First and foremost, there are no true experts on autism. And, the very best way to try to understand even a little, is to listen to autistic people. This will provide you will the ultimate insight on the subject, hands down.
Yesterday, my son and best bud, Sidney, received his official autism diagnosis. It’s a journey we’ve been on for over two years and a road will continue to travel down, forever.
Before Sidney’s diagnosis came through and his autism became ‘official’, I already knew, in my heart, what the outcome would be. Yet, it still winded me slightly—seeing it in writing was a significant event that I will never forget.
My wife Lynsey and I sat down to reflect. Eventually, we smiled and talked about Sidney’s infectious personality and innate strengths. After some time, we started to realise just how much we have already learned since concerns were raised with us around Sidney’s second birthday.
Over the past two years, we’ve listened without ego. We’ve studied, we’ve read, we’ve acted, and we’ve tuned in. While we still have a lifetime of learning to do and many roads to walk, I feel secure in the knowledge that we’ve already got so much in place for our son. And so far, we’ve made the reasonable adjustments he deserves for a happier life suited to the way he sees the world.
A lack of knowledge can create communicative roadblocks while manifesting fear—the subject of autism and neurodiversity is no exception.
Maybe you’re a fellow parent looking for a little more insight. Perhaps you’re a brother, sister, auntie, uncle, nan, grandad or friend wanting to understand more and offer value. Or maybe you’re a parent wanting some of the people around you to learn a little.
Whatever your motivation, here are some accessible autism-related resources that I found helpful at the start of our journey.
The Girl With The Curly Hair: Asperger’s Syndrome (1)
Written by autistic creative Alis Rowe, this particular book explains the fundamental concepts behind ASD in a warm, inviting, and understanding way.
Broken down into key elements of ASD including ‘What is a Spectrum?’ and ‘Sensory Processing’, ‘The Girl With The Curly Hair: Asperger’s Syndrome (1)’ is an excellent, visually stimulating introductory guide to autism.
Sidney and I have a copy that often sits on his bed and we like flipping through the pages together—he’s a big fan of the graphics.
Oh, and this is just one book from ‘The Girl With The Curly Hair’ series—they’re all brilliant and you can check the rest of the books out via the official website.
All My Stripes: A Story For Children With Autism
This heartwarming children’s book tells the tale of a zebra and his concerns on how his stripes make him feel different from the rest of his classmates. As you read through the book, you will see the moral of the story lies in appreciating people for who they are, as well as their strengths.
This book is a great teaching resource for adults as well as children, while serving as a comforting narrative for children on the spectrum. I’d recommend picking up a copy.
The A Word
I’m not 100% sure how the BBC drama, ‘The A Word’ is received across the community—and I’m only a handful of episodes in—but, all I can say is from the perspective of a SEND parent, many of the scenes struck a raw emotional nerve with me.
The ‘A Word’ in that sense, I believe has been handled with care—and will offer some glimpse into the world of a SEND family.
So, sit back one evening, fire up iPlayer, tune in, and follow Joe and his family as they navigate the peaks and troughs of everyday life.
Autism Alliance materials
The Autism Alliance is a network of specialist charities committed to improving the lives of people on the autism spectrum while spreading awareness.
Visit the official Autism Alliance website when you get the chance and you’ll be able to connect with a brilliant mix of essential news, research, stories and insights—an excellent resource to dip into.
Loop & Float
SparkShorts are a series of animated films from Pixar Animation Studios—Loop and Float are two of them.
Loop is a story that follows a non-verbal autistic girl and her talkative friend as they attempt to navigate their way across a lake on a boat. This is an incredible piece of art that highlights how two people can see or experience the world very differently.
Float follows the story of a father and his infant son: a young man with the special ability to, you guessed it, float. At first, he hides his son’s abilities away from the world in fear he will be marginalised, but over time, learns to accept him as he is.
Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
If you really want to trace the history of autism and get a panoramic glimpse into the wider world of neurodiversity, this gem of a book from Steve Silberman is epic—I recently finished reading it and I can’t recommend it enough.
From “The Wizard of Clapham Common” to the early work of Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, the rise of Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and beyond, this essential piece of prose covers the gross misconceptions surrounding neurodiversity while celebrating a mix of beautiful minds and brave souls that have made or are currently striving to make changes for the better.
“What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.” – Dr Temple Grandin
I hope these resources help you on your journey somewhat and if you have any suggestions of your own, please feel free to share them by dropping a comment.
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