I hope you find her answers as enlightening as I did.
1. While it's obvious that your sons were a major influence, what motivated you to write a "children's" book on autism and spd?
When my son Tyler was diagnosed with autism, my world spun into a research journey. I was on a quest to understand and gain insights into the way he approached the world. I would ask every professional I would encounter questions like,
- Why does he spin the wheels on his toys cars and watch the ceiling fan spin?
- Why does he stare at the rolling credits on the television?
- Why does he run back and forth for hours?
The answer was always the same, because he has autism. I continued to seek and provide therapies for my son, still frustrated by what I called the autism black hole. However, as we implemented sensory strategies to help in his sensory processing disorder, the behaviors began to subside. As we gained control of the autism we were able to focus on teaching, growing and healing. The black hole was not as mysterious as it was purported, and was replaced by hope. I wrote the book so Tyler and other families, teachers and therapists could have that same hope.
2. Your book is quite unique in the way that it is directed at both adult carers and children simultaneously. Was this your original intention or did it come about when you started revising your material?
Once I realized that sensory issues were such a big part of autism, I wanted to help my son learn to self regulate, or at least have the opportunity to point to a picture to help me to understand what he needed. I created the book as a resource to help my son and to share what I had learned with the parents, teachers and therapists that were not aware of the huge benefits of a sensory diet. It is the book I wish I had when I was trying to make sense of our sensory world.
3. You offer a great deal of useful advice for dealing with difficult behavior in your book. Was it difficult to restrict yourself to just a few?
I didn’t really see it as addressing difficult behaviors, although it does do that, but rather find the cause and effect of behaviors that I was told by many that were “just autism”. I tried to give play to many different sensory strategies, in addition to replacing the more socially unacceptable behaviors, like watching the ceiling fan spin, to spinning on a merry-go-round at the park. One behavior makes him “look” like he has autism, and one is just playing on the playground with his peers, addressing the same vestibular needs. A simple paradigm shift makes all the difference.
4. How does your son Tyler feel about the book? Is he excited to be in a story of his own?
Tyler is comfortable with the book as it was created as a social story for him, grandiose, yes, but in its truest form, a social story. We’ve been using the illustrations and text right off my drawing board for many years now. I don’t know that he sees the “excitement” factor as creating illustrations and stories to help him through his challenges is a part of our everyday lives, but we do refer to it as “our book”, and I call him “my Squirmy Wormy”. I would imagine that he doesn’t really understand that having your name and picture in a book isn’t commonplace for every little boy—and that’s what I love about him!
5. You really seem to have gotten into Tyler's character and seen the world the way he sees it. It's difficult for me, as a dad with limited home-time, to get that deep into my children's characters. What sorts of things did you do to get that unique perspective.
My most defining moment with this book was when I was illustrating the page where Tyler is saying, “Sometimes I feel like things are running around in my head so fast that they don’t make sense…” He looked at the picture, and at a time when he had very little language, pointed to the picture and said, “That’s Tyler”. I asked, “Is that how you feel when your head is mixed up?”, (that’s our term for sensory overload) and he said, “Yes”. I knew then that for the first time, I had crossed into his world, and continue to observe, embrace and celebrate his uniqueness.
For me, it’s a privilege to be “let in” to see the awesomeness and complexity of his mind. I find that sometimes that unique perspective is there for the taking by continuing to ask him questions about himself, and on the days I was meant to experience a small miracle, he will respond with an insightful answer.