Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting one in sixty-eight children (autism speaks Canada). Some of the characteristics of autism include difficulties with social interaction, as well as verbal and non-verbal communication. Individuals with autism often engage in repetitive behaviors known as stimming. Little was known about autism until the 1980s. Since then, there has been a marked increase in the number of children who are diagnosed with autism. One form of autism has been commonly called asperger’s syndrome, which refers to people at the far end of the high functioning spectrum. There is still no known cause or cure for autism, and the best treatment is early intervention. It is important to remember that because autism is a spectrum disorder, the abilities of people with autism can be wide-ranging.
Literature and issues surrounding mental health have been intertwined for generations. Many authors have found refuge and peace in writing and giving voice to the experiences they have had with mental illness or breakdown. Writing, in turn, is recognized by many medical experts as a tool for resilience.
Monique Polak, author
When I was growing up in the 1960s, little was known about autism. I remember a boy in my grade two class – he sat alone; he had difficulty learning and interacting with his classmates; when he would not stop rocking in his seat, the teacher sent him to stand in the corner as a punishment. Now, some fifty years later, I am almost certain that this boy must have had an autism spectrum disorder (asd). Sadly, because so little was known about autism in those days, my classmate did not receive the support he needed from his teachers and his fellow students, and we did not have the opportunity to benefit from the gifts he might have brought to our situation together.
Today, there is far more support for children with autism and their families, and respect for brain differences that allow people to share their talents whether or not these people also have challenges. A wide range of therapeutic interventions are now offered to help children with autism thrive in the classroom, at home and in the world at large. A philosophy of inclusion assists all children in working and learning together towards the kind of cooperative society to which we all aspire.
In the last decade or so, many important books dealing with the topic of autism have been published. These books include works of fiction and non-fiction. They are of interest not only to readers with autism, and those who have friends and relatives with the disorder; they also provide a useful way for others to learn about asd, and to help us better understand what we can do to support individuals on the autistic spectrum.
This on-line platform introduces readers to four such books, and suggests writing prompts designed to help youngsters gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to live with autism, as well as perhaps see themselves in the uniqueness of these characters.
Monique also talks about autism in this video, produced within the project “Libre comme l’art” in 2013 :