Explaining Autism to Young Children: ASD and Me

By Teresa DeMars

ASD and Me Book drawn cover image with young boy leaning against a tree

There comes a time when virtually every parent contemplates the questions of when and how they should explain autism to their child on the spectrum.  I found myself thinking about this a couple of years ago when my then five year old son, Donnie, who has high functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD), asked me when his little sister would go to the autism therapy center he attended.  This simple question got me thinking about how I would explain to him why he is different from other children.  What would I tell him when we have our first talk about his autism?

On the internet, I started looking for a book that I could use to help explain autism to him and his younger sister.  I quickly realized that the books on the market basically fell into two categories.  They either dealt with low functioning autism or the story was told from a sibling or friend’s point of view.  These books just didn’t fit my son.  Even though he has ASD, he is able to talk and express his thoughts and ideas.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of the school aged children I know with high functioning ASD can talk and express themselves, especially after early interventions.  Why couldn’t a book’s character reflect this?  I thought that my son and other children like him deserved a character that could share his own thoughts….a character that they could relate to and even look up to.  Inspired by this realization, I wrote ASD and ME.

ASD and Me is written from the point of view of Eli, a seven year-old boy that has high functioning autism spectrum disorder. Through the story, Eli explains how he was diagnosed and how ASD affects the way he thinks and interprets the world around him.  He also talks about some of the social and life skills he has learned that help him fit in with others.  The story concludes with some of the interests and activities that Eli shares with other children.  A “Letter to Parents” section at the end of the book offers detailed information about the symptoms of high functioning ASD, which would be helpful in explaining the disorder to extended family and friends.

It took two years to write and illustrate ASD and Me.  I worked on it after I put the kids to bed and here and there, when I managed to carve out some free time.  The first time I read ASD and Me to Donnie and his little sister was a very special day.  I had poured many long hours into illustrating the book and I hoped they would understand its message.  The most important message from the book is that “every kid in the world is different”.  The book explains that some differences you can see, like hair or skin color, while other differences, like autism, are hidden on the inside of the body.  It is these differences that make each of us special in our own way.

When we came to the page that illustrates Eli’s special school, I explained to Donnie that he went to a “special school” too.  He immediately remembered and assigned the names of his old classmates to the children in the illustration.  He easily related to the different situations Eli was in throughout the book and the feelings that Eli experienced.  Most importantly, learning that he has autism did not scare him, or make him feel sad, or anxious.  I came away with the feeling that it just seemed to all make sense to him and wasn’t a big deal.  As we finished our discussion about the book Donnie turned to me and said “Every kid in the whole world is different, mom.”

“You are exactly right!” I replied.

About the book:

ASD and Me:  Learning About High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder

Written and Illustrated by Teresa DeMars.

Special Illustration by Donnie DeMars.

Published by Charity Press Books

Softcover/Perfect Bound

ISBN 978-0-9836388-0-3

Pages:  30  Price:  $12.99

Ebook

ISBN 978-0-9836388-1-0

Smashwords Edition       Price:  $3.99

Connect with Teresa DeMars online:

Youtube video book trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU-7946HlMw

ASD and Me on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ASDandMe

ASD and Me on Google+:  http://gplus.to/asdandme

Blog:  http://asdandme.org/wordpress/

Links to Purchase:  http://charitypressbooks.com/

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