One of the hardest parts about the autism spectrum can be the feeling of separation it brings about. Adults on the spectrum may feel isolated and different than other people they live and work with. Parents of autistic kids can feel judged and criticized by other parents, especially those with easy children. Probably most difficult is the children on the spectrum, who often suffer through teasing, bullying or just being left out.
I think sometimes this isolation can be toughest for kids in mainstream schools, where their academic abilities are strong, but their social skills keep them from connecting with classmates. So often, the typical kids don’t understand what’s different about their autistic classmates and neighbors, so they might view autistic behaviors as mean or unfriendly. And the sad result is that the autistic kids get left out.
Education and communication can go a long way toward creating understanding, and books can be the best way to start that conversation. One sweet picture book I recently read is Anthony Best by Davene Fahy. In this simple book, Fahy explores the relationship between Anthony, a child on the autism spectrum, and his neighbor Hannah. The book illustrates many of the behaviors that might be puzzling or upsetting to neurotypical children, such as stimming behaviors, lack of eye contact, and communication differences. These behaviors are presented in a simple, non-judging way, which leaves plenty of space to have a conversation with young readers.
If you have a child on the spectrum, or with behavioral or learning differences, this book could be a good choice to present to neighbors or friends who want their children to learn a bit more about how differences don’t have to keep kids from being friends. And, Anthony Best would be a nice book for any teacher to have in the classroom.