In the first ever Autism Awareness Week for schools, what better time to publish a brilliant and very special new picturebook to help improve understanding of the condition. Author Melanie Walsh explained why she wanted to write the book and her struggle to find a publisher and to get it just right.
"I really wanted to do a book around the subject of autism for young children. My son has Aspergers and even though he’s twenty now, it’s the book I wish we had had when he was young.
His primary school was lovely and highly inclusive. However there was still a reluctance then to tell the other classmates why he was ‘different’ for fear of labelling him. When however, a hard of hearing child came into the school all the children were rightly taught some basic sign language to help communicate with the new student. Autistic children have their own unique set of communication difficulties so wouldn’t it have been great if students were given the tools to help understand and communicate with autistic classmates? 2016 does however see the NAS first ‘Schools’ Autism Awareness Week’ which I think is an amazing step forward.
My book hopefully explains what a ‘hidden’ disability like autism is about. I actually feel that autism isn’t very good at staying ‘hidden’ for long and children soon realise that a particular child’s behaviour is different. Many children want to understand and help, so by giving them the facts about the condition, students can see why certain behaviours occur, can offer support, understand that ASD children really want to make friends. This may hopefully reduce the incidence of ignoring or bullying.
I was keen also to emphasise that the autistic brain is just simply different and has it also has it’s own set of unique advantages. Isaac in the book has a great memory, good stamina, he’s sensitive and on his own terms is playful and humorous. His sensory difficulties can prevent him from joining in game or may trigger meltdowns. However by being allowed to ‘fiddle’ with an toy in class it can help him listen, he may find understanding a joke difficult or he may forget to be polite. However I bet he’s fantastic at spotting detail and making connections.
This book took about five years from initial conception to publication - I actually had to do a couple of books in between. Walker Books were brave to trust me with this project and it took a long time with many changes with my editor to come up with the final storyline.
There is no cure for autism and although children can he greatly helped with interventions, they will always be autistic. Neurodiversity can actually enrich society and understanding autism from a young age will really help those children to find a place in the world."
The first reader to email Tatti de Jersey at tatti[at]dejersey.co.uk can have a free copy of this book, but it is one that every primary school library should have!
Winner of the Pupil Library Assistant Award, Victoria Langford, St Hilda's CE High School with her #schoollibrarian #schoollibrary #plaa17 #lovebooks #librariansofinstagram #libraries #kidsread #congratulations #teensread See More...