Today I am linking up with the great bloggers who share Diverse Children’s Books. The current theme is Diverse Books Featuring a Character with a Disability. This is a subject which is close to my heart.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome and how do you explain it to young children? As a teacher and a mom to an Aspie*, these are questions that are part of my world. How do we help children with Asperger’s syndrome fit in with those who are neurotypical (not on the Autism Spectrum) as well as help others develop understanding and empathy for kids who view the world in a different way. As usual, I turn to books.
Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome
by Clarabelle van Niekerk (author and illustrator) and Liezl Venter MA CCC-SLP (author)
Skeezel Press: 2008
Picture Book ages 5-7
Sam is a boy who loves to giggle, eat pancakes that don’t touch on the plate, and play the same song on his cello over and over. He has a hard time with noises, textures, and making friends at school. After he is found wandering at night in an attempt to return to the fair, his parents take him to a doctor where he is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. This book does not treat Sam as someone who has something wrong with him but rather shows him as a child who sometimes acts in ways that are different from others. The story ends on a triumphant note when Sam successfully performs on his cello at the school’s concert.
This book shows how the doctor, parents, sister, and teachers work as a team to make sure that Sam is supported and accepted. This book is not only helpful for a child with Asperger’s but is very valuable as a classroom resource. The bright and colorful illustrations combined with the sensitive text makes this a book that children will not only enjoy but will also help them to develop empathy for others. The scene where Sam is teased by classmates annoyed with his constant humming is especially thought provoking and provides a great starting point for discussion.The book concludes with a letter to readers about differences and a list of ten tips to help students as they become friends with a classmate who is different.
I have Aspergers and Sometimes I Feel…
Alma Ben-Yaakov (Author), Yael Adler (Illustrator)
Digital Picture Book – Kindle edition ages 5-7
Tango Golf Digital, LLC 2016
Written for young children, I have Aspergers and Sometimes I Feel… describes the many feelings a child with Aspergers might have and why. The use of page turns is very effective. For instance, there is an illustration of a frowning boy with the text “I have Aspergers and sometimes I feel angry. The next full spread shows him outside a group of playing children with the text “I feel angry when I don’t know how to play with other kids.” Other emotions included are amazed, jealous, proud, worried, happy, sad, and loved. Not only does this book help children on the autism spectrum learn to identify and understand their feelings, it shows all children that they share the same emotions. This is a positive book not only because it explains a complex issue in a simple way, but the illustrations show children of all different ethnic groups. I read this book on my kindle but think it a print edition would be valuable for teachers, parents, doctors, and counselors.
Armond Goes to a Party: A book about Asperger’s and friendship
by Nancy Carlson (author and illustrator) and Armond Isaak (author)
Picture Book ages 5-9
Free Spirit Publishing 2014
Armond doesn’t want to go to Felica’s party. It might be loud, smelly, crowded, and unorganized which an environment Armond does not want to be in. But, his mother reminds him that Felicia is his best friend who understands how he feels. Armond decides to attend the party and, with the help of his mother and friend, is able to adapt and have a nice time. The exuberant illustrations are bright, fun, and filled with diverse characters. This is a great choice for children who want to understand their friends who have Aspergers as well as a guide for children who have anxieties about different and stressful situations.
Author Nancy Carlson has written about many issues facing children with humor and sensitivity. Armond Goes to a Party has the added benefit of the coauthor being a boy who happens to have Aspergers. Armond took a class from Nancy Carlson and later approached her with his ideas for a book. His perspective makes this book ring true. You can read about their collaboration here.
Do you remember the cartoon featuring Arthur the aardvark based on Marc Brown’s books? Watch this part from an episode where a new character comes to their school and the other kids don’t quite understand him.
Life has a way of sending us on unexpected journeys. I knew that our home would become more interesting when we adopted Gregory from S. Korea. It was suspected that he had mild cerebral palsy. He didn’t.
My beautiful boy
Everything just seemed more difficult for Gregory than for our other three children. Due to the political situation in Korea at the time, we were unable to bring him home until he was eighteen months old. (That’s a story for another day). Over the years we sought help. These are some of the diagnoses we received:
- Attachment Disorder
- Tourette ’s syndrome
- ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder)
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
- ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
When he was in eighth grade, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and things finally began to make sense. He was super sensitive to sounds, light, and textures. He obsessed over Thomas the Train and then safety features of cars. We listened to him talk for hours about the thickness of tires, steel, and glass. The speed of air bag deployment was a special concern. I still cringe when I think of the mistakes we made but, I know that we did the best we could with limited information.
If I say that life was chaotic, that would be an understatement. To make matters worse, we live in a rural area with limited resources. I drove all over California trying to find help. He was given medications which came with all sorts of side effects including Type 2 diabetes. School was difficult. Things were tolerable when he attended the school where I taught but in high school he was teased and bullied. I tried homeschooling which was a dismal failure. We finally went to an educational specialist who pointed us to the amazing Franklin Academy in Connecticut where Gregory finished his high school education and learned how to communicate with others and advocate for himself.
We had many difficult and dark years but now our son is an adult. He works, drives, and lives in a house with a roommate. He is very knowledgeable about Asperger’s and will share his experiences with others. In fact, he sat beside me as I wrote this post.
There is so much more information available now than when we were first dealing with Asperger’s syndrome. I just wish I knew then what I know now. My suggestion to other parents is don’t give up. Love with all your might.
All grown up!
This is an interesting perspective about how people with Asperger’s are affected by sensory issues.
Asperger/Autism Network is a great resource for parents, siblings, friends, professionals and those on the spectrum.
Do you have any Asperger’s syndrome resources to share?
*According to the Urban Dictionary, an aspie is one who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is believed to be part of the autism spectrum. Aspies, while being quite gifted verbally, have social, emotional, and sensory integration difficulties, among others. Aspie is an affectionate term, and is not meant as a put down.