Friday, December 02, 2016

Books About Kids On The Spectrum - Autistic And Those With Asperger's Syndrome

Until last year, I volunteered at a school for special children. I spent some of my happiest time at this school, reading them stories and helping them with maths. The children were just like any other kids anywhere. Just as naughty, just as sweet, just as annoying and just as fun. In short, they were just kids, who had some special needs, whether physical, cognitive or social.

Asperger's Syndrome is named after Dr Asperger, who worked with children with the specific needs of these children and even protected them from the horrific experiments and extermination that the Nazi rule inflicted upon those with disabilities, presenting them as gifted individuals that would be of great use to humankind in the future. While it is reprehensible that such measures were necessary, Dr Asperger had one thing right - these are, indeed, gifted individuals, even if they struggle with social behaviour.

Here are a few books that bring out this aspect beautifully.

Image source: goodreads

Colin Fischer
Written by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz
Published by Puffin
Ages 12+

Colin is a 15 year old. He hates the colour blue, doesn't like mushy food, loves bouncing on the trampoline, and carries his Notebook everywhere with him. He has a younger brother Danny, and parents who love him and know exactly what makes him tick. And his superheroes are Sherlock Holmes and Dr Spock.

Colin goes to high school, but it is all new for him. He's out of his comfort zone of school, where people all knew about his special needs. But high school is interesting too, and he writes about everything he sees around him in his Notebook, an impersonal yet interested observer of all that goes on around him, trying to make sense of the environment.

He has high functioning Asperger's, and knows exactly what is wrong with him, and exactly how to deal with things when he feels a meltdown come on, but sometimes helpless about factors he cannot control. These would include classmates who know how to create a sensory overload of sound, and teachers and a Principal who is unsympathetic about his special needs.

Until one day, hell breaks loose in the form of a gun that goes off in the cafeteria, and one of the boys is suspected. Colin is sure that this boy, despite being a bully at whose hands he has suffered in the past, is innocent. Could he prove this? What is it about that afternoon that doesn't quite measure up?

A fast paced and sensitively written book that needs to be read.

Image source: goodreads
Written by Kathryn Erskine
Published by Puffin
Ages 10+

Beautifully written, the book deals with the aftermath of a tragedy.

10 year old Caitlin is a child on the spectrum, who loses her beloved elder brother Devon in a senseless shooting at his school, in which two other people lose their lives. Caitlin loses the one person who really understands her. Her father is unable to deal with the double whammy of the death of a child, and taking care of Caitlin.

The story is told from her POV, and the author takes us through what Caitlin experiences. While watching Caitlin find an ability to empathize, we develop some empathy about the world of those who see the world in black and white, finding it infinitely more comforting as sufferers of Asperger's.

So do Caitlin and her father find closure? Read the book to find out.

Image source: goodreads
From The Eye Of My Mind
Written by T.G.C. Prasad
Published by Random House India
Ages: YA

18 year old Mallika is autistic. A sweet, simple girl, she is a veritable encyclopedia of facts and trivia, regaling their house help all the time with facts that bewilder her. Her parents, traditional middle class Indians, and her elder brother display a sensitivity towards her that is not usually seen in the Indian scenario, doing everything to make her life as normal as possible.

Everything is great in her world, until her brother falls in love and is all set to marry. Have a new person in her home? How will she cope with a 'stranger', even if everyone keeps telling her that she will be 'family'? Mallika's mind refuses to understand how a stranger can suddenly become family.

The book makes a very valid  point about how autistic people just need social acceptance. That they too have a right to lead a life of dignity. And that we can help them do this if they are handled with care, love and patience.

The ending disappointed me a bit, though, becoming very simplistic, and too traditional for my liking. Despite this, I think it is a well written book on children individuals on the spectrum in the Indian context.

1 comment:

Sheela said...

Mocking Bird is touching and moving and beautiful... I love how Caitlin and her dad work towards closure - love how Caitlin tries to help the kid whose mom died in the same incident, love how we get to see the world the way Caitlin sees it-- Looking at people, making polite conversation etc are so hard for Caitlin, something we take for granted...

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