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.
Some 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!
I 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.
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.
This 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 —
Here is a recap of the 2013 Light It Up Blue campaign
Think BLUE today! And Light it up tomorrow!
Your friend in BLUE