Tag Archives: autism

Recommendations for Autism Acceptance Month

8 Apr

It is admittedly difficult all the time to be an openly autistic woman in this society. I’ve now lived that life for nearly 31 years, being “out” as autistic for 11 of them. I was diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 20 and decided to be forthright with people about it in the hopes that it would help them understand me better. It ended up leading me down a different path than I expected – I became a self-advocate, and I’ve now spoken at conferences regarding libraries and autism. If you’d told the scared 20-year-old that she’d someday do public speaking about her newly-diagnosed brain, how it works, and how best to accommodate it, she wouldn’t have believed you. That’s how it turned out for me, however, and it all started because I decided to begin writing a blog about being autistic and began finding other openly autistic people.

The hardest time to be autistic is the month of April. April has been declared Autism Awareness Month, but autistic people prefer the term Autistic Acceptance Month. This is because “awareness”can portray us as tragedies or burdens rather than people with different support needs living in a society not designed for us. April is therefore a very stressful month for us as we have to listen to people trying to “cure” something that can’t be cured and refusing to accept our differences as a natural part of the human condition.

To help combat those views, as they are prejudices many hold unknowingly due to how autism has traditionally been portrayed, I’ve decided to compile a list of books written by autistic authors about the autistic experience – and one book written by a non-autistic author who nevertheless has compiled an excellent history of our struggle for societal acceptance.

Look Me In The Eye
by John Elder Robison
Look me in the Eye
Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison is probably the best-known memoir by an autistic person. Robison is a public speaker now (I’ve had the honor of seeing him in person – we were on the same bill at a conference!). It’s a good starting point if you’re interested in seeking out autistic voices. Robison went undiagnosed for a large portion of his life, as many of us did (especially older autistic people), and he was finally diagnosed at age 40. Autism aside, his life is just plain interesting to read about because he’s had some really cool jobs, so I double recommend this one!

Pretending To Be Normal
by Liane Holliday Willey
Pretending to be Normal
Pretending To Be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey is another perspective on growing up undiagnosed until adulthood. The title has always resonated with me, because I’ve spent large portions of my life pretending to be “normal” just to protect myself from other people and their judgment, which is often harsh. It’s often especially difficult for women to get a diagnosis because autism is still frequently perceived as a “boy’s club” – indeed, I was a fairly obvious case in retrospect but wasn’t diagnosed until age 20. It’s especially common for autistic women to figure it out themselves before seeking or receiving a formal diagnosis because of this gender bias.

Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic
by Michael McCreary
Funny You Don't Look Autistic
Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic by Michael McCreary definitely has my favorite title on the list because, well, we’re told that all the time. People seem to think autism has a “look” somehow. It doesn’t. I often wonder if this is because Down Syndrome and certain other conditions have a chromosomal element that alters physical appearance so the public assumes autism must have one too. McCreary is living my dream and is doing comedy, which is what I’d hopefully be doing if I wasn’t an archivist instead. This book is also well suited for YA readers, so if you’ve got some teens looking for forthright information on autism this is a great book to pick up!  Currently it is part of Overdrive’s Big Library Read which connects readers around the world with the same book at the same time without any waitlists or holds; this title will be part of the Big Read till April 13.

Neurotribes
by Steve Silberman
Neurotribes
Neurotribes by Steve Silberman was not written by an autistic person. Silberman isn’t one of us. However, he’s one of the best allies we’ve got, and Neurotribes is actually a comprehensive history of autism in society. Silberman certainly understands cultural stigmatization – he’s a Jewish gay man – and he brings that nuance to what is a wonderfully crafted history. I’m very proud to count him as an ally in the fight for autistic rights and acceptance.

We hope these books will help our non-autistic readers on their way to being a better ally to the autistic people in your life – and trust me, the odds are good you know at least one of us, even if you don’t know it yet!  If you are autistic and have a favorite book to recommend, please share it in our comments.

Thanks for all your support, and stay safe during this time, everyone!

Written by:
Steph Diorio
History Librarian

Besides being the local history librarian, Steph Diorio is an autistic self-advocate. She has, spoken at Targeting Autism, a conference regarding autism and libraries, twice. She is also the founder of the Autistic Gaming Initiative, a team of autistic gamers who livestream once a month to support the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network.

 

On the Spectrum

30 Jul

What do composer Wolfgang Mozart, actress Daryl Hannah, comedian Dan Aykroyd, director Tim Burton, artist Andy Warhol, and animal scientist Temple Grandin all have in common?  All of these creative and famous people have been identified as being on the autism spectrum.   In the United States, 1 in 68 children are identified as having autism.  The disorder is 4 to 5 times more common in boys than in girls.

As with any disability, a child with autism is not an island unto themselves.  Parents, siblings, and extended family members are all involved when a diagnosis of autism is given.  It is for this reason that the majority of children’s books about people with autism are aimed at family members, especially siblings.  Any sibling of a child with disabilities has different expectations placed upon them.  They are asked to be patient, mature beyond their years, and understanding, not just of their sibling’s limitations, but also of the extra attention that a sibling with special needs demands.  It’s a significant burden for any child and any family.  The following books are aimed at helping family members deal with the needs of a family member with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder):

Ian’s Walk: A Story About Autism, by Laurie Lears.

ians-walk

Although having a brother like Ian is challenging to his sister, she loves him and is very concerned when Ian gets lost in the park.  (Picture book)

My Brother Charlie: A Sister’s Story of Autism, by Holly Robinson Peete.

my-brother-charlie

Author Peete is an actress and television personality who has also become a strong advocate for autism awareness.  This book, co-written with her daughter whose twin has autism, describes what it’s like to love a brother who can’t always verbalize that he loves her back.  The book describes Charlie’s strengths and the barriers he faces, every day, and how his sister tries hard to help him. (Picture book)

Owen Has Burgers and Drum: Helping to Understand and Befriend Kids with Asperger’s Syndrome, by Christine M. Sheils.

owen-has-burgers-drum

Calvin has a new classmate.  His name is Owen and Calvin overhears his teacher say that Owen has something called “burgers and drum.”  Calvin is puzzled because he doesn’t see a drum or a burger in Owen’s backpack.  Owen acts differently than Calvin’s other friends and, while Calvin wants to be friends, Owen’s peculiar behavior makes it difficult.  Then, in an emergency situation, Owen’s ability to focus on rules makes him a hero and Calvin better understands what makes his friend special. (Ages 4 to 7)

Russell’s World: A Story for Kids About Autism, by Charles Amenta.

russells-world

This book was first published in 1992.  It has been updated to show how Russell has grown and changed.  The book is illustrated with photos, collage, and appropriately child-like artwork.  The author describes some of the behaviors associated with autism, however he relates it to Russell rather than making broad generalizations.  Back matter offers help to parents as to where to find services that can benefit a child on the autism spectrum.   (Ages 5 and above)

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and Their Parents), by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve.

survival-guide-kids-autism-spectrum-disorders

Two mothers of children with ASD combine their knowledge on how to deal with family situations when a sibling has autism.  The book is colorful, engaging, and represents a range of ethnicities supporting the fact that autism occurs across the spectrum.  The book is actually meant to be used by a parent to share with a child, and is helpful in showing the child how to accept themselves and help families explain the disorder to other people.  The authors skillfully weave biographical entries about different children with different degrees of autism to show how the disorder presents in different cases.  (Ages 8 to 13)

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, by Sy Montgomery.

temple-grandin

Grandin, for many, has become the face of autism and how high-functioning people with autism can become successful. Grandin worked within the barriers of her disorder and used her uncanny focus and ability to identify with cows to make major changes in the way penned animals were handled more humanely.  Grandin also managed to overcome gender barriers to become a professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University.  A remarkable life and career, and an outstanding biography for children. (Ages 9 to 12)

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome, by Clarabelle Van Niekirk and Liezl Venter.

understanding-sam

Sam is a giggling, happy boy who can’t deal well with change, is afraid of loud noises, and has trouble making friends.  When he is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, his parents assemble a team of teachers and therapists to help Sam make progress and discover his musical talent, as well.  Bright pictures and helpful tips for kids who have a friend with Asperger’s Syndrome.  (Ages 5 to 7)

Waiting for Benjamin: A Story About Autism, by Alexandra Jessup Altman.

waiting-for-benjamin

Alexander, a young boy, talks about his two-year-old brother’s diagnosis of ASD.  At first, he is embarrassed by his sibling, and jealous of the extra attention that he gets from two itinerant teachers who visit to help Benjamin learn.  But as his brother acquires language skills and is better able to play with him, Alexander becomes more accepting of his brother’s disability.  (Ages 7 to 9)

These books are all available from The Hoboken Public Library.  The staff will be happy to help you locate these and other titles through the BCCLS Library system.

-Written by Lois Rubin Gross, Senior Children’s Librarian

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