Thursday, June 4, 2009

another quirky kid

I just finished Anything but typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, a children's novel about autism. It was really good. Baskin worked with several autism groups to get her facts right and she does a fantastic job showing how the mind of an autistic boy works.

Jason Blake is 12 years old. He has loving, and sometimes frustrated, parents who really go to bat for him. He has an adoring and caring younger brother, Jeremy, who is 8. Jason sees an occupational therapist and a talk therapist and has graduated from needing a one-on-one aide during the school day. He doesn't talk much but is in love with words--he is an enthusiastic writer, posting his stories on an website called Storyboard. Another writer, a girl whose screen name is Phoenixbird, comments on Jason's stories. He responds to her comments to the point of telling her his real name and signing one of his emails to her "love." Jason thinks he now has a girlfriend. As a reward for his imroved control over his behavior, Jason' parents make arrangements for him to go to a national convention of Storyboard writers. Something Jason greets with mixed feelings--as a writer, he is excited but he is also very nervous that Phoenixbird/Rebecca may be at the convention and see him only as an autistic child, nervously flailing his arms about and spouting inappropriate things since the connection between what he should/wants to say and what he actually says is not reliable. I'll draw a veil over the story right there.

Jason is an awkward (isn't that typical of a 12 year old?) boy but he is also very bright and very communicative. He is often confused between what he knows he should do and what he does, often not realizing that he has reacted physically to a situation (for example, kicking his cousin who is taunting him about his disabilities). The wiring in his head frequently goes awry. But he is also very endearing and, as a reader, I really cared for him.

I hope I look at the autistic children who come into my library with new eyes...and more patience.

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