose decides she must find her dog. With the help of her uncle, who has more patience than her dad, they set out to find Rain using Rose’s plan.
The story has an unexpected twist ending which is heartbreaking and comforting at the same time.
I like this story because the reader not only sees Rose as a classmate, a one-sided view, the reader also experiences her home situation. Rose, like many children, does not get a pass on a troubled family life and lives in a single parent home where the parent is absent most of the time. The parent drinks too much, is easily frustrated and gets angry with Rose, who has learned to hide for protection.
My hope would be children reading these books would have more understanding and empathy and be kind to all children, especially those who are different or disabled.