Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Don't Push the Buttons on the Microwave: An Autism Social Story

I learned about social stories when my daughter was first diagnosed with autism. She had a difficult time learning to converse, and we finally clued in to the fact that it was hard for her to understand things that she couldn't see- including language. Once she learned to read she started to understand things like grammar and conversation a lot better, and I realized that if something wasn't making sense to her it would be easier for her to read about it than to talk about it.

Last year our daughter's teacher started to help us deal with some of the issues she was having at home and school by writing her little social stories using a sharpie and some scrap paper. They did an amazing job helping her make connections in a way that talking to her couldn't.

We approached our publisher with the idea of turning some of them into something that read more like a regular picture book than a textbook. Our daughter may be very literal, but she's still a child with a sense of humor who very much enjoys books. Why not write some books she could really relate to?

In the past year, with the help of our publisher and some fellow parents, a series was born. Each book features a specific, common issue that children on the spectrum and their families face, written from the child's point of view, but illustrated to show the real reactions of other people, both as comic relief for parents and siblings, but also to foster discussions about the feelings of other people. Also peppered throughout the book are little details that most people wouldn't notice, but jump right out at parents of children on the spectrum.

The first book in the series, "Don't Push the Buttons on the Microwave: An Autism Social Story" deals with the issue of obsessive, controlling behavior. It is available for purchase online from Another Chapter Publishing, and in honor of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, we are donating $2 from the sale of every book during the month of April to the Autism Canada Foundation.

As parents of autistic children we understand the difference between a neurotypical child's 30 second tantrum after being denied more cookies and an autistic child's one hour meltdown because they don't like the way you folded their socks. We understand that it's frustrating, we understand that it's funny. We appreciate that there are books out there that raise awareness and acceptance, but wish they weren't all of the 'My brother is special but we should love him anyway' variety. Our children are unique, intelligent, funny and caring people. They shouldn't be patronized. They need books that are practical, and they need books that are fun. They need books that are FOR them and not just ABOUT them.