Recently in school my son read a book about Temple Grandin. As the teacher was explaining to the class that Temple is on the autism spectrum, my son started asking questions. Somewhere along the way he forgot that he is also on the spectrum. Maybe he’s progressed even further than we realize. Maybe it’s because we don’t make a big deal out of it. I’m not sure the reason, but he was curious but also concerned. Most of all he didn’t want to feel like his mom and dad, or the teachers were singling him out. I picked up the book that they read in school and also another one that jumped out at me.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr Temple Grandin. Written by Julia Finley Mosca. Illustrated by Daniel Rieley.
I only knew of Dr Grandin because of the Claire Dames starring movie a few years ago. I didn’t know her story, or her work, or any of it. Even though this is a children’s book it was fascinating. The usual rules apply here, meeting one person with autism means you have met one person with autism. That said, learning how Temple’s mind works reminded me I need to pay attention to how my son’s mind works. How he takes in information, how he processes it, why it comes out the way it does. I may not understand his actions now, but every bit of it could be building up to some greater realization. Much like Temple took her own behaviors and applied them to animals, my son’s incredible memory skills are being honed on Pokemon and Roblox games but might be used in larger ways later in life.
All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin.
As if by fate this book came through work the same day and I knew I had to bring it home. A little zebra child comes home upset about the school day. He doesn’t want to touch paint with his bare hooves. The fire alarm scares him. He’s unsure how to talk to other kids and make friends. He hates being different. His mother tells him that his autism stripe is just one of his many stripes. She reminds him of all of his other skills and traits that she loves so much. Every one of them is a part of what makes him whole, including the autism stripe. And his mom loves him for every stripe. My son and I sat down to read this one and he seemed to feel really good afterwards. Yeah buddy, you’re autistic. You’re also the funniest kid I’ve ever known. You also retain all of this amazing minutiae from your shows and video games. You also might be the best in your class at math. His autism stripe is covered by hair because both scissors and clippers scare him. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Imagine my surprise to see some positive reviews in the front of this book. One from someone I’ve looked up to all my life, Stan Lee.
I’ve always felt that the teachers among us are real-life superheroes. And one important lesson they teach is that we should embrace the things that make each of us different and unique — whether it’s having been bitten by a radioactive spider, turning green from gamma rays, or being born a zebra with a red autism stripe!
Dammit Stan, you got me again.