I wish I could afford to hand out Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism to each person who will come into contact with my son Matthew. The images illustrated in each of the thirty pages by Karen Ritz seem to be taken right out of our daily lives. The author Laurie Lears did a marvelous job conveying autism in an easy to read format that will touch each person who reads through Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism.
Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism is narrated by Julie the middle child. I would guess her age to be somewhere between eight and ten with Ian around six. The older teenaged sister Tara takes them to the park one afternoon. The story begins in the kitchen with the girls in the family discussing the walk while Ian is glued to the back door screen. He is currently whining while tapping his fingers on the screen. Since Julie requests that Ian join her and Tara on the walk their Mother confirms that Julie will keep a close watch over Ian.
As they are passing Nan’s Diner, Ian must stop to watch the ceiling fan spin around. He does this in a matter of fact way without noticing the movement going on around him as he stands in the middle of the establishment. He truly is not aware of what others are doing as he is perseverating on the one object that has his attention.
While at the pond Julie takes a feather to Ian’s chin to tickle him, which makes him shriek and push it away. Tara is tossing cereal to the ducks that Julie kept a baggie full of in her pocket. It sure seems like Julie is trying to push the panic buttons on Ian because she clearly knows what bothers him and she goes for it anyway. Ian preferred to place his face on the ground looking at the stones, but Julie thought someone might step on him and was not happy.
They arrived at the food section of the park but as Julie explains, “Ian tastes things differently…” Ian had no interest in the pizza or hot dogs but wanted the cereal from Julie’s pocket. The various illustrations portray the moods that Julie is in due to the way Ian behaves in each situation. Tara went to get pizza for her and Julie while Ian and Julie waited at a bench. Julie wanted Ian to sit down but he was too busy flapping his hands and paying no attention to her.
It looked like Julie bent down to tie her shoe laces and when Tara arrived back with the pizzas they noticed Ian had gone astray. Tara and Julie move about the park asking various people if they saw a boy with a blue shirt. These people suggest maybe at the baseball game or listening to the storyteller. Julie explains that Ian does not like either of those so instead she closes her eyes and tries to think like Ian for a minute. A noise came from the old bell at the middle of the park and she knew instantly that it was from Ian.
Julie, Tara and Ian headed back home the same way they came, only this time they let Ian lead the way and allowed him all the time he wanted in doing the things that pleased him. Julie actually stood and looked up at the ceiling fan with Ian and did not worry what other customers thought. They bypassed the flower stand and headed to the bricks at the Post Office so Ian could smell them.
Julie was happy that her brother Ian was safe and not in any danger since she was in charge of watching him. Julie is even sure for an instant that Ian smiled at her as they arrived home. Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism deals more with Julie and her relationship with Ian than the rest of the family. Perhaps she is at the age of understanding and finding acceptance of his disability. Julie acts like any sibling would and puts Ian to the test with her trials during the walk to the park.
For any family affected by autism this is an emotional book that brings out the resentment and feelings of bitterness and jealousy by other siblings moving toward the love and tender feelings they share for one another.
This is well suited for children in a classroom setting that might have a child with Autism mainstreamed or included in their class.
I would suggest this book to be read by teachers, assistants, caregivers, neighbors and relatives of anyone who has a child with autism. It certainly would make an excellent addition to the school library and other facilities that deal with disabilities and children of all ages.
Originally published on Epinions