Here’s a sampling of titles for students who have been diagnosed on the spectrum as well as their teachers and families, intended to broaden understanding of diverse individual needs and highlight the enormous potential for achievement.
For Children and Teens
In Barbara Cain’s novel, Autism, The Invisible Cord: A Sibling’s Diary (Magination Press, 2013; Gr 5 Up), 14-year-old Jenny loves her younger brother Ezra and is the first to come to his defense whenever anyone treats him unkindly, but she also knows that living with an autistic sibling has its challenges. Written in first-person diary entries, Jenny’s story takes readers through a school year of ups and downs, both hers and Ezra’s. Along the way, she describes her brother as a toddler, his speech therapy sessions, and tension that develops among family members about his behavior, as well as her own growth as a sister and independent young adult. Chock-full of incidental information about autism, this is an appealing coming-of-age narrative told by a sensitive, self-aware young woman.
Resources for Adults
Temple Grandin, a vocal advocate and designer of humane animal treatment systems, who also happens to be autistic, has recently caught the public’s attention, in part because of an award-winning HBO biopic based on her book Thinking in Pictures (Vintage, 2010). In her latest title, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum(HMH, 2013), Grandin and co-author Richard Panek look at the science of autism developed by studying functional MRIs of the brain, including Grandin’s, and genetic research.
The authors infuse the text with an obvious passion for scientific inquiry, making complex theories and data accessible to general readers. Grandin offers a strong case for increased investigation of sensory problems related to autism and examines the validity and role of self-reporting to aid research. She also urges extreme caution about labeling, which tends to limit individual achievement. She writes, “By cultivating the autistic mind on a brain-by-brain, strength-by-strength basis, we can reconceive autistic teens and adults in jobs and internships not as ‘charity cases’ but as valuable, even essential, contributors to society.”