Light It Up Blue! 2014

The month of April is Autism Awareness Month. And April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. A time to learn about and think about and be aware of Autism in our lives. It has been a big part of my life. I have spent a lot of time walking and playing and just sitting with young people who have autism as part of who they are. Autistic people do not perceive the world the same way that most people do. Their senses work differently than most of the world’s.

CIMG3491Some autistic little people love to stroke my hair – with their hands, their feet, their faces. Some don’t like to touch my hair at all, but they like the feel of my leather leash. They stroke it with their hands and rub it on their faces. They feel things differently.

People with autism sometimes smell the world differently. I have had kids sniff me from one end to the other. They want to smell my feet and my ears and in my mouth. They bury their noses in my hair.

I’ve been on many a walk with autistic little people. For some, the world is far less confusing with their hand on my back. For some, holding on to my leash is comforting.

And the illustrator of my book Reading With Rhythm, Paul Howell, is a very talented young man with autism!

IMG_1501I recently did a post about a Listening Walk. I like going on listening walks, and sniffing walks and rain walks. Today I’d like to take you on a walk with Ian.

IMG_5648IAN’S WALK
A Story About Autism

written by Laurie Lears
illustrated by Karen Ritz
published by Albert Whitman & Co. in 1998

Ian is a young boy with autism. This is a fictional story told through the eyes of Ian’s older sister, Julie. Julie, and another sister, Tara, are planning a day at the park and Ian wants to go, too. But Julie isn’t sure she wants him along. Ian sees the world differently and has to be watched closely. He sometimes does things that are embarrassing. But the girls decide to let him come along.

The walk to the park is all about how differently Ian senses the world around him. The things that he sees and doesn’t see. As they pass a diner, Ian wants to stop and watch the ceiling fan, but doesn’t notice all the people. The things that he hears and doesn’t hear. A fire truck rushes by with its siren blaring, but Ian doesn’t seem to notice. Ian smell things differently – he doesn’t like the smell of the flowers at the flower stand, but when they go past the post office, he puts his nose up to the wall to smell the bricks. Ian doesn’t like the feel of a soft feather, but lies on the ground to feel the warm, hard pavement. When they stop to sit on a bench and eat some lunch, the girls get distracted and Ian slips away. The girls are now in a panic and rush around frantically asking people if they have seen him. Julie decides to close her eyes and try to think like Ian. Where would his senses take him. Suddenly, she hears the big bell ringing and remembers that Ian loves that bell best of anything! And that is where she finds him! The girls are so relieved to find their little brother that they decide to walk home the way Ian likes.

IMG_5649This is a really lovely little book with some great illustrations. This is not a book to teach you all about autism. It is a picture book that provides a window into a life with autism. I like that it’s the point of view of the sister. Siblings of autistic children can have a particularly hard time sharing life with autism.

There are lots of resources out there for further study —

The Autism Society website is here.
Autismspeaks.org is the official Light It Up Blue for Autism website.
NPR recently had an interesting program about some new studies of autism.

Here is a recap of the 2013 Light It Up Blue campaign

Think BLUE today! And Light it up tomorrow!
Your friend in BLUE
Rhythm

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Percy Learns to Fly

I was bred to be a Guide Dog for a Blind person, but that was not meant to be. Instead I became a special friend to young people with special needs. I spend much of my time at school helping these little folks adjust to a world that is sometimes harsh and misunderstanding. For kids with autism and down’s syndrome and other disabilities, I become a bridge to a more comfortable day at school. If they can hold on to me, school doesn’t seem such a scary place. If they can walk me down the hall, other kids are impressed and want to talk to them. If they can hold my leash or brush, they can learn to hold and use a spoon or a pencil. If they can laugh, the world is good.

Copy of IMG_4335CIMG3474challenger at the library 3-7-08 006IMG_1501

We have a special Fiction Picture Book that is all about being different and trying to fit in.

IMG_4144Percy Learns to Fly was written by Patricia Schetter, a Behavior Analyst and Autism Specialist.

It is illustrated by my special friend Mary Livingston.

It was published in 2013 by ABTA Products and Publications. (Autism and Behavior Training Associates)

Percy Learns to Fly just recently won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award. For more about this award check HERE.

Themes – Being different, penguins, motivation and inspiration

From the book – “Everyone can see Percy is different. He tries hard to fit in with his friends and do well in school.”

“The families of Gull Island were excited as their eggs began hatching. The Hatcher family was the most excited because this was their first chick.”

Percy Learns to Fly is kind of an Ugly Duckling tale. The birds on Gull Island are sea gulls; graceful flyers of the sea. Percy does not look like all the other chicks. He’s big and gawky and doesn’t sound like all the others. As all the chicks grow bigger, they develop long wings with fluffy light feathers. Percy’s wings are short and stubby and sleek. His parents know that he’s different from the other chicks, but they are non-the-less proud of him and love him. When all the chicks started school, everyone made fun of Percy because he couldn’t do things like they did. They told him he was “hatched from the wrong egg.” But his mom told him that “God made each of us in a different way so we can do what we are called to do in life.”

IMG_4146And that’s what Percy found to be true. When it came time for all the chicks to fly, Percy just couldn’t fly like all the others. But he soon found that he COULD fly — in the water! Then everyone cheered him for his differences.

This is a great little book for talking about finding your special talents. It’s a good motivational tale of overcoming difficulties. Percy is an inspiration!

I hope that you will check out Percy Learns to Fly and see for yourself. There is a great list of resources in the back of the book for parents and teachers.

You can find out more about Mary Livingston at her blog, The Backdoor Artist.

For more information about autism visit Autism Speaks.

The California Academy of Science has a live penguin cam where you can watch penguins “flying” underwater. Check it out HERE.

penguinsAnd here are some funny penguins made from water bottles

Click on the picture to visit a Pinterest board that is chock full of all things penguin.

Since today is Perfect Picture Book Friday, you might want to visit Susanna Hill’s blog for more Perfect Picture Books and lists of resources.

Spread your wings and FLY!
Rhythm

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