Our son, Carter, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2010.
A year after his diagnosis, he was attending preschool. Naturally curious, his classmates started asking questions about his behaviours. Autism Awareness month was near, so I used their interest as an opportunity to educate about the disorder.
I wrote a poem.
I explained the complexity of Autism, in a simple way. I used words the kids would understand and I wrote it in rhyme, as a way to keep them engaged. (Okay, maybe more so because rhyming poems are my personal favourite.)
The children loved the poem and so did the grownups! With a little bit of encouragement, illustrations were added, and the poem evolved into a picture book.
“Clever Carter: A Story about Autism”, is a resource for parents and educators.
The story teaches the common behaviours and misconceptions of ASD. As an “introduction to Autism”, it encourages conversation between the reader and the child/children they are reading to. The open dialogue provides an opportunity, for the kids to ask questions about the disorder or their friend with Autism.
Of course, reading the book is a great place to start, when introducing Autism. However, I have 5 other tips that I would like to share, to help get you started:
- HAVE the conversation. Actually DO IT. Don’t be so afraid of saying the wrong thing that you decide to forgo it altogether. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the world, with 1 out of every 68 children being affected. The chance of your child having a classmate with Autism is very high.
- Focus on the similarities. What does your child have in common with the child in their class? Do they have the same interests? Do they like the same foods? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then ask. Talk with the teacher, approach the parent of the child with ASD. Most parents will welcome any questions you may have! There is a real person behind that diagnosis of Autism, with a unique personality and set of interests. Any effort to get to know our child is always appreciated!
- Discuss diversity and acceptance of individuality. This doesn’t just apply to Autism. It’s important for our kids to appreciate and respect all the different abilities and challenges that people have. We all have areas where we excel, and we also have areas that we find to be more challenging. It’s okay to talk about them. Just put the focus on the similarity of our differences. Some kids are good at math, some are good at sports, some are good on computers, but we can’t be good at everything! We need to appreciate and accept our diversities.
- Keep things positive. There is a fine line between being compassionate and having pity for someone. We want our kids to be accepted for their differences, and understood, but we don’t want kids feeling sorry for them. Autism is not a tragedy, it is just a different way of life.
- Lead by example. It is our responsibility as parents, to guide the way. We set the foundation. If you look at individuals with Autism as valuable members of our society, then your kids will too. If you want to encourage your kids to be more inclusive of their classmates with ASD, then let them see your involvement with these individuals in the community. How are you embracing them? How are you supporting them? Go out and volunteer. Centres and organizations are always looking for volunteers.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
With the end of the school year coming up, Clever Carter would make a great gift for the teacher in your life! We're giving away the book Clever Carter and a Limited Edition Camp Label Pack! Want to win? Contest is open until June 18, 2015 at 11:59pm EST. Good luck :)
About the Author
Sara Park is a children’s book author, illustrator and public speaker. Mother of three, her oldest Carter, was diagnosed with Autism in 2010. Her book “Clever Carter” was inspired by her son, as a resource for educating children, about their friends with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Naturally, she is passionate about Autism advocacy and inclusion. Unless inclusion involves sharing her own personal colouring book with her children.
She is also a “Woe” contributor to the anthology “Martinis & Motherhood-Tales of Wonder, Woe and WTF?!” available in June 2015.
You can follow Sara on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CleverCarterAStoryAboutAutism
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CRCRsMOmmy @CRCRsMommy
And her blog: https://crcrsmommyblog.wordpress.com/