Including Autism

One of the ways in which I feel ridiculously, frighteningly lucky
is in my children's school, which is an inclusion school. For those of
you not in the know, that means its classes are made up of kids in both
the general education and special education populations, to the benefit
of all.

While it's had its challenges—Mommy, why doesn't he get in trouble when
he screams at the teachers?—it has its far more amazing rewards, mostly
in their developing a wide and deep empathy, an understanding that not everything is as
easy for other people as it might be for you. It helps them
to understand that one of the possible reactions to other kids is
acceptance, even when they're very different from you. And it helps
them know to ask for acceptance from others when
they're the one who's different or having a hard time.


When Diana got this month's issue of Muse magazine, there was an
amazing section called (I think?) "Other Voices," a series of short articles
written by people on the autistic spectrum. I have already gushed about
how very much we love this magazine; it's silly and brilliant and
interesting, but this issue makes me love it even more. So many books we read have the whole "motley crew" (not the band) group of kids: the smart one! the wiseass! the loner! the young one! etc., etc. and there have been, which there weren't so much before, nods towards kids of different races and socioeconomic levels, but the whole issue of social skills? Being really different? I mean, really really different, in a way that can be uncomfortable? It's just not dealt with so much, other than as a sort of cool super-freaky thing—from a distance. And in barges Muse, giving people voice, making dumbass jokes about pie-throwing, bringing people in to their silly, excellent world. I can't tell you how happy it made me.

And do any of you know of books that do this?

12 thoughts on “Including Autism

  1. This might be a little old for your daughters just yet, but A WIZARD ALONE by Diane Duane (part of the Young Wizards series) has an autistic boy as a strong secondary character.
    And that’s the only one I can think of, which is really sad. As an aspiring author myself, I make it a point to include characters from a variety of races and/or socioeconomic levels wherever possible, but I only have one disabled character so far. Food for thought!


  2. Al Capone Does my Shirts
    by Gennifer Choldenko
    This is a book about a ten year old boy who has to take care of his autistic brother.
    by Cynthia Lord
    About a twelve year old girl who has an autistic brother.
    Anything but Typical
    by Nora Raleigh Baskin
    The main character is autistic boy who finds a girl who posts stories to the same online site he does, and he hopes that she will see him as a real person and not just see his autism.
    Now I have not read any of these books so I have now way of knowing if they are any good, but the first two titles are on many reading lists and people whose opinions I respect have said they liked them.


  3. Marcelo in the Real World
    by Fransisco X. Stork
    I loved this YA book! About a boy with an Asperger’s-like condition whose father requires him to take a summer job at his law firm — in “the real world.” Narrated from Marcelo’s perspective.
    There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom
    by Louis Sachar
    Maybe you’ve written about this book on the blog before? Not about autism, but creates real empathy for a character who truly lacks social skills, who is “really, really different,” and who would be hard to like if you were one of his classmates (or teachers!).


  4. Yes! I did write about There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, which I really, really loved. Definitely a person without social skills. There’s something about that (and the books I imagine about this) being able to view and accept the whole package: funny, gross, annoying, good. Human.


  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. It warms the heart and stirs hope in the soul of a mother with a child with special needs. How wonderful that your children live and learn with children that are different. I have only one regret in the fifteen years that I’ve been raising my daughter with her brothers — and that is that I didn’t push harder to get her included more with typical children while at school.


  6. What a great topic. I recently read “The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime,” and it was the only title I had ever read that created any genuine sympathy for an autistic character–not as a caricature, but as an individual with his own set of challenges. And it’s not a book for kids. It makes me realize how absent autism has been from fiction–I’m going to check out these books. Especially as a day care provider, we talk a lot about embracing people who aren’t like us, but even I tend to leave out people who simply act different from us.


  7. Where’s your school? I want to move there. (My older daughter is on the spectrum.)
    I will have to get that issue of Muse now.


  8. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon — although it’s been a little while since I read it, so I don’t remember exactly what age it would be suitable from. It’s sci fi, set in a future where autistic people are prized (somewhat) for their amazing pattern recognition skills. However, they (their autism, and thus possibly their identity?) are also threatened, by the discovery of an experimental new “cure”. It’s a very powerful book — disturbing, moving, uplifting. I enjoyed it immensely. Check though before giving it to a very young teen — I don’t remember any unsuitable bits, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any.


  9. Thanks for this post. I strongly agree that an inclusive school is for the benefit of all children, general and special needs alike. I wish we had Muse in Norway!


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