Autism, Culture, and Representation

Archive for March, 2012

Searching for autism in children’s books

Now that I’ve had a chance to get back into the basics of autism, I’m moving towards learning about autism in children’s literature. I started my search for children’s books on the University of Michigan library catalog and the Ann Arbor District Library catalog, and was unsuccessful.

I journeyed to Barnes and Nobles in the hope of having more success. Instead, I stumbled upon this bookshelf:

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I have to say, I was impressed that this bookshelf existed. I didn’t really know what I was expecting to find, but I thought these books would be buried within a larger disability section.

When I took a closer look at the books, I was slightly bothered by one in particular.

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I guess being slightly bothered might be a bit of an understatement. I was shocked that this actually the title of a book. “I wish I were engulfed in flames: my insane life raising two boys with autism” not only seems ridiculously overdramatic, but it also paints a horrifying picture about the challenges of raising an autistic child. This image depicts a mother who dreams of suicide because of the struggles inherent in raising an autistic child. Someone who does not know much about autism might see this book and have a skewed perception about how horrifying it might be to raise a child with autism.

Another book on the shelf looked interesting to me, but there was one word that stood out to me.

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I thought that the word “threatened” seemed a bit extreme. To view autism as a threat is to imply that autism is bad and that it can cause damage to a person’s life. Autism is portrayed as an obstacle to be overcome, or something dangerous. It’s interesting how word choice can have subtle implications.

Although none of the children’s books that I was looking for were there, the store is having the books shipped over. So soon enough, I’ll be able to take a look at them and see what I can find!

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