5 Books That Will Change Your Life: For Utah’s Autism Families
You may or may not be surprised to know that our twin sons Zachary and MacLean are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. They were born neurotypical and hit every milestone ahead of time until around 2 1/2, when they disappeared into those little heads and didn’t come back out again. We were very private about their diagnosis for a long time. We decided this year that to share information and experiences about these beautiful kids was more important.
Here in Utah, we’re facing the second-highest rate of autism in the country. One out of forty-five children along the Wasatch Front will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum, up from one in ten thousand in 1980. Education and support is key. You are not alone.
My hands-down favorite has to be from local author Leanne Whiffen, who generously spends hours and hours of her time supporting parents, working for Autism legislation, writing and speaking out about the hope that Autism is reversible, her book A Child’s Journey Out Of Autism gives such hope. Leanne is honest about how incredibly hard a diagnosis can be on everyone in the family.
The book that profoundly changed my life this year was The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism from the beautiful mind of Naoki Higashida. To “hear” the voice of a child deep into the autism spectrum and the same age as my sons? It altered everything I understood about Zachie and MacLean. For every parent or caregiver who would give their kidney to just be inside the head of the child they loved–here’s your chance.
I wish every educator in the world could read Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition from Ellen Notbohm. It could save so much frustration for the teacher, so much helplessness and hopelessness for the child if they could understand each other faster. Simple, quick read and a wonderful gift for anyone associated with a child on the autism spectrum.
I had the opportunity to interview author and activist Temple Grandin for our radio show and burst into tears as I tried to thank her for her illuminating work in Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism (Vintage) and how it helped me understand our children. Knowing that Temple has autism and huge emotional displays completely creep her out didn’t stop me from blubbering, but God bless the woman. “You’re welcome!” she barked, “now suck it up, woman! You have an interview to do here!” You’ll find wonderful inspiration from her Emmy-winning HBO biography Temple Grandin with Claire Danes and the first book to give me hope from Temple’s life: Emergence: Labeled Autistic.
For a “go-to” idea book, you can’t beat 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s, Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition for resources, practical application and support. Veronica Zysk and Ellen Notbohm just re-issued this book with updated information and resource contacts.
I love watching my Zoe with her brothers–at two and a half, she’s right at the age they were when they regressed into autism. It’s been so good for them to be big brothers and not be treated like they’re “breakable.” But, I know as Zoe gets older she’ll face some of the sibling challenges–people staring, her brothers getting more attention and resources, feeling more responsibility than most little ones–so books for siblings and friends of children on the autism spectrum is crucial. My favorite is Sometimes My Brother: Helping Kids Understand Autism Through a Sibling’s Eyes, where Angie Healy talks with love and understanding about what a sibling’s life is like.