World Autism Awareness Day – April 2

World-autism-awareness-dayToday is World Autism Awareness Day, designated in 2007 by the United Nations to promote global awareness.  Autism has no racial, ethnic or socio-economic boundaries, so it is important to focus on AWARENESS.  It’s also an important time to highlight the talents and gifts of those on the Autism Spectrum.

Since April is National Autism Awareness Month in the U.S., I will be reviewing a few autism books this month and throughout the year.

Today I will share the titles and authors of 22 books that I have reviewed in the Autism Spectrum.  You can click on Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s Syndrome in the “Topics” side bar to the right of my blog to find all the reviewed and recommended books.  The titles include Picture Books (PB), Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA) and books for Parents.

Picture Books

Anthony Best, Davene Fahy

Ellie Bean: The Drama Queen, Jennie Harding

Ian’s Walk, Laurie Lears

I’m Here, Peter Reynolds

In Jesse’s Shoes, Beverly Lewis

My Brother Charlie, Holly and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Russel’s World: A Story for Kids about Autism, Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D.

Understanding Sam and Asperger’s Syndrome, Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA, CCC-SLP

Wings of Epoh, Gerda Weissmann Klein

Middle Grade

Autism, The Invisible Chord, Barbara Cain

Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes, Jennifer Elder

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid, Daniel Stefanski

Mocking Bird, Katherine Erskine

Rules, Cynthia Lord

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.

Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, Arthur and Carly Fleischmann (YA/Adult)

I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism, Elizabeth M. Bonker and Virginia Breen

Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Sy Montgomery (MG/YA/Adult)

Wild Orchid, Waiting for No One, and White Bicycle, Beverly Brenna (YA Trilogy)

Parents

A Friend Like Henry, Nuala Gardner

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, Arthur and Carly Fleischmann (Also for parents)

Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism and Love from His Extraordinary Son, Tom Fields-Meyer

Not My Boy, Rodney Peete

Resources:  There are many local and national organizations promoting Autism Awareness Month.  Check out Autism Speaks, the Autism SocietyThe Arc,  The Autism Now Center for information, resources, research and tool kits.

Autism, The Invisible Cord

Autism Invisible Cord9781433811913_p0_v1_s260x420Autism, The Invisible Cord:  A Sibling’s Diary

Barbara Cain, Author

Magination Press, Fiction, 2013

Themes:  Autism Spectrum, Sibling Relationships, Family Relationships

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Opening“If you were to see him riding his bike, smiling in the wind, you’d never know.  Ezra looks like any other sixth grader with faded jeans, turned-around cap, and messy bunch of butterscotch-colored curls.  You see, my brother is like any other eleven-year–old…except when he isn’t.  Like today.”

Synopsis:  Jenny’s younger brother, Ezra, has autism.   She shares her story about life with Ezra in a diary she writes daily.  Jenny is a 14-year-old student trying to balance her last year in middle school, with running a friend’s campaign for class president, auditioning for the  spring musical, and worrying about protecting her brother from a school bully.  Some times Ezra can be the biggest obstacle in Jenny’s life because she feels like her brother’s keeper.  At other times Ezra can be the most amazing brother.  When Ezra gets a service dog,  the invisible cord between them begins to loosen and Jenny begins to focus more on the things that she wants to do.    She discovers she is a very talented writer and works on a special school project.  Her dream is to attend a very prestigious summer writing camp.  It is Jenny’s time to shine.

Why I like this book:  Barbara Cain has written a beautiful and realistic story about what it feels like growing up with a sibling with different abilities.   Cain has created an engaging character in Jenny who shares the daily complexities of her life with Ezra — the frustration, embarrassment, worry, joy and hurt.  Cain writes with great sensitivity and authenticity.  I highly recommend this book for kids who have a sibling with autism, and for their parents.  This is also a good middle grade read in the classroom.  Barbara Cain, MSW, is a clinical supervisor at the University of Michigan’s  Psychological Clinic and has authored many books.  She has included some from very helpful pages of back matter for siblings.  You may visit Barbara Cain on her website.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Anthony Best

Anthony Best9781616089610_p0_v1_s260x420Anthony Best

Davene Fahy, Author

Carol Inouye, Illustrator

Sky Pony Press, September 2012

Suitable for Ages: 5 and up

Themes:  Asperger’s Syndrome,  Autism Spectrum Disorder, Friendship, Abilities

OpeningMy next door friend is Anthony.  If you ask Anthony his name, he always says, “My name is Anthony Best and I am the best..”  But do you want to know a secret?  He’s not always the best boy.

Synopsis:  Hannah narrates the story about her friend, Anthony,  who screams when he hears loud noises, crosses streets without looking for cars, and throws sand at kids in the sandbox.  But, Hannah likes to play with Anthony, even when he wants to play by himself.  When Anthony spins, Hannah spins.  When he’s in a flipping mood, Hannah flips her pages.  Hannah knows that makes Anthony happy.  She also teaches Anthony how to play with other kids.  One day a big delivery  truck pulls up in front of Anthony’s house.  The next day Hannah hears beautiful music floating out the window and follows the sound.  She is very surprised when she discovers Anthony’s hidden talent.

Why I like this book:  Davene Fahy may show all the things that makes Anthony different from other children, but she also shows how those differences makes him special.   This is a nice story that teaches children about their autistic friends and why they act the way they do.  I especially like how Fahy has Hannah following Anthony into his world so that she can better understand her best friend.  Carol Inouye’s illustrations are colorful, and expressive.  You may want to visit Davene Fahy at her website.

Resources: There is back matter at the end with suggested resources.  But the ending of the book is a great way to start discussions with children about differences and special abilities.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Survival Guide Authors Talk About Autism

Survival Guide for Kids with Autism135570190It is my pleasure today to host Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.,  authors of the kid-friendly The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents), published by Free Spirit Publishing in 2012.  Click above to read my review of the book.

Since April has been designated Autism Awareness Month, I thought it may be interesting to hear from two mothers/authors who collaborated to create this practical and informative book for kids.  It is a book that elementary kids can read with parents and middle schoolers can reach for as a friendly guide.   It is a colorful and inviting book that alternates between helpful advice, tips and tools, discussions, role-playing and fun cartoons and graphics.  It is a timeless book that can be used by kids as a resource as they face new and different challenges as they mature.

Elizabteh VerdickElizabeth Verdick

People often ask me, “Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?”  The answer is: “The one I’m writing right now.”  This is true for many writers — we’re excited about our current work, the one we sit down to work on that very day.  As much as we love our published books, we often have our head in the clouds — and our nose to the computer screen — for a new one.

Yet, there’s a book I get as much joy from now as I did while writing it and watching it be designed, illustrated, and published:  The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Perhaps this is because the book is for my own son, who has autism.  Or, perhaps it is because the book gives other parents and their children some of the answers they’re looking for, and the hope they need.  Raising a child with ASD is a lifetime challenge.  More importantly, growing up with autism/Asperger’s and dealing with it day-to-day is a lifetime challenge.  I want to help young people meet these challenges with knowledge, confidence, and a sense of momentum.  Each small step taken leads a child and his or her family on a path to greater success.

It’s been a great pleasure for Dr. Reeve and I to see the interest many grandparents of ASD children have in our book.  These grandparents want to know: “How can I help my grandchild –how can we bond?  How will autism affect my grandchild’s future?  How can I best support my own child along the way?”  Grandparents and other relatives of a child on the spectrum play important, enduring roles in the child’s life — especially when they understand what they’re facing.  We all know the saying, “It takes a village…” and with a child on the spectrum, it really does.

Working with Dr. Reeve, I’ve come to see the critical need for a book for teens and young adults with ASD.  Her tireless dedication to all her patients and to the ASD community inspires me to keep writing.  Plus, my son is in entering the preteen years…I have a lot of work ahead, and much more to learn!

Reeve ElizabethElizabeth Reeve, M.D.

The most overwhelming feeling after publication of the Survival Guide has been gratitude towards my coauthor, who is in the business of writing and has been able to steer me through the entire process.  Now that our book is published and has  had very positive reviews I am motivated to do more.  In one sense, having the “first” book published has made me feel inadequate in that I realize how much there is to say on the topic of “Surviving Autism.”

My colleagues have been very positive about the book, but more importantly I have received fan mail.  I have had some very moving letters from people who have had contact with me in the past who upon seeing the book have taken the time to reconnect.  I also have had letters from complete strangers who have reached out to express how grateful they are for our effort to help families and put a new resource on the market.

My most memorable comment about the book has come from my 24-year-old son who has autism.  His response after reading the book was, “Thanks a lot, Mom — only 10 years too late for me!”  One of my longtime patients in the clinic exclaimed, “Dr. Reeve, I didn’t know you could write.  I thought you just talked.”  Parents appreciate the book because it is colorful and active.  It seems to lend itself very well to being picked up and put down as needed:  a resource to be used repeatedly, rather than as a book that needs to be read straight through.

My hope for future writing is to work with my coauthor to create a second volume to the first book.  Our goal is to write a Survival Gude for adolescents and young adults.  I also have a book I would like to write on my own that explores the complexities of negotiating the mental-health system with a child: I intend to use real patient stories and vignettes.   It is a bit overwhelming to think about writing on my own after all the support I received with this book!

Quote from the book:  “We don’t believe in can’t or never.  If you have ASD, there are some differences between you and other people.  But your life can be about can.  Never say never.”

Thank you so much for your insight and wisdom.  I know many will look forward to your future collaborations on books!  Many adolescents are reaching that age of transition into adulthood, and a volume directed towards their special needs would be valuable.  Best Wishes,  Patricia 

Russell’s World

Russell's World9781433809767_p0_v1_s260x420Russell’s World:  A Story for Kids About Autism

Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D.,  Author

Monika Pollak, Illustrator

Magination Press:  Non-fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages:  5 - 10

Themes:  Autism Spectrum, Sibling Relationships, Family Support, Differences

Opening“Russell is a kid with special differences.  He has autism.  This means his behaviors can be surprising in three big ways.  He likes to be alone…He can’t talk…He doesn’t play the way other kids do.”

Synopsis:  Russell is nine years old and has a form of autism which makes it hard for him to talk and learn.  He hums, babbles, giggles and screams.  He has two younger brothers, Benjamin and Gregory, who love Russell and play with him when he’s willing.  They also know when they need to leave Russell alone.  When his brothers have friends over, Russell leaves the room.  Benjamin and Gregory are important in helping Russell copy things they do through repetition.    Russell attends school where he learns sign language, manners and playing with other children.  But, there are times that Russell puts his relationship with his brothers to the test when he breaks their toys or throws tantrums during the night.  Unlike many children with autism, Russell, loves hugs and tickles.   He is happy boy with brothers who support him.

Why I like this book:  This story is a heart warming look into a family living with a child with autism.  It is written by Russell’s father, a doctor, who uses very simple language to help children understand autism.  The story is told through a collage of photographs of Russell and his brothers accompanied by colorful illustrations that create a background.  Very clever.   Throughout the story Dr. Amenta shares a situation, and then helps kids understand Russell’s response.  He’s also quick to point out that even though Russell may be nonverbal, other kids with autism do talk, have an easier time learning and have special talents.   He explains to kids that autism affects each child differently.  I feel that parents of an autistic child would find this book  useful in helping siblings understand the differences.

Since the book was first published in 1992, Russell and his brothers are now adults.  Russell runs a small envelope stuffing business and has a deep love of music.  Benjamin is a pianist and Gregory is a mathematician/physicist and percussionist.  Music is a very strong bond for this family.

Resources:  There is extensive back matter in the book for parents.  In using the book with children, ask them what is alike and what is different in Russell’s world compared to their own.  Siblings of kids with autism may see both similarities and differences between Russell and their brother/sister.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

World Autism Awareness Day, April 2

Light It Up Blue on April 2

April is National Autism Awareness Month, which will be kicked off today, Tuesday, April 2, with a World Autism Awareness Day.  Join  Autism Speaks in the fourth annual LIGHT IT UP BLUE campaign to  help shine a light on autism in commemoration of the United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day.   There is a wealth of information on what you can do in your home, school, and community during April.  The entire world is going blue to increase awareness about autism.  You can help by changing the light bulb in your front porch light to blue during April, turning your website blue, reviewing a children’s book on autism, or watching the award-winning HBO movie “Temple Grandin,” and learning more about the autism spectrum disorders.

According to a report the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimated number of U.S. autistic kids have skyrocketed by 78 percent since 2000.  Now, one in 88 American kids has autism, according to the new figures.  Among boys, it’s one in 54.  The big question is “why?”   One expert said, “better diagnosis, broader diagnosis, better awareness, and roughly 50 percent of ‘We don’t know’.”   Another advocate said, “we have an epidemic of autism in the United States.” 

This is a unique global opportunity to help raise awareness about the growing public health concern that is autism.  Iconic landmarks around the world will Light It Up Blue to show their support today.   Among the 2,000 buildings going blue last year were the: NY Stock Exchange, Empire State Building, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Niagara Falls, Al Anoud Tower in Saudi Arabia,  Cairo Tower in Egypt, Great Buddha at Hyogo in Japan, CN Tower in Canada and Sydney Opera House in Australia.

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The month will be filled with activities for families and friends, so make sure you check out Autsim Speaks.  Their website has a wealth of information, tool kits for newly diagnosed children, facts, treatment information, research and resources on the Autism Spectrum.  I will be reviewing some new books on autism in April and all year-long.  I hope you will join me!   Light it up Blue today! 

Since April 2011, I have reviewed 19 excellent books in the Autism Spectrum.  You can click on Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s Syndrome in  the “Topics” side bar to the right of my blog to find all the reviewed books.  The titles include Picture Books (PB), Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA) and books for Parents.  Titles include:

I’m Here, Peter H. Reynolds (PB)

Wings of Epoh,  Gerda Weissmann Klein (PB)

Understanding Sam and Asperger’s Syndrome, Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA, CCC-SLP

My Brother Charlie, Holly and Ryan Elizabeth Peete, (PB)

In Jesse’s Shoes, Beverly Lewis (PB)

Ellie Bean: The Drama Queen, Jennie Harding (PB)

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D. (MG/YA)

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid, Daniel Stefanski (MG)

Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism and Love from His Extraordinary Son, Tom Fields-Meyer (Parent)

Mocking Bird, Katherine Erskine (MG)

Rules, Cynthia Lord (MG)

Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes, Jennifer Elder (MG)

Wild Orchid,  Waiting for No One , and White Bicycle, Beverley Brenna (YA) Trilogy

Temple Grandin:  How The Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Sy Montgomery, (MG/YA/Adult

I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism, Elizabeth M. Bonker and Virgina Breen (YA/Adult)

Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork  (YA)

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, Arthur and Carly Fleischmann (YA/Adult)

Not My Boy, Rodney Peete (Parent)

A Friend Like Henry, Nuala Gardner (Parent)

 

The White Bicycle – Autism Spectrum

The White Bicycle

Beverley Brenna, Author

Red Deer Press, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 14-17

Themes:  Autism Spectrum, Adolescence, Independence, Journey

Synopsis:  Taylor Jane Simon, a 19-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, is back in the conclusion to Beverley Brenna’s Wild Orchid trilogy.   Although the books in the series are  stand-alone, each story features the spirited and strong-willed Taylor Jane.  In The White Bicycle,  Taylor travels to the South to the South of France with her mother, where she has a job as a “personal care assistant” for Martin Phoenix, a boy in a wheelchair  who is unable to speak without special equipment.  She has agreed to take the job because she wants to put in on her resume.   She cares for Martin, but her free time is spent traveling the French countryside on her white bicycle, trying to make sense of her past so that she can move forward in her life.  Along the way she meets an unlikely mentor who is somewhat of a mirror for Taylor.  Taylor  has one goal in mind — to become independent.

One of my favorite quotes in Taylor’s journal  is a conversation with her mother:  “There’s something I have been waiting for in order to be an adult.  It’s not having a boyfriend.  It’s not taking classes at the university.  It’s not getting a job.  I have done all of those things and I am going to keep doing them.  But they do not make me an adult.  I’m not waiting any longer Mom.  Because I know what I am waiting for.  I am waiting for you…to let me be free.” (p. 183)

Why I like this book/series:   First of all, the story is told in first person so that the reader has a front row seat into how Taylor thinks, feels and responds to the world.   The story is Taylor’s private daily journal.  Brenna has a gift of getting into the mind of her character so that the reader experiences Taylor.   Her characters are well-developed and you find yourself cheering for Taylor on her journey.  Secondly, this is the first series I have read where we actually follow a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome, graduating from high school, going to college, getting a job, leaving her comfort zone and traveling to a foreign country, transitioning from adolescence to adulthood before our eyes and struggling to gain independence from her mother.  This is a typical response, but even more powerful from a young woman with Asperger’s.  With so many children in the Autism Spectrum who will be making this transition in coming years, the Wild Orchid trilogy this is an important story for families, teenagers and teachers.  I enjoyed watching Taylor’s steady growth and strong spirit in the series.

Another point of interest point is the beautiful cover art for The White Bicycle.  It was done by artist Taylor Crowe, who was diagnosed at a young age with autism.  His artistic talent was nurtured by family and therapists.  Today he lectures about autism to educators, behavioral therapists, and families – a real success story.

I was first introduced to Wild Orchid and Waiting for No One, by my writing colleague  Beth Stilborn , a cousin of the Canadian author.  You can read her interview with Brenna by clicking on Beth’s name.   You may read my earlier reviews of the first two books,  Wild Orchid and Waiting for No One by clicking on the books.  There also is an interview with Brenna at the end of the The White Bicycle.

Update:  Beverley Brenna was awarded the Printz Award on July 15, 2013 by the American Library Association for her novel, The White Bicycle.  The Printz Award is given for the “best book written for teens.”  Click on the Printz Award to see the article.

For more information on helping your teenager make the transition to adulthood, contact Austism Speaks  for their helpful  “Transition Tool Kit.”  Over one-half million children will make this transition from adolescence to adulthood, and they will want to be independent, have homes,  jobs and friends.  

Wings of EPOH – Perfect Picture Book

Wings of EPOH

Gerda Weissmann Klein, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

FableVision, Inc., Fiction, 2008

Suitable for:  For All Ages

Themes:  Autism Spectrum Disorder,  Hope, Courage, Friendship

Opening/Synopsis “Matthew was running.   He was running very fast, skipping over the bright green grass, over the yellow dandelions and the smiling daisies, with the wind singing in his hair.”  This is a story about a boy who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and his journey to find meaning, acceptance and friendship in a world that is confusing to him.  For Matthew, lights are too bright and sounds are too loud.  He has trouble communicating his thoughts and feelings until he meets a butterfly named EPOH (Hope spelled backward).  EPOH and Matthew communicate through their thoughts.  EPOH shares the struggles she’s faced in her life.  Matthew finds this uplifting friendship changes the way he views his own difficulties, and finds courage and hope.

Why I like this book:   Even though this book is about a boy with autism, it has universal appeal for all children.  Every child will at some point feel left out, isolated and struggle to fit in.   It is a great book for the classroom to help children deal with differences and inclusion.  Children will identify with Matthew.   This is an inspiring book written by Gerda Weissmann Klein, a well-known author, lecturer and Holocaust survivor whose story was made into the film, One Survivor Remembers.   Peter H. Reynolds’ rich illustrations bring Wings of Epoh to life.  Reynolds has also written a book on autism, I’m Here, which I reviewed last fall.

Resources:  Gerda and Peter collaborated on the book, and a DVD film of Wings of Epoh.   The DVD includes a user guide Tips for Friends, Parents, and Teachers, developed to help teachers and parents provide strategies for social communication to a child or student with ASD or other social differences.   The tips are to be used as part of a discussion following the film.  There also is an Educator’s Activity Guide.  For information and resources contact FableVision Learning.

Gerda is donating a portion of the proceeds of Wings of Epoh to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), another great resource for parents.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Temple Grandin – Autism Awareness Month

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World

Sy Montgomery, Author

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children,  Biography,  Apr. 3, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 9 and up, Middle Grade

Themes: Austism Spectrum, Differences are gifts, Revolutionizing livestock industry

Sy Montgomery’s captivating children’s biography about Temple Grandin, speaks to children, especially to those who feel different.  It is beautifully crafted and has all the ingredients for a good book with simple chapters, a lot of photographs, informative inserts, and advice for kids with autism.  We meet her mother, her lifelong school friends, and teachers.  (Depending on the child’s age, parents may want to review the graphic details about the cruelty to animals.)   This book belongs in school libraries, as it helps all children understand that abilities may be the result of differences.

For years, Temple, couldn’t speak a word.   Loud noise hurt, ordinary sensations were torture, human voices made little sense and the certain odors prevented her from concentrating.   Sometimes the only way she could communicate was by crying or throwing a tantrum.   Her father wanted to institutionalize her, but her mother refused.   It would be years before she was diagnosed with autism, as she was born in 1947, and little was known.  But her mother found special schools for Temple with teachers and psychologists who knew how to bring her out.  This was surprising, knowing she attended school in the 1950s and 1960s.

Temple saw the world visually — in pictures –much like animals do.  And it was animals that eventually saved Temple and helped her learn to calm herself as a teenager.  While visiting her aunt’s cattle farm, she would go out into the middle of a spacious pasture, lie down and wait for the thousand-pound steers, to curiously circle around her motionless body.  They would walk up and lick Temples face — she was at peace.   She was introduced to a cattle chute where calves were vaccinated.  The calves heads stick out a hole in the gate head, the operator pulls a rope to press side panel against the animal’s side.  It horrified Temple at first, but she observed this squeeze chute calmed the animal.   She decided to try it on herself with her aunt helping, and she suddenly felt calm, secure and peaceful.   She built a squeeze machine for herself when she returned to school, so she could calm herself.   The school psychologist was not happy, but her favorite science teacher supported her.  He suggested they build a better squeeze machine and conduct scientific experiments on other students to see it if helped them relax.  Success!

These early discoveries and a love for animals were the beginning of a long career studying animal-behavior in college and graduate school, that would open the door to her life work of advocating for more the humane treatment of cattle in the livestock industry.  Her breakthrough designs for cruelty-free cattle-handling facilities are used worldwide.  These designs have benefited the cattle, ranchers and slaughterhouses.  And it was her autism that gave her the special insights and skills to make that difference.

I hope parents with children see possibility in Temple Grandin.  She is a strong advocate for autism and works with many young people.   Although she has learned coping skills, she has autism like many famous inventors and scientists who changed the world.  Temple doesn’t want a brain like most other people have.  “A lot of normal people are fuzzy in their thinking,” she says.  “I like the way I think.   Autism is part of who I am.”   Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make.  You see beauty in her autism.

Today, she is a scientist, professor, lecturer, and author of many books.  She now focuses on the humane treatment facilities for pigs, sheep, goats and chickens.  In 2010, HBO made a TV movie of her life, starring Claire Danes.  It won an Emmy.

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism

Arthur Fleischmann with Carly Fleischmann, authors

A Touchtone Book, Published by Simon & Schuster, Biography, Mar. 27, 2012

Suitable for:  Parents of Autistic Children, Young Adults, Educators

Themes:  Parenting an Autistic Child, Nonverbal, Breakthroughs, Courage, Hope

Opening:  “A news reporter once asked me to describe our a-ha moment with Carly.  He wanted to understand that blinding flash of insight we had about our daughter.  I thought for a moment before replying.  There never has been a moment like that.  Carly has always just been Carly.”

Carly and her fraternal twin sister, Taryn, were born in 1995.  From the beginning they were very different babies.  As early as 10 months, Arthur and his wife, Tammy, noticed Carly was showing signs of delays in her gross motor skills, language, auditory attention and socialization.  By age two, she was diagnosed with severe autism and an oral motor condition called apraxia which prevented Carly from speaking.  Doctors predicted  minimal intellectual development.  Her parents refused to give up in their attempts to reach Carly.  Their lives were filled with therapists who worked with her at home and at school.  In fact their entire family life, which included Taryn and an older brother, Matthew, revolved around caring for Carly.

Arthur Fleischmann, bares his soul as he writes a very raw and honest book about life with Carly.  The sleepless nights, explosive outbursts, chaos, exhaustion, not to mention the huge financial debt they incurred paying for special ABA treatment with two therapists, a nanny, and special equipment.  They were constant advocates, fighting teachers, principals and school boards to make sure Carly received important ABA treatment and attended special schools.  Her ABA therapists saw Carly’s intelligence and worked diligently with Carly using many methods to draw her out.

Hope arrived at age 10, when Carly reached over to the computer and with her index finger typed three words “Help Teeth Hurt.”   Carly was very smart, and this was the beginning of unlocking the door so Carly could find her voice.  It didn’t happen over night.  In fact it took many turbulent years filled with meltdowns, tearing off clothing at night, head banging, and long periods of silence when she’d refuse to type her feeling or interact with her therapists and family.  A significant breakthrough occurred when Carly finally typed to her therapist “Tell Mom and Dad to stop yelling at me.”  “At night when I yell and jump around.  It’s not fun for me.  My legs and arms tingle and I can’t make them stop.  I have to move or it gets worse.  I am hitting myself to stop this feeling.”  She was finally communicating what was going on inside of her and doctors could treat her symptoms that were painful with medication and help reduce meltdowns.  Carly began to calm down and over time and she began to share more of her world in Carly’s voice.   Her therapists and family discovered a very intelligent, gifted, funny and witty young woman who wanted to do normal activities like her brother and sister.  She wanted to go shopping with her mom and to take long walks with her dad.

Epilogue:  There is a special 20-page Epilogue at the end of the book that is written by Carly, who is now 17 years old.   It is funny, insightful and inspiring.   You learn why she calls her voice, her “inner voice.”  You discover that she was talking all the time as a young child, but inside of her head.   One day, she realized that no one was hearing her.  She talks about information and sensory  overload.  She describes her moment of realization that she was different from Taryn and Matthew.  She began to realize on her own that “it wasn’t that I didn’t understand the words, it was that my brain couldn’t focus directly on the conversation.”  This happened when Carly was bombarded with too many noises, bright lights, and smells, which would distract her and put her on sensory overload.   Left to her own resources, Carly taught herself what she calls “audio filtering,” which helped her sort things out.  It is a very hard thing to learn, but Carly did it on her own.  This is just a peek at what this inspiring young woman has done for herself, autistic children, parents and the medical and educational communities. Carly has found her voice and has become advocate helping people understand autism!   You can follow Carly Fleischmann on Facebook (over 32,100 followers)  and Twitter.