Friday, May 20, 2011

Autism- and A Book Review

All the work we have done, all the tricks I have learned to do my job so that my student can function as 'normally' as possible in a general education setting have not gotten me into his head quite like the book I just finished reading.

Wow.

It's simple, heartwrenching, and from the point of view of a girl with Asperger's. (If you didn't know, Asperger's is on the Autism spectrum.) She shares similar traits with my student. For instance, abstract concepts are more difficult for them both to understand.
They both have odd behaviors not acceptable in public. While their behaviors are odd to us, they clearly come from a need inside them that we can't even begin to associate and draw parallels to triggers in their lives or environment. They both have unique skills that they excel at.

In MOCKINGBIRD, Caitlin thinks the world revolves around her. She learns about empathy, manners, finesse, and closure; all very difficult things for an autistic child to grasp. Reading this book brought clairvoyance and understanding of the way my student's mind is wired. Things are literal. The world is a place of only his feelings. Sometimes it's more than too just loud, too colorful, too stimulating, and the only release is to return to the comfortable places that make sense.

Katheryn Erskine paints a vivid picture of grief, the stresses of childhood, and the ways society behaves towards special needs. Every character is believable. We all can relate to the feeling of needing something and not knowing how to get it. Advice abounds, but like many times in the book, we just don't 'Get It', so we can't follow any of the advice.

This book is a quick read, but don't let that fool you. Your heart will go out to Caitlin and you'll see others in a different light after experiencing this story.

Yes, I said
experience.

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4 comments:

outerhoard said...

As you know, I have aspergers. But I don't think about it much; it's not a big part of how I see myself.

A lot of the things that people often list as symptoms of autism I don't really identify with at all. It's important to realise that everyone is different and not fall for stereotypes. There's a cluster of symptoms, and some people have some more than others.

As for abstract concepts, that sounds a bit broad. People with asperger's are typically better than average at the mathsy-sciency kind of abstract concepts, just not so much the social kind. But I'm not really sure what sort of examples you had in mind.

I definitely identify with the bit about the world sometimes being too stimulating and having to withdraw to escape from it. Also, I'm really bad at time management and juggling multiple projects and such.

ElshaHawk said...

I was drawing parallels between the book character and my student.
While I understand that all people on the spectrum are different, I didn't make that clear in my post. These two have a lot of trouble with social skills and empathy. I think my student understands empathy slightly better than the character in the book.
You make a great point about not falling for stereotypes, and again i did not make it clear that I have known MANY kids with autism spectrum labels and each one is VERY different.
Also, there are times when I have to get away from the public eye too. I think that's why I sometimes prefer an internet presence to a physical one.

outerhoard said...

Hope my comment didn't come across as suggesting that YOU didn't understand these things. Just saying what I feel are the important things to say. So they're said.

ElshaHawk said...

As long as we're both clear. :) I've not been the best communicator lately, unfortunately.

I posted broadly on purpose, both so as not to give too much away about the book, and to include both my student and the character. Then again, abstract concepts cover a broad range. Inferring, drawing conclusions, geometric shapes in space, lateral thinking, empathy, and interpersonal relationships all fall under that heading.