Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend: A Kid's Book on Making Friends with a Child Who Has Autism is a very quick read, covering fifty-four pages in nine chapters. The chapters are not specifically labeled as such, but the titles are at the top of each page. Each chapter ends with a page entitled talk time. There are questions positioned in a box for adults to prompt conversations with the reader. They are specifically related to the content in the chapter so that the child reading can think about the subject and offer examples to the questions. This would have to be done orally as there is no space within the book for jotting down answers.
There is also a page with recommended websites that have sections for children to learn more about autism, although the Autism Society of America is not one of them. Next are seven pages giving brief overviews of books suitable for children that are on the topic of autism with one page devoted to a DVD. Lastly is a glossary of a few terms to help children comprehend them a bit more.
A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend is written by Joanna L. Keating-Velasco with the illustrations from JupiterImages Corporation. The author's daughter is 11 years old and helped with writing the book for the upper-elementary level.
The publisher, Autism Asperger Publishing Company sells the book at their site, www.asperger.net.
The chapters are as follows:
Greetings from Chelsea
What in the World Is Autism?
"Sensing" the Differences"
Can You See What I Am Thinking?
Look Deep Into My Eyes
What Are You Doing?
From Frustrations to Friendships
Want to Give It a Try?
Want to Know More?
I like the chapter titles, finding them to be clever and kid friendly. Autism is described like a rainbow and one will find reference to a puzzle as well. Chelsea also explains that those with autism think in pictures and need visual supports. The chapter on senses is explained well with witty titles -
Sight - Do you see what I see?
Hearing - Turn that down...It's Too Loud!
Touch - Getting in Touch with Me
Smell - The Bionic Nose Knows
Taste - You think you're a picky eater
The sight portion of the chapter ends with the following, "In my classroom, we have visual schedules and reminders (which I'll talk more about later) that help focus me." I really felt it should have read "help me focus" instead. It did not seem to flow well the way it was written.
The chapter on eye contact used the term "keeping eye contact" instead of "making eye contact", which I found confusing to read. The chapter on Echolalia explained delayed echolalia as well, and offered the suggestion to help the person with autism answer a question instead of repeating the question.
Chelsea mentions in A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend: A Kid's Book on Making Friends with a Child Who Has Autism that she is on the soccer team, a member of the Girl Scouts and takes art classes at the community center. She likes spaghetti and enjoys making things with modeling clay.
The character of Chelsea is a compilation of a rainbow of special kids. From reading through the book it seemed to me that she is someone on the higher end of the autism spectrum, similar to my twelve-year old son who has been fully included in general education since first grade. My son mentions thinking like a video when he recalls an incident or experience, which is how it was described within the book.
So I was quite surprised when I found the description at Autism Asperger Publishing Company describing the book as follows:
"A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend provides a unique glimpse of life from the perspective of a child who has severe autism. It is told through the voice of Chelsea, an 11-year-old girl, who has severe autism." Here "severe autism" is mentioned twice.
As the single parent to two children on the autism spectrum, each on opposite ends of the autism spectrum, I find the character to not be someone who has severe autism. Over the years I have come to find whenever someone refers to "severe autism", it usually means the person is nonverbal.
The book also does not delve into how this girl with "severe autism" is able to be a soccer player who gets high fives from her coach when she scores a goal, or participate in art classes at a community center with no support person. Therapies are not even mentioned, something someone who has "severe autism" would certainly need.
It would have been worth covering how this girl is able to participate in these activities, and to mention the need for repetition in teaching. I found the book to be a good start to share with neighborhood children, classmates and relatives.
Perhaps a page at the front of the book explaining who the intended target audience is with examples. I see parents of children on the autism spectrum purchasing and loaning the book to classmates, but hard to see families with no experience relating to autism finding the book and wanting to learn more. It has to start from families to get the awareness out there among schools and extracurricular school activities, church groups and community events.
I have read several of the books recommended for further reading and placed two of them on my amazon wishlist as a result of the book summary by the author. The author is currently working on another book.
I learned a long time ago either from a presenter at a conference or in a book that when speaking to someone on the autism spectrum you should wait "fifteen seconds" before asking another question since this gives them time to process the question/sentence and then they can give a response.
I am curious though to know if it was the publisher who considered Chelsea to have "severe autism" and if it was the intent of the author to present her that way. I think something would have been written within the book if that was the intent.
For the most part I was pleased with A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend: A Kid's Book on Making Friends with a Child Who Has Autism, having received it from the Publisher on behalf of the author to review, without knowing anything about their description. Personally I would suggest not utilizing the term "severe autism" in reference to the book and bypass what the description is, and come to your own conclusions based on the text.
A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend: A Kid's Book on Making Friends with a Child Who Has Autism
A is for Autism.net author website
YouTube Summary of Book by author
Living with autism - Autism Society of America series
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.