Parenthood is a maze filled with unexpected twists and turns, and sometimes those twists come in the form of revelations about our children. When I was told that my son, Dylan, was autistic, I spiraled both up and down. I spent days mourning the childhood I thought he would have, and then I snapped into Mama Bear mode and dedicated my days to preparing Dylan for the world, and the world for Dylan. The maze revealed itself to be much more complex as the thought of school became a reality. I felt a mix of emotions — concern, love, and a deep desire to ensure that Dylan's friends understood and embraced him for who he is. It was about two weeks shy of his first day of school that it hit me. I decided to write a draw both from inside of Dylan's mind, and through the eyes of a child perceiving him in their reality. My doodles become a children's book, "My Autistic Friend, Charlie".
As a parent, learning that your child is on the autism spectrum can be both challenging and enlightening. I realized that Dylan's experience in school could be guided into a wonderful opportunity for everyone to learn from each other if his peers had a better understanding of autism, but at 4 years old, how can one expect a child to understand?
Writing "My Autistic Friend, Charlie" became a fun and exciting labor of love. I immersed myself in research, seeking to understand autism from different perspectives and experiences. The process was a learning curve, not only about autism itself but also about the various ways children process information and build relationships.
The Story Unfolds:
The heart of the book lies in the character of Charlie, a lovable and unique individual with autism. Through the eyes of the main character, the story explores the world of autism in a gentle and approachable manner. The narrative emphasizes Charlie's strengths, interests, and the things that make him special, fostering a positive understanding of autism.
In addition to the engaging storyline, "My Autistic Friend, Charlie" incorporates educational elements to help children comprehend autism better. Simple explanations of sensory experiences, communication preferences, and the importance of patience are seamlessly woven into the narrative. The goal is to demystify autism and encourage open conversations among children.
The book goes beyond educating about autism; it serves as a catalyst for conversations about inclusivity and empathy. Through the experiences of the characters, young readers learn the value of embracing differences and building meaningful connections. The story acts as a bridge, connecting children of all abilities in the spirit of friendship.
"My Autistic Friend, Charlie" is more than just a children's book; it's a testament to the power of storytelling in a mom and son healing and understanding a new reality. Through the eyes of Charlie and his friends, may we all learn to appreciate the unique qualities that make each child special.
I think we are long overdue for a sequel!