Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could purchase a full curriculum to teach us what it is like to be on the Autism spectrum, and to have reference material to help us troubleshoot those sticky, daily problems? As a mom with a twelve-year-old son (EEK! He just had a birthday and is now so proud to sit in the front seat.) who was diagnosed with Asperger’s, I would love if this were a reality. The truth is, however, one does not exist. Just like there does not seem to be a book to teach me to stop being so impatient. And yet, there are several helpful books to help ease the burden, make things a little clearer, and to provide inspiration. The following list is hardly comprehensive. In fact, it is only just the beginning. I have listed, however, the books or materials we currently possess or have used. Here I am primarily including books for younger readers. Most of these are geared toward individuals 6-16 years of age. These are the ones which have made a difference TO US. I hope you find something useful, hopeful, inspiring in at least one of these tools.
All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman – If you know a parent of a child on the spectrum, it is very likely they have a particular fondness for this book. In fact, I know many parents who have used this exact book to help guide their first conversation with their child about what it means to have Asperger’s. It was the perfect choice for us as A has always loved cats. He finally got his own two Christmases ago. And I strongly suspect that Mittens is indeed on the spectrum!
The first signs of Asperger Syndrome are usually picked up very young. An Asperger Child looks at the world in his own unique way. He likes to be near those he loves, but doesn’t want them to hold him, preferring squishy places to a hug.
Each page is sweetly accompanied by a photo of an adorable kitten. The words are poignant enough, yet stated simply to enable it to be used with a wide variety of ages. While not every statement may be true for your special one, it provides wonderful openings for constant dialogue about what makes us all unique. You may also be interested in the author’s title All Dogs Have ADHD.
Different Like Me: My book of autism heroes by Jennifer Elder, illustrated by Marc Thomas and Jennifer Elder – A loves biographies, so this seemed a natural choice for him. I do not remember how I first discovered this title, but it has been interesting beyond the topic of autism. It is comprised of twenty one-page biographies of famous people who have excelled in various fields, such as science, mathematics, music, art and computers. Some of the choices are speculative as they predate the 1940s knowledge of autism and Asperger’s. For example, Isaac Newton and Lewis Carroll share space with Andy Warhol and Dian Fosey. Autism spectrum disorders are not mentioned, perse, within the bios, but they do provide an understanding of their unique challenges and victories. A good read for 8-12 years old.
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery- Full of personal photos of unarguably the best-known person with autism, this biography covers Temple Grandin’s early years, school and college life, as well as her current work with the cattle industry, and autism awareness. This fabulous read, probably geared for a pre-teen or teenage audience, ends with the appendix “Temple’s Advice for Kids on the Spectrum.”
There is a tremendous wealth of insight through any of her books.
Can I Tell You About Asperger Sydrome? by Jude Welton, illustrated by Jane Telford – This brief book was specifically written to help other children grow in their understanding of what it means for their friend to have Asperger’s. Each section is introduced as a running dialogue between “Adam” and a friend. It covers topics like sensory issues, confusion over social cues, and problems dealing with change.
The Social Express by The Language Express,Inc. Initially intended as a curriculum for classroom or home usage, The Social Express is now available as a convenient app for your 7-15 year old. Join Zack, Emma and her dog Sunny as they navigate their way through town, across friendships and social situations. This social skills learning program introduces “hidden social keys” like body language and emotional vocabulary. Emma and Zack frequently consult their DPS (digital problem solver) to decide how to respond in difficult social situations. In this way, your child is constantly interacting with the characters, helping them to make good choices. While this program is already fairly basic for A, he still occasionally enjoys revisiting it. They are always good reminders.
THE BIBLE– Ok, of course the Holy Writ does not specifically mention any type of Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, there are so many verses on love and tolerance within its pages, that I think it should apply, whether talking about someone on the spectrum learning the world about them, or the “neuro-typical” in understanding and appreciating the spectrummy brain. Just listen:
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.