Autism Awareness Week – Guest Post by Sharon A. Mitchell

Word Vagabond is please to present a guest post by Dr. Sharon A. Mitchell, author of School Daze- Autism Goes to School.

Autism now affects one in every 54 boys in the United States. As hard as it is to watch a child struggle, autism’s effects are also felt by his family, teachers and classmates. As a teacher, counselor, consultant and parent of a young man with an autism spectrum disorder, I know.

When a parent first learns of their child’s diagnosis, they scour books and the internet, searching for information on how to help their son or daughter. There is a lot of information out there, much of it by competent authorities. But after a hard day of work and family responsibilities, who wants to read a textbook, pour over journal articles or weed out the credible from the not-so-credible web sites? I have my doctoral degree in autism, have taught university classes on autism, and keep up with the research in the field. Despite this, I get tired of reading weighty books.

Plus, why does learning have to be arduous? Is it not possible to learn while relaxing and being entertained?

Having a son with an autism spectrum disorder, I know that feeling of hanging on by your toenails, the need to know more about how to help your child, plus the exhaustion from all of life’s responsibilities.

My master’s degree looked at the long-term outlook for kids with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s. The stats were dismal – less than half of these intelligent young people live independently as adults. What a shocking waste of talent and lives. I vowed that that would not be the fate of our son. This fueled my determination to help kids with ASDs reach as high a level of independence as possible. Luckily, my son has lived on his own since he was nineteen. He got his driver’s license at sixteen, finished two college programs, and is currently working on his second four-year degree at university.

Writers are admonished to ‘show, don’t tell’. Kids with autism learn best when shown rather than ‘talked at’. Why not write a book that shows how a family and a school help a little boy with autism?

So, School Daze – Autism Goes to School was born – a light read aimed at a general audience. It’s full of the challenges inherent in autism, plus strategies that make life easier for all concerned. It’s a story about a single dad doing the best he can.

Is it all sweetness and light? No, but neither is autism, or parenting, or teaching any child. Does the book have a happily-ever-after ending? Well, mostly. Although, as Temple Grandin says, “Once autistic, always autistic,” life does get better for all concerned.

Here’s what one reviewer said about this: “Unlike some stories that speak of autistic children, this one brings a wealth of hope and information! As we look over Ben’s shoulder, we see a glimpse of the learning tools currently being used in the classroom today, and we get glimpses of things that could be helpful in the day to day life of an autistic child.”

To celebrate Word Vagabound’s Autism Awareness Week, School Daze – Autism Goes to School will be on sale at 65% off at Amazon. If you prefer the book in other formats, please contact me at mitchell.sharon@gmail.com.

Now, may I ask a favor of you, please? School Daze – Autism Goes to School is the first book in the series that will deal with different children and different aspects of autism spectrum disorders. Parents and teachers often contact me about their worries about children who flee or wander off, so School Daze – Autism Runs Away is the second book in the series and will be out by early winter, 2012. Do you have topics or suggestions for things you might like to see in future books?

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