Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Asperger's Special Interest's Impact on Making and Keeping Friends

When I was younger, I didn't really "make friends". They made me. Come to think of it. Nothing has really changed. It's not that I'm an unfriendly person, it's just that I can never figure out the boundaries between friends and acquaintances. To me, people are just people and I generally respond to them how they respond to me. 

I don't think that I'd have any friends, only acquaintances, if people didn't persist in making friends with me - and  I'm very grateful for their friendship and support.

Bonding over Star Wars

When I was in primary school, I had a birthday party. My parents invited a small group of children and I remember having difficulty knowing who to invite. The list started off with the one friend that I actually had, plus any kids who had invited me to their parties at some point (bad luck if you didn't have a party).  From there, I think the group would have been all girls if my parents hadn't insisted otherwise. I was never any good at sports and I always found that girls, with their interest in just "talking" were more my style.

My Birthday Party in 1977. I'm the photogenic one with a cup on my face.

One of the presents I received at this party was a Luke Skywalker figurine.

All of the kids ooohed and ahhed over that figurine but at the time, I really had no idea what it was. I just knew from their reactions, that it was somehow special.

I took the figurine to school and one of the kids wanted to play with me. He brought his own figurines in and I started to learn the names of the characters and I eventually managed to get a couple more.

I didn't see the actual film until much later.  In fact, I know we were the last in our area to see it because they were removing the posters from the cinema when we walked out.

I think I played with this boy and his Star Wars figures at lunchtime at school for months. They were probably the happiest days of my primary school years. I continued to play with my Star Wars figures for years (and yes, I still have them but no... I no longer play with them).

After about three months of play, my new found friend suddenly started talking about trucks. I couldn't think of any trucks in Star Wars. Sure, there was that big Jawa thing but that was it. I think I mostly ignored the conversation for a couple of days and just continued playing with Star Wars figures. In the meantime, my friend stopped bringing in his Star Wars figures and started bringing trucks. I never brought any trucks in. I don't even know if I had any or not.

Eventually, the disconnect was significant enough that my new-found friend wandered off to play with other kids who liked trucks and I was left to myself again. I kept bringing my figures in for a week or two but he never came back and I couldn't be bothered getting them out to play by myself.

I really missed him when he was gone and I remember trying to work out how to get my friend to come back. Sadly he left the school forever a few months later and that was that.

Learning to Change Conversational Channels

In my later years of high school, I ended up with a small group of devoted friends, at least some of whom were on the spectrum. Being older, they were able to convey their conversational issues. For example, we'd often get told "you guys just talk about computers all the time".

I honestly didn't pick up on this. Yes, we did talk about computers most of the time but saying that was like saying "hey, the sky is blue!".  I didn't realise that some of the members of my group were trying to tell us that they wanted to talk about other things.

Eventually my mother heard someone say it and when the kids were gone, she explained what the problem was. My mother was never one to give up and she continued to explain the problem weekly for what seemed like years.

It's not a bad thing because eventually I understood -- and more importantly, I understood in time to keep my friends. 

I started to try to monitor the conversations and when I realised that we were talking about computers for too long, I'd try to switch the conversation to something that everyone could participate in. We ended up with a fairly short list of topics; movies, TV, religion, computers, school and sex but it worked and it allowed the group to function without alienating people from the conversation.

More importantly, having to converse on other subjects broadened my horizons, enabling me to learn more about new subjects, find new interests and get on with people well into adulthood.

Parenting

Fast forward to the future and now, as a parent, I'm finding myself having to explain to my kids why they need to diversify the topics that they talk about. It's funny because I'm a fairly technical person with two tech-obsessed boys and you'd think we'd all be on the same wavelength.

We're not. I work with computers all day now and the last thing I want to talk about when I get home is computers. My eldest son seems to have a special interest in mobile phone technologies and he'll go on for hours if you let him about the latest phones, their operating systems and their technical capabilities. My youngest son finds this boring. He's into computers and will talk about motherboards, and gaming and the capabilities of various graphics cards.  It's amazing to me that their topics can be so similar and yet so "boring to each other".

I'm always trying to teach them to talk TO each other, not AT each other but it's harder than you'd expect to get the point across and to change these bad habits. 

We've found that as a family, doing things together, such as vacations, outings, watching movies and telling jokes around the table increases our common ground. It means that we have things that we can talk about that we can all relate to. 

I think the way forward for my kids and their friends is to increase the number of "common ground" activities that they're involved with and build up shared memories while at the same time, constantly reminding them to switch topics regularly and share the conversation with others.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It takes two, two sides to every story (Relationships and Aspergers)

It seems strange to say it but I’d never heard of Katy Perry until she hit the headlines for dressing “inappropriately” on Sesame Street back in 2010. Even then it was at least a couple of years before I listened to her music properly. 

Apart from her music, which I now love, I’ve also got another reason to really like her as an artist. She’s always defending those who are different and in 2012, she did an awesome duet of Firework (an amazing and empowering song in its own right) with Jodi DiPiazza a young girl with autism. I tried to find this on youtube again but sadly the full version isn’t available now. 

Rest assured, it was incredibly moving.

Lyrics with Meaning

One of the great things about Katy’s songs is that a lot of them, though obviously not all, have deep meanings. I was listening to the song, “it takes two” recently and I was thinking about the message within it and how it applies a lot of common sense to couples in relationships.

I was also thinking that it’s a good way for people on the autism spectrum (or in a relationship with someone on the spectrum) to be mindful of their own faults as well as those of their partners.


You can see the music video for the song here and you can read the lyrics here.

It takes two to Tango

There’s an old saying that “it takes two to tango” and if you’re on the spectrum you could be forgiven for thinking that it refers to the need for a dance partner.  In fact, it means that in any relationship, there are two people “driving” - even if one of them is the “victim”.

It’s very important to realise that while victims in relationships feel trapped, they’re essentially perpetuating a bad situation by staying. If you can’t make it work, if you’re unwilling to seek help or if the help has not alleviated the situation, then apart from certain illegal situations, you can always escape.

If you’re being physically harmed, then it’s particularly important to get out of the relationship.

If you stay -- particularly if you stay and accept your partner’s bad behaviour, then you’re allowing it to continue.

"I’m not that Innocent"

One of the lines in the song is “I admit, half of it. I’m not that innocent”.  As people on the spectrum, it’s very important to realise that if things are going “off the rails” then at least part of the blame has to lie with us. Sometimes it’s our expectations which can be too high, sometimes it’s simply our poor choice of partner. Often though, without realising it, we’re doing a lot of harm to our own relationships.

Some of the ways in which people on the spectrum harm our own relationships include;

Focusing on our special interest to an extent that excludes our partner. 

This particularly applies when our special interests are to do with television, computers or gaming but it can also apply if we involve ourselves so deeply in a sport or a hobby that we’re never home or if we focus all of our conversations around our special interest.


It’s very important to remember that our partners won’t necessarily share our special interests, particularly not at the level of detail that we do.

We need to make time for our partners and for their interests, even if that means scheduling some regular activities.

Applying rules and restrictions to everything.

One of the hallmarks of people on the spectrum is the need for rules and procedures which don’t always make sense. Sometimes we find ourselves subconsciously putting things into order or straight lines. We may for example, find ourselves “avoiding right turns” or certain places because their ambience causes us sensory issues.

While it’s important to look after our senses, it’s also important to remember that our partners should not be subjected to all of our rules. They must be able to make choices for themselves.

Sometimes we have to try to deal with our sensory issues for our partner. 



Weddings, for example, can be sensory nightmares for us but they’re often very important occasions for our partners. We can take steps to reduce the impact that they have on us by wearing sunglasses, comfortable clothing or earplugs but continually cancelling all such events - or misbehaving at them is not healthy for the relationship.

Failing to listen

This is a particularly difficult problem for me. I’ve gotten so good at predicting the things that my wife, friends and work colleagues will say that too often I finish their sentences for them. It might feel like the right thing to do but it’s demeaning. It means I’m not listening properly. Right now, I’m working on this and I’m trying to improve my listening skills but so often I remember only after the damage has been done.

Your partner probably isn’t saying anything about this but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hurting them. Listen, breathe and emote “in their language”. 

Emoting in your partner's language is quite difficult, especially for those of us on the spectrum. We feel emotions strongly but we communicate them very differently. Unfortunately, our way of communicating emotion is often lost of neurotypicals so if they're the ones who are upset, it's best if we can try to convey our feelings in ways that they understand.

Try to cut them a little slack, listen to their ideas and praise them. Give things a try even if you think they might not work. Sometimes it’s more important to be supportive than it is to be right.

Most of all, try to resist problem solving everything. Sometimes people just want a little empathy from you.

Being aggressive

Meltdowns can be a big problem for people on the spectrum, particularly if they have specific hang-ups. In my case, I hate trying to be a handyman because my skills are so poor in this area that I always feel I do more harm than good. In the early days of my marriage, I'd get "cornered into doing jobs" that I didn't feel confident with and something would often get smashed, chipped or crushed because of my temper. My angry shouts and finger-pointing would also do a whole lot of damage to the relationship.

It’s something that I had to work very hard on to find ways to stop the meltdowns from affecting me so badly and to ensure that my partner knew how best to help me.  I also needed to learn how to say "No" when I didn't feel confident. 


"I point my finger but it does me no good"

Of course, the whole point of “it takes two” is that you can only be responsible for your half of the relationship. You can most certainly blame your partner for their actions but unless it leads to change, it’s pointless.

Neurotypicals in relationships with people on the spectrum can cause a lot of problems too. 

For a start, a lot of neurotypical behaviour is too “loud” for us, particularly if we’re introverted. I have a lot of problems when I go to restaurants with my wife. If the food is bad, she’ll get annoyed and let them know. For me, that destroys the mood and ruins the experience.

We’ve talked about this and she’s made a few changes. She still challenges poor service or poor meals but she’s willing to let a lot of things slide. If she does feel the need to “raise hell” then sometimes we’ll collaborate on a bad review and sometimes she’ll confront the management without making things quite so confrontational for me.

There’s a lot of other ways in which neurotypicals harm relationships. Treating their Asperger’s partners like second class citizens is one, as is telling them that they have no emotions or no empathy.

It’s surprisingly common to see neurotypicals discussing the failings of their partners online without even considering how their partners may feel when they read those posts. The same goes for mothers or fathers who discuss their children’s failings. One day they’re going to find them online -- are you sure that you’re keeping your comments respectful?

"Let me be first baby, to say I’m sorry!"

I could go on about the things that neurotypical partners do that affect our relationships but the sensitive places differ from one couple to the next. It’s far more important to learn how to say sorry … and how to actually BE sorry.

Sorry is a very powerful word in every relationship but you have to mean it otherwise it quickly loses its effect. The key to nearly every relationship problem is communication. If your partner is making you uncomfortable or is not meeting a need, then you need to discuss it openly and without blame.

Instead of trying to blame each other, try to find a solution that works for both partners. This means that you have to compromise and sometimes one partner will have to give up something they love. It's important to take turns in compromising so that one partner doesn't always have to give in.

It’s not too late to change.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Do People with Asperger’s syndrome feel pain?

In movies and television shows, characters with Asperger’s syndrome are often portrayed as feeling very little emotionally or physically. It’s also quite common people to suggest that a character who shows little emotion or sensitivity to have “Asperger’s-like” traits. 



In Star Trek, there are characters like Spock, Data, Seven Of Nine and the Doctor who, while not "Asperger's" as such are often referred to as "Asperger-like" in their behaviour.   In the big bang theory, Sheldon has the most “Asperger’s-like” qualities and of  course, there’s Doc Martin.

While for the most part, these characters aren't immune to physical pain, they're shown to have increased levels of tolerance -- and when it comes to mental pain, they're often depicted as "unaffected".

There’s clearly a perception out there that people with Asperger’s often feel “no pain” or “reduced pain” but how accurate is this?

Nobody feels “No Pain”

To be clear, nobody feels “no pain” unless they don’t have a fully functional nervous system. Some people clearly feel physical and/or emotional pain more acutely than others and some people respond more loudly to such pain.

Much like a child who reacts loudly to a needle which has yet to prick their skin, a loud response doesn't necessarily indicate actual pain. By the same token, a quieter response should not necessarily indicate less pain.

Some individuals feel certain types of pain more acutely than others, while other individuals may feel it less. It's not uncommon for a person with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), a common co-condition with Asperger's, to have both reactions to different stimulii, perhaps feeling the pain of a loud noise while not feeling the pain of a pinprick.

Unless we are the individual in question, our general comprehension of their level of pain is based purely on our perception, which in turn is based on what they say or do and our ability to read any non-verbal cues.

Of course, if you’re dealing with a person who is introverted, then all communication, including a lot of emotional communication, from that person is suppressed in comparison to an extrovert.

People with Asperger’s often don’t express emotions in the same way as neurotypicals. Sure, the "ouch" response is more or less the same but sometimes the facial expressions simply don't match the message. 

Emotional Pain

People with Asperger’s syndrome seem to suffer a great deal of emotional pain. There is evidence to suggest that the levels of depression and suicide amongst the Asperger’s community may be higher than it is in the overall neurotypical community.

People with Asperger’s often find it difficult to communicate with others under normal conditions, much less under deeply emotional ones. They often display conflicting body language and struggle to be understood. It’s also quite common for people with Asperger’s to fail to realise that the emotion is affecting them -- at least, not until it’s too late.

For this reason, it’s important to keep tabs on yourself if you have Aspergers -- or your dependents if they are the “aspies” in your life. It’s difficult but you need to talk about emotions and the best ways to express them. If a person you know has been involved in traumatic circumstances, you may want to check how they are feeling.

You’ll need to do this more than once as their feelings will change as they put distance between themselves and the circumstances. The responses won’t always improve with time.

The best way to do this is to ask very direct questions; so, instead of “How are you feeling?” try;


  • Are you feeling a little overwhelmed?
  • Do you feel like you need some help, is there something I can do?
  • What do you think would cheer you up? 


People with Asperger’s experience emotional pain just as much, often more, than neurotypical people.  It’s just not so easy to detect. 

Physical Pain

Physical pain and Asperger’s is a strange thing. It’s not that people with Asperger’s can’t feel it but rather that their preoccupation with special interests or general daily life can blind them to the sensations.

It’s quite common for a person with Asperger’s syndrome who is obsessed with the computer or computer games to sit there for days at a time oblivious to cramps, muscle pains and tendon issues. It’s also one of the reasons why they often fail to seek medical attention before problems get out of hand.



When people with Asperger’s get involved in sports or exercise, they often put so much time and effort into training that, while they become very good at it, they also find themselves increasingly being injured due to muscle overuse.

Pain is an important sensation which alerts our body that we need to take a break from a stressful activity. If you continue to push past pain or if you ignore pain, you significantly increase the risks of a worse injury. 

Give attention to Pain

People with Asperger's most certainly feel pain but for various reasons, they are less inclined to dwell on the pain or to communicate about it.  Untreated mental and physical pain can be damaging.

People with Asperger’s syndrome and those who care for people with Asperger's need to monitor their levels of pain and regularly question whether or not they are actually feeling pain in order to take better care of themselves. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Life Rules: Behavioural Phrases to Live By

Kids with Asperger's work best with rules and lists to follow. This applies in more or less every aspect of their lives. It's major part of their development and as a parent, it's up to you to help your kids to learn how to make rules and lists for themselves. 

I've spoken about lists before, particularly in an article over at Special-Ism and of course, I've talked about rules here on LWA before.

Today I want to talk about more general rules that you can use to help your kids get more out of life. 

Life Rules

To be effective, life rules need to be general. For example, "Always look both ways before you cross the street" is a great life rule, while "Remember to look both ways before you cross from the bus to school" is not. It's too specific.

Life rules also need to be concise because even with repeated drilling, your kids aren't going to remember long and convoluted rules.

Finally, life rules need to be self-explanatory -- or at best, you need to constantly go over the definitions. For example, the life rule "Don't talk to Strangers" isn't very self-explanatory and it's a problematic rule for kids with Asperger's. 

How do you determine who is a stranger?  Why is it acceptable sometimes?

I can remember experiencing a whole lot of issues with the "don't talk to strangers" rule when I was a kid. I remember trying not to talk to strangers and having them get quite frustrated with me. This was particularly problematic when an elderly person would approach me in the street for directions or help. I'd often help them out, but would do so in complete silence.

Not all Life Rules are Good

You're probably already familiar with life rules from your own upbringing but not all of these are good ... in particular, many of the rules from my childhood were poor and even sometimes downright dangerous.

It won't bite you if you don't annoy it. 

This was a terrible life rule from my childhood. We live in Australia where just about everything bites or stings you.

It certainly helps if you don't annoy animals but it doesn't guarantee safety. Over here we have sharks and stingers which few people actually try to annoy.

A good life rule should be about you and your behaviour, rather than a prediction of the behaviours of others.

It Costs Nothing to be Nice

This is my absolute favourite life-rule and it's probably the main piece of advice that I'm constantly reiterating with my kids. Essentially this rule is in place to remind my kids that being nice to people should be their "default state" even if the person they're interacting with is not nice.

Of course, there are still Grinches in the world and sometimes, though in my experience rarely, this backfires. I've found that angry people often back down if you're nice to them but some people are always angry - I'm still nice to them. It's a win-win situation.

There's nothing that riles up an angry person more than the idea that their angry attitude is having no effect. Smiling at an angry person will always affect them more than shouting back. 

Usually being nice to others will mean that they'll be nice to you in return. Sometimes you can change a person's entire day with just a few kind words particularly if a person is struggling with depression.

I've reminded my boys that people are generally more attracted to people who are smiling. Anyone thinking about a future partner is inclined to think, "he looks happy, that's what I want in my future".

It also means that occasionally shop-keepers will give you better service.

If you're not convinced that this works, try buying an ice cream whilst being angry to the server and one while you're being nice -- and compare the size of the ice creams.

I also use this rule to teach my boys how to look after other people, for example opening the disabled access for people on the bus and helping others with their shopping trolleys.  It's not about seeking reward, it's about brightening the days of others and making the world a better place to live in moment by moment.

Everybody is Different - and that's Great

This is another of my favourite life-rules. Essentially I encourage my kids to embrace individuality and diversity with open arms.

I'm not saying "and that's okay", I'm saying that it's great. 

For me, it's important that my boys don't shy away from the idea that people are different but that they also go further than simple acceptance.

I want them to think nothing of having friends who are different and openly approach a person with visible differences without fear or prejudice.

What a boring world it would be if everyone was the same. 

Everyone should be treated Equally and Fairly

This life rule goes more or less together with the "everybody is different" rule. You'll notice that I haven't said "all men are equal" because that could lead to gender misunderstandings.  I've also not said that everyone IS equal because we're talking about what should be which isn't necessarily what "is".

Finally, I've added the word "fairly" to the end because equal treatment isn't always fair treatment. For example, equal treatment would mean that a short-sighted person would get the same seat at an event as everyone else. Fair treatment would mean that they get a seat which gives them an "equal chance to see".

Smaller Everyday Rules

I could go on forever with these rules but I'm sure I've given you the general gist of the idea. I just wanted to touch on some of the smaller life rules that relate more to specific interactions.  

Don't turn up anywhere empty-handed 

This is a life rule that my wife instilled in me when we were just going out. Somehow it got missed during my transition to adulthood. Essentially it relates to visiting people, regardless of whether it's at home, in a hospital or at an outing.

If it's a planned visit, bring something; food, wine, flowers or some other small form of appreciation.

Remember that the host has usually gone to a lot of trouble to have you over and their job doesn't end when you leave, there's still the post-visit cleaning to be done. Make an effort to show them that you appreciate their "efforts".

Everyone is entitled to their Opinion and you can "Agree to Disagree"

What a wonderful place Facebook would be if only people could follow this simple rule.

Of course your opinion matters but at the end of the day, life and friendships come first. It's not necessary for you to force others to your way of thinking.  It's possible to disagree with someone and still be their friend. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree and then "drop the subject".

Of course, it's not always possible, particularly if you're disagreeing with something that restricts the freedoms of others but that's the price we pay for freedom of speech.


People with Asperger's thrive with lists and rules, so take the time to make a list of "life rules" and start instilling them while they're young. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Star Wars Identities -- and how Children with Asperger's are more than meets the Eye.


A few weeks ago, my boys and I visited a Star Wars exhibition in the millennium dome, London. It was called Star Wars Identities and it was very interactive and thought provoking -- and it made me think about Aspergers Syndrome. 

Essentially the exhibit followed the similar but wildly divergent paths taken by the characters of Luke and Anakin Skywalker while giving us "nerds" a chance to look at memorabilia. 



There were a bunch of stations, about a dozen in all, where clips from the films were used to explain internal and external influences and participants were asked to make their own choices by voting with some special wristwear.  The result was that at the end of the exhibition, you would have created your own unique “Star Wars Identity”. It was all very educational.

As usual in these situations, my mind turned to thoughts on Asperger’s and how it related to what we were being shown.

Asperger’s is only a small part of your “self”.

One of the key points of the exhibition was that there are many factors at play in the way our lives turn out.

Autism is very much a genetic factor but even “identical” twins will grow up differently depending upon other factors. The exhibition covered the following factors, not all of which apply to humanity; species, genes, parents, culture, mentors, friends, events, occupation, personality, and values.

Mentors and Friends

In the Star Wars universe, mentors such as Qui Gon Jinn, Obi Wan Kenobi, Chancellor Palpatine and Yoda all play a significant role.  This is true of people with Asperger’s too. Mentors appear at all stages of life and can be relatives, teachers, friends and work colleagues. Mentors generally step outside the boundaries of normal relationships and bring a lot of special social advice to situations. The relationship between the mentor and the “student” isn't always smooth but while disagreements may be common, mutual respect generally prevails.

Friends are also important when it comes to our kids with Aspergers. Too often, as parents, we don't even know if our children have "friends" and in fact, quite often our children don't know either. Instead of asking "who are your friends?" or "who did you play with at lunch time?", you're better off asking your children "what did you do at lunch time and who else was there?"  When the same names start cropping up over and over again, you know they're likely to be friends.

Parenting Styles

Upbringing also shapes the development of people with Asperger’s syndrome. In the Star Wars exhibition, they contrasted the parenting styles experienced by Luke and Anakin. Luke was very much “under the thumb” of his aunt and uncle and was restricted in his personal pursuits in favour of his chores, Anakin, despite being a slave, was given free reign  - even to the point of being able to choose to separate from his mother at an early age. I'm not suggesting that if you give your children freedom, they'll become "sith lords",  simply that different parenting styles have a major effect on the way your child behaves as they enter adulthood.

Values

My children go to a Catholic school but this isn't because we're huge fans of religion. It's because we feel that that the values promoted by the Catholic school systems in Australia are more consistent with the values that we, as their parents will share. I often say also that I want my kids to know how to live within (and fight from within) an oppressive system -- that's no joke.

I'm always encouraging my kids to question the values they are taught at school. A good example of this is the recent gay marriage debate in Australia -- but that's a story for another time.  

Events (and Crisis)

It wouldn't be Star Wars without a discussion of the basic crisis endured by the characters. The main point here is that we are in part shaped by the things we endure. The big things, such as sudden deaths in the family are recognised as PTSD today but the smaller crises play a part too.

I know that children on the spectrum who experience a loss of toys, for example due to theft or natural disasters, will often develop a neurosis about sharing or toy-protection.

Personality

Each of our kids is born with a different personality. I strongly believe that there is some unknown, possibly genetic, factor at work here because if there wasn't, my two boys would have more or less identical personalities. Instead they're "chalk and cheese".

Why is this Important?

I personally felt that the Star Wars identities exhibition taught my kids a lot about who they are and why they make the choices they make. It was a lot of fun, which more or less guarantees that they paid attention but at the same time, I felt that it helped them to understand that "Asperger's does not define them". Lots of different things combine to define them.

btw: both my boys choose ewoks as their species but my eldest turned to the dark side. 





Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book Review: Meet ME Where I'm At by Cindy Best and Joyce Shor Johnson

Meet ME Where I'm At 
by Cindy Best and Joyce Shor Johnson
Published by Future Horizons

Meet me where I'm at is a very unusual book. It's half picture book and half workbook and I don't mean, the first few pages are one and the rest are the other.  This book seamlessly blends both at the same time.

The general idea of this book is to get children with special needs to let others around them know exactly "where they are at".

Instead of expecting children with special needs to stretch to meet their parents, teachers and friends on levels where they can't function well, this book aims to encourage them to advocate for themselves and ask others to meet them at their own level.

It's a very interesting concept which I've seen in adult work before. This is the first time I've seen this agenda come though in a book aimed at kids - and it's a very welcome move.



The main pages in "Meet Me Where I'm At" follow a standard template of;



Just because I do (some undesirable behavior) doesn't mean that I don't do  (desired behavior) .

meet me where I'm at 

When I'm feeling (specific emotion or mood)

I sometimes need to do (specific type of response)

The book covers topics such as not meeting the teacher's gaze when they talk, hitting, not writing things down, interrupting, leaving loud classrooms, being empathetic and resisting change.

Each of these sections has areas where the child is encouraged to describe the things that work for them. It's a great self-advocacy starter. 

It concludes with a reminder that all people are different and that everyone has value.

Meet Me Where I'm At by Cindy Best and Joyce Shor Johnson is published by Future Horizons and is available in paperback from Amazon, Booktopia and GoodReads. There's also a facebook page where you can talk about the book and make suggestions for further topics.

Honesty Clause; I was provided with a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: In My World by Jillian Ma, Illustrated by Mimi Chao

In My World
Written by Jillian Ma
Illustrated by Mimi Chao
Published by Future Horizons, 2017

In my world is children's picture book that carries a very touching message for adult readers. Each page contains only a single sentence and a beautiful illustration and it's easy reading for the early readers. The words are simple and they rhyme, which makes this a perfect storybook. 

The general format of the book is that there's a little boy who keeps saying "In my world, I can ...." and following this up with claims which at first seem a little outrageous, particularly if you take the fantasy elements (dinosaurs and dragons) of the illustrations into account.



The text however is well grounded so that even when the picture shows the boy with his friend riding a dinosaur, the text simply says that he can "adventure with his friend".  It's all very achievable and clever stuff.

...or is it?

Most of us take these things for granted, playing with friends, being seen and heard, riding in a plane, using the swings at the park, sharing food, toys and interests, being calm and being appreciative of love.



This is an amazing book and it's a must-have for anyone who has young children who interact with people with autism. It's hard to review picture books without giving the plot away, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to spoil the only "spoilable" moment - rest assured, you can skip the rest of this review and simply go out and buy the book. It's well worth it. 

I started reading this book from the front to the back. I don't peek. I like to let things unfold as the author intended. My heart sank when I hit the page that simply said;

In your world...  I have Autism. 

Even the page itself is dull, dreary and drained of colour. Our brightly coloured boy is reduced to a one-dimensional caricature of himself, outlines only. The page hit me very hard, certainly harder than I thought a picture book could.

There's no problem. This book isn't going to upset a child but it is going to pass a very different message onto an adult. The boy ends by reminding us that it's with our help that he's able to do the things he does in his world but to me, it's the words of Mimi Chao's dedication and the front that I hear;

"Dedicated to those who long to be understood"
- Mimi Chao.

To me, it reads like the boy feels like he's doing these things in his world already and that people outside of his world are only seeing "autism".  Of course, I'm probably biased about these things and you always take away from a book a little of what to bring to it in the first place. 

This is an absolutely brilliant book with the some of the most gorgeous illustrations I've seen in a children's book in a long time. If you've got a library of picture books or if you've got a youngster on the spectrum, then this is the book you need to have. 

In My World by Jillian Ma with illustrations by Mimi Chao is Published by Future Horizons. It's available in paperback at Amazon and Goodreads. Mimi Chao's blog post on the backstory of the book is also well worth reading. 


Honesty clause: I was provided with a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes.