How to Talk to an Autistic Kid

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid

Daniel Stefanski, Author

Hazel Mitchell, Illustrator

Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., 2011, Nonfiction, Self-help

Suitable for:  Grades 4 and up

Themes: Communication, interaction, inclusion, friendship

Opening/Synopsis“Say hi.  I want to be included just like anyone else.  I may be different, but I am a person, too.  People are different in many ways: Skin color, eye color, hairstyle, background, beliefs, you name it!  It feels good when people say hi to me, wave, and notice I’m here.  Please don’t ignore autistic kids just because they’re different.”  Daniel Stefanski is 14 years old, and has written a biographical, self-help book of his experience as a kid with autism.  He’s okay with his autism,  but also wants people to know that he is “artistic, handy, funny, helpful, generous, creative, curious,  a talented golfer and good at building and fixing things.”  He wrote this book to “help kids without autism to feel comfortable around kids with autism. ”  He hopes fewer kids with autism will feel lonely.

Bravo Daniel!  You have written a remarkable guide for kids.  Your book should be read and discussed in every school classroom.    How to Talk to an Autistic Kid is written for any child, teen or adult who comes into contact with a kid with autism.  Like Daniel, I don’t like using labels, but it is necessary in sharing his story.   The book is funny, poignant and true to Daniel.  Illustrator Hazel Mitchell  (click on link) has done a beautiful job of capturing Daniel’s personality and the complexities of autism in her artwork.  Her expressive illustrations fill each page and help readers understand what Daniel wants you to know as he navigates through life.

Why I like this book:   Daniel gives kids and teens the tools they need to develop friendships.  This is the first time I’ve read such practical advice from a teen with autism.  Daniel has done an outstanding job of explaining to kids why he doesn’t look at them; how his words get jumbled in his head; why noises, smells and lights bother him; why he struggles with understanding figures of speech like “go jump in a lake;” why he has difficulty understanding facial expressions of anger, surprise, frustration, and boredom; and why he becomes obsessed with certain subjects.   Daniel offers excellent tips to help kids interact and become friends with autistic kids.  He always urges kids to be respectful, kind, thoughtful, helpful and patient.

Like all kids, Daniel has big dreams and goals.  He wants to go to college and learn about computer animation, invent computer games for kids with disabilities and beat his step-dad at golf.   He wants to travel and write more books.  “I will always have autism, but that doesn’t mean my future won’t be great.”   I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more from Daniel!

Free Spirit Publishing is a leading publisher of self-help books for kids and teens.  They address tough topics such as teen depression, ADD/ADHD, kids and anxiety, grief and loss, juvenile justice, bullying and conflict resolution.

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About Patricia Tiltonhttp://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

42 thoughts on “How to Talk to an Autistic Kid

  1. Wow! Pat, this is the book that beats all books. Daniel is a remarkably smart kid to write a book such as this. To not only give kids but also many others an insight into what it’s like to be autistic and how to behave around autistic kids. This is indeed a valuable tool for all both inside and outside the classroom. Lovely that the illustrator is our very own Hazel. Beautiful review Pat.

    • I was very happy when I learned about the book from Hazel. I’ve reviewed such a variety of fiction and nonfiction books on autism, but Daniel’s book is special because we hear from him what his world is like and how to be his friend. Makes for a powerful and helpful book! Glad you like the selection. Seemed apropriate to run it right after I reviewed “Following Ezra.”

  2. Wow! What a wonderful attitude this kid has! And how great that he has written a book from his own perspective to help people without autism understand what life is like for him. It sounds like everyone should read this book!

    • Susanna, Daniel seems like a kid with a lot of self-esteem. I think his book is awesome and offers great advice to kids who don’t have autism. Am very impressed with the publisher, as they only publish non-fiction books for kids on a range of subjects. Glad you like his book.

  3. The other day a mom and her daughter were in our shop and when the mom came to the register she had several craft/activity books and How to Talk to An Autistic Kid. I asked her if she had someone in her life that was autistic and she said “Her brother” pointing to her daughter. “This will be a great way for her to understand him better, and to connect with him more.”

    I could not have felt better about our choice to have a store like ours than I did in that moment! It is a fantastic book,

  4. I linked this to my friend Briane Pagel on twitter. He has two autistic children, and I’ve been following his blog where he writes about them and posts videos starring them. You should check out his blog at Thinking the Lions.

  5. @Craig, I love your story… so glad there are stores like yours! Wow, I am so impressed with Daniel and can’t wait to have him educate me more through his book. This is going onto our library list. Love Hazel’s illustration – makes me want to say ‘Hi’. Thanks for showing us another powerful book, Pat.

    • Joanna, I was very impressed with Daniel’s powerful and hugely helpful book. He had very clear goals about what he wanted to achieve and he met everyone. Great book for the school library. And, for the siblings of a child with special needs. You’d like Hazel’s illustrations — they had so much to to the story.

    • Glad you like Daniel’s book, Ruth. It is very informative and helpful book for everyone to hear first hand what it’s like to be autistic. He gives great tips on interacting with kids with autism.

  6. I like the idea of it being written by a kid with autism talking about how to treat kids with autism. I have seen websites/YouTube videos where they show how it’s like to have dlslexia and ADHD and I found it helpful. I’ll look for this book at a bookstore – I want to own it, not just borrow it. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that other people see the world differently than me.

    • Glad you enjoyed the review Erik. You can type in Daniel’s name and video, and you can see him on a video. It is hard to imagine, but sometimes you find that the inner life of someone who sees the world a little differently is rich and creative. I hope you get the book. Thanks for responding!

  7. What a brilliant idea… I think it would be useful to adults too as I’ve come across adults who are thoughtless and clueless around the subject of autism. Thanks for stopping by my blog too! :-)

  8. Thanks, Pat! What a wonderful review of a book that definitely does belong in every school library…and in the hands of any parent or teacher who works with autistic kids. It’s awesome that we can get the story from Danel’s perspective…so much more valuable!

  9. Hi Pat, you are right – and I agree with the comments written above. It provides a different kind of nuance when we hear it directly from a teenager the issues that he feels are important to him – rather than have the experts or the books tell you what needs to be done, we should start listening to voices like Daniel’s – so that both our minds and hearts would open themselves to various possibilities we may not have even considered.

    • Myra, great comments. Thanks. I’m sure Daniel will appreciate them. Hearing from him about what he experiences is so credible, and his tips for approaching kids with autism are so helpful in creating a bridge for communication.

  10. OH, I’m so excited it’s also illustrated by Hazel Mitchell! I just received my very own ” Hidden New Jersey” in the mail. I looked at her blog link that you hyperlinked and love it.

    Thanks for sharing this book. I think it’s wonderful that a seventeen year old got his book published and especially overcoming his handicap of autism. It is a double reason to read it. :)

  11. @Pat – yes, Hazel graciously forwarded this to Daniel’s mother, so I’m sure he’s reading all of these wonderful comments! Thank you for featuring the book! -Elena M., Free Spirit Publishing

    • Elena, you are welcome. As you can see his book received a great deal of praise from a lot of Kidlit bloggers, and parents. We hope Daniel is pleased. Browsed through the books published by Free Spirit and was very pleased. Thank you for commenting!

  12. Pat, I love that you cover this topic- I never realized how much books can help kids to understand the things they would otherwise not understand- silly, I know.
    Anyway, I have a story to share with you. Two days ago I was in the mall with all 3 of my kids- everyone needed new sneakers and it’s vacation this week so it seemed like a good time to go. Anyway, we were in one store and there was a mother with her son- he was probably about 16. I won’t pretend to know where he fell within the autism spectrum, but my two older ones and I recognized something. The boy was pushing ahead to get to the items under the counter, I think to either count or touch them. His mom was trying to hold him back and apologizing for his behavior. We didn’t stare, feel uncomfortable, or annoyed. We were all patient and understanding. When we left the store, I talked with them about the boy as we walked through the hallway. I reminded them of the books I had read with each of them: Al Capone Does My Shirts with my son (8) and Mockingbird with my daughter (10). Reviewing the characters in these books with them as we walked they were able to relate to the boy in the store through the characters of Natalie and Caitlin who have autism and asperger’s respectively. What a great gift these books have been in helping me to talk with my kids and teach tolerance, patience and understanding that everyone is different.
    A2ZMommy and What’s In Between

    • Tracy, I’m glad you liked Daniel’s book. And thank you so much for sharing your experience. It shows that because your children had been exposed to stories about kids with autism, they weren’t uncomfortable or didn’t react. It was nice you could remind them of the stories after the child left the store and remind them of the characters they had read in Natalie and Caitlin. Such a nice story! Thank you!

  13. Patricia – What a great recommendation for this book. I am going to pick up this book for my nephew’s son. His name is Daniel and he, too is autistic. I know I have mentioned that to you. I love checking back here for your input. Thanks for sharing, Maeve

    • Maeve, I thought about you as I reviewed this book. Daniel gives great insight. I think it is a great book. I also reviewed a book the previous week called “Following Ezra,” the best book I’ve read for parents of autistic kids. Instead of trying to “fix” his kid, he follows him.

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