(WTNH)– Jim Watkins speaks with Amy Newmark the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Franchise. One of their books focuses on Autism and children who are on the spectrum.
She answers questions about her book to News 8.
Why did Chicken Soup for the Soul make a book on autism?
Let me tell you one of the stories in the book to illustrate why we made this book. Anne Moore Burnett wrote a story about how she was wiping down the playground slide for her son with sensory sensitive autism, and she felt shunned by the other mothers. This was not an uncommon feeling for her. Then another mother of a child with autism gave her a paper bag containing a towel and a candy bar. Anna Moore wrote, and I quote: “Through tears of disbelief I thanked her and she hugged me. I had been so alone for so long, I could barely contain myself. I began to sob.” Then, as Anna tells us, the other mothers handed her tissues and said, “‘We wanted to help; we just didn’t understand.”
But plenty of people do understand. And that’s why we made this book-to help the parents of children on the autism spectrum feel less alone… and to pass along some great tips too from other parents who are going through the same thing. The 101 personal stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum create a portable support group for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. They will see pieces of themselves reflected in the stories by other parents and also by people who have been diagnosed with autism and Asperger syndrome. This book also makes it clear that every child on the spectrum is an individual with a unique set of talents and non-neurotypical behaviors.
What has the reaction been from parents?
We have basically been getting love letters from parents of kids on the spectrum, saying exactly what we expected: “I feel less alone.”
How did you put together the book?
Since I don’t have a child on the spectrum, I turned to the experts to help me: Nancy Burrows and Mary Beth Marsden, who have kids with autism, and Dr. Rebecca Landa of the Kennedy Krieger Institute which does research in brain disorders and autism, and helps out a lot of kids on the spectrum in the Baltimore area. They solicited great stories from other parents and also made sure that the stories are medically accurate and represent the best current practices and most up-to-date information. One of the things we had to deal with was the recent change from saying “autism” and “Asperger’s” to just saying “autism spectrum.” So we made sure to use all the terms, since many parents still prefer to say autism and Asperger’s instead of just saying their kids fall on the autism spectrum.
What did you learn from the book, since as you say, you are not the parent of a child on the autism spectrum?
I learned a tremendous amount. First of all, I realized that a few people I know, who are my age, so probably undiagnosed, most likely have Asperger’s. And most importantly, I learned that 1 in 88 kids is on the spectrum and that I should not be judgmental when I see a parent having a hard time with a misbehaving kid. It is quite likely that parent is doing the best job that anyone could expect and that the child is just having a meltdown.
What will parents get from reading the book?
They will feel they are part of a community, and that there are many other parents feeling the exact same things, experiencing the same ups and downs, the same guilt, the same fears. And they’ll read a lot of funny stories too, because it is so important to laugh when you are raising a kid on the spectrum. One of my favorite stories was about the kid who proudly told his mom that he loved sleepaway camp and that he had taken lots of photos for her. When she asked him for the camera, he proudly declared that he had thrown it away after he took the photos since it said “disposable” on it. The wonders of the literal Asperger’s child right? Parent will also pick up a lot of great tips that they can use with their own children.