Who—Who Wrote the Book of Autism?

My children's school is a CTT school—a Collaborative Team Teaching school—so all the classrooms are made up of about 1/3 special education students and 2/3 general education students. We also have a sister site, a school that is just for kids with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Sometimes these kids progress enough to be in a CTT classroom, and then they come over to the main site and join a CTT class.

Most of the time this whole thing works really well, but as with everything, there are sometimes difficulties. A CTT classroom can be overwhelming for a kid on the autistic spectrum, and kids can be jerks, and parents can be jerks, and life can just be a bit tricky. Suffice it to say that my kid came home one day to report that some other kids were setting up an "I hate Glenn*" club and what should she do about it?

Which is why I ended up on a committee that's supposed to help the school deal with some of these issues.

Right now we're working on a letter that is supposed to help parents figure out how best to answer their own kids' questions and concerns about this stuff in our school, and someone had the excellent idea to append a list of books about autism, and difference, and friends to the letter.

Which is where you guys come in. I don't want these books to be bad. I want them to be helpful and amazing and interesting. I also (while I'm asking) am hoping that we can find books for a range of ages, from picture books to YA novels. So for all those of you who have asked us for recommendations, we are returning the honor: send titles, authors, appropriate ages and all (and heck, if you're  a publisher send a book, just click on the review policy link to the left there to see how).

And thanks.

*Not his real name. Just a way to relieve the great anger I feel towards Glenn Beck.

15 thoughts on “Who—Who Wrote the Book of Autism?

  1. Thank you for doing this topic. Our nephew has Aspergers and his late elementary/early middle school years were very, very difficult.
    I know lots for grownups if you want to do a reading-club kind of thing and I will pull them together. And I’ll ask around for books for younger folks too.

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  2. I’ve asked my college roommate to comment, as she’s an expert on this topic, since one of her kids has autism. She recently contributed to an anthology of essays called “My Baby Rides the Short Bus” which is a very eye-opening bunch of stories written by parents of kids with all kinds of special needs. I think that is a good one for adults to help provide perspectives.
    I don’t know any for kids, though. I bet she will know of some resources, though, from working with her other kids and their friends in helping them to learn how to best communicate with and behave around her autistic son.
    Great topic.

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  3. I know of several about children with various disabilities if that helps. Mr. Rogers (yes, the Mr. Rogers) wrote a picture book with his inimitable goofy photos about differently abled people in his neighborhood. I can’t remember the title but it helped my boys immensely when they were little to explain their big sister’s disability to their friends.

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  4. One of my very favorite customers (a regular at the bookstore) is an incredible teacher who works mainly with kids on the spectrum, and she and i are always on the look out for great new books, primarily of the young reader/mid-grade/y.a. varieties. Our favorites this year have, hands down been:
    1. The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous, by Suzanne Crowley (Young Reader to Mid-Grade level) By far the winner. Some of the best characterization and dialogue in a young reader book that I’ve seen in a long time, regardless of the fact that it’s narrator has Aspergers.
    2. Anything but Typical, by Nora Baskin (mid-grade to y.a. level) The narrator is high-functioning, but still deals with a whole host of social problems, and once again, the characterization here is fantastic, whole, complete…could be a really great read aloud for 5th or 6th grade.
    3. the Jordan Sonnenblick books are also great, particularly the newest, ‘After Ever After.’ (Y.A. level) While they don’t deal with teens on the spectrum, they do center around the lives of teens, suffering from the aftereffects of intensive chemo (for leukemia), causing similar neurological difficulties. Their fears and hopes and worries are all awesome teaching tools. Also. FUNNY. Friggin funny.
    4. Similarly the new Sharon Draper, ‘Out of My Mind.’ (young reader to mid-grade level) It’s central character can’t walk or talk, but her mind is perfectly intact, even gifted. She’s mocked relentlessly, but is incredibly strong. Draper doesn’t sugarcoat, which I always appreciate.
    5. The ‘So You Want to Be a Wizard’ series by Diane Duane. (Young reader) Autism and fantasy. ‘Nough said.
    Okay. This list is really long. I need to stop talking/typing. They should put a word limit on these things. I won’t bombard you with any more (oh yeah, I’ve got a LIST), but feel free to email for any additional suggestions!
    (Also, sorry about the longest comment in the history of the internet.)

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  5. Andrea beat me to it — I was going to recommend “A Wizard Alone” from the Young Wizard series by Diane Duane. That’s the only book in the series that deals with autism, IIRC.

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  6. “Knowing Joseph” by Judith Mammay (who also happens to be the mother in law of a good friend of mine). She was inspired by her grandson, my friends’ nephew.

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  7. Mr Rogers is awesome, Elisabeth. I have a parenting book he wrote, and I refer to it all the time. I love him so much.
    I don’t have any book suggestions, sorry. I just wanted to say that I read your whole post with my face scrunched up in a “isn’t that terrible that kids have to deal with this kind of thing?” face and then actually snorted when I read your Glenn Beck remark. So thanks for the surprising laugh!

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  8. Temple Grandin is a renowned speaker/author on autism and also working with livestock (she changed the way the industry works with livestock, making it much less stressful for the animals). As a high-functioning autistic, she travels around speaking on various topics regarding how the brains of people on the spectrum work. I’d highly recommend her books for the parents. I don’t know if she has any books for kids, but I do know she has a coloring book about autism for kids.

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  9. There’s a great book by Lisa Graff called “The Thing about Georgie,” which is about a boy who has dwarfism, but the point of which is that that’s only one of the “things” that describe him. To me, as the mom of a kid with ADHD that’s sometimes gotten in her way, it’s a pretty perfect book. Also, in addition to Anything but Typical, there’s also the obvious “Rules” by Cynthia Lord about a girl whose brother has autism and her search for friendship with a neighborhood girl and a boy she meets at her brother’s ot clinic. I just read a book that’s got the name Marcello in the title that’s not bad — like Anything but Typical, told from the point of view of someone with autism. Thought the plot is painfully contrived there were sections in which I felt I almost understood the way his mind worked.

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