All Cats are on the Autism Spectrum

All Cats are on the Autism Spectrum
Kathy Hoopmann
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This book is an updated version of the author’s 2006 All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome and since then what is considered acceptable terminology has changed and the author says in her note for this edition that people’s views are not all the same and that she hopes ‘readers will see past the finer details of disagreement and join me in celebrating, and deepening our understanding of, the richness and diversity of the autistic community.’ You can’t say fairer than that.

Essentially the book shows a sequence of photographs of cats/kittens in various situations accompanied by a sentence relating the visual to an element of being on the autism spectrum or as I prefer to say, neurodiversity. Thus the book opens with a shot of a kitty wrapped in a scarf and wearing a woolly hat introduced by ‘The first signs of autism are usually picked up very young.’ Now I could from my own experience challenge that for several reasons, but will say no more other than it’s generally truer for boys than girls, and remember the author’s words on her introductory page.
What I think Kathy Hoopmann is intending to present to readers how a child with autism might view the world: thus we have ‘Autistic people often have exceptionally good hearing, and loud sounds and sudden movements may scare them.’ 

and ‘Daily rituals comfort them, and they get worried if their schedules or surroundings are changed.’ 

as well as ‘When they are spoken to, they may refuse to make eye contact. When they talk, they go on and on about the same topic or ask the same questions over and over again …’

It’s great to read the acknowledgement that ‘with their unique perspective on life, their eye for details that others often miss and their passion for researching something they love, many will reach the top of their chosen fields … those on the spectrum are just like everyone else. They need love, encouragement and a purpose for life … and then everyone can sit back and enjoy the unique individuals they become.’

Poignant at times, funny at others, this book is a useful resource for teachers, parents, siblings, therapists; indeed everyone could benefit from reading it.

Through the Eyes of Us / In Every House, on Every Street

Through the Eyes of Us
Jon Roberts and Hannah Rounding

This is the second book written by the father of a child on the autism spectrum.

Herein as well as Kya from Through the Eyes of Me, we meet her best friend Martha.

Kya, now at school, talks about her experiences there, sometimes contrasting her thoughts, behaviour and preferences with Martha’s.

I know from experience of children I’ve taught that school can be a very confusing place for neurodiverse children, but both girls have their own ways of navigating through lessons, playtimes and lunchtimes, all of which are illustrated in colourful, detailed, sometimes funny scenes.

Kya also describes how she and Martha enjoy different tactile experiences,

and activities in their free time; and their routines are also different.

Martha knows when she feels tired, unlike our narrator whose energy seems boundless; although once asleep after a soothing bath and massage, she sleeps soundly.

Enlivened by Hannah Rounding’s expressive illustrations, this is a smashing celebration of every child’s uniqueness as well as providing an insightful picture of the world of an autistic child.

The book concludes with a list of relevant websites.

Put Through the Eyes of Us in your class collection and whether or not you have children on the autism spectrum therein, read it together, talk about it and lend it to individuals for home sharing too.

In Every House, on Every Street
Jess Hitchman and Lili La Baleine
Little Tiger

The girl narrator of this book invites readers into her house to see what goes on in its various rooms.

What we discover is a happy family engaging in seemingly ordinary everyday activities, but nothing they do is dull or mundane.

The cake baking in the kitchen becomes an opportunity for the family to dance and sing together.

The dining room might be the place for eating a meal, but that meal can turn into a fun piratical party,

while the living room is a great spot for rest and relaxation but also for dancing and singing, mulling things over and talking about feelings.

Yes the bathroom is for getting clean but there are opportunities for some artistic endeavours too.

And the bedroom? Yes sleep happens therein, but so too does play.

Full of warmth, this is a lovely demonstration of what makes a house a home delivered through Jess Hitchman’s upbeat rhyming narrative and Lili La Baleine’s views of the everyday incidents of family life that make it special but different for everyone in the street, as the final fold out spread reveals.

Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers!

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Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers!
Melanie Walsh
Walker Books
Isaac is one cool character – a superhero no less. However, on account of his superpowers he’s not quite like his brother or fellow pupils, some of whom call him names from time to time. Isaac has ASD sometimes called Asperger’s Syndrome. Isaac’s brain is truly awesome – it’s able to remember fascinating facts and he loves to share these with others though not everyone is eager to hear them.

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He’s full of energy but prefers solo indoor activities rather than outdoor, muddy ones. Social interaction isn’t one of Isaac’s strongest points though he loves to spend time with his pets.

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In class, Isaac has his special toy to help him stay calm and focused. He takes what people say literally; he just doesn’t get figurative language but his ears are hypersensitive and this can upset him.

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So can looking into people’s eyes but his dad has taught him a special coping strategy for face to face encounters.
Isaac’s straightforward first person narrative allows him to tell young readers just how it is for him in a way that is accessible to young children, many of whom are likely to encounter someone with an ASD in their own school. His upbeat voice keeps the tone light and the focus is on the positive aspects of his condition though it doesn’t avoid its challenges. Melanie Walsh beautifully portrays the various aspects of Asperger’s that Isaac talks about in her bold, uncluttered illustrations.
This book is a must for all early years settings and younger primary classes and all power to Walker Books for publishing it on their picture book list.

Girls with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to present the condition very differently from boys and can often slip through the net when it comes to an ASD diagnosis. However, they too have unique strengths and their differences should also be discussed and celebrated. Here’s a very useful little book that does just that:

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I am an Aspie Girl
Danuta Bulhak-Paterson and Teresa Ferguson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Here we meet Lizzie. In a first person narrative, she explains ASD from her own perspective and talks about how Aspie girls are different from boys with AS and are good at blending in with other girls though this is tiring to keep up all day at school. “It’s like being an actress, I guess where school is the stage,” she says.
Lizzie also discusses her special creative interests, her worries about making mistakes, her acute sensitivity to her own feelings. Sensory sensitivities are another challenge be they to tastes, sounds, things that touch such as particular scratchy clothes or as in Lizzie’s case, smells.

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Lizzie has a special animal friend, her dog, with whom she finds sharing her feelings easy. (This is something she has in common with many boy Aspies, as are reading people’s facial expressions and playing in a group and encountering changes.)
In addition to Lizzie’s straightforward account, sympathetically illustrated by Teresa Ferguson,  there are several very helpful pages aimed at adults who might be sharing the book with an Aspie girl. Let’s end with Lizzie’s own very positive parting words though: ‘My teacher tells me that I have a great future ahead of me, with many wonderful talents to show the world!’

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