Autism Awareness Month

October is Autism Awareness Month in Canada, a subject that hits close to home for me. I was lucky enough to spend four years of my life hanging out with a smart, funny, and incredible young boy with Autism, and now I’m proud to be interning at an organization publishing great books that highlight and draw much-needed attention to this condition. For this post I’ll be highlighting three of these titles, chosen specifically because they all truthfully speak to the resilience, bravery and hope of families and individuals living with Autism. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section below!

Love Anthony is Lisa Genova’s much-anticipated new novel, and it is a heartbreakingly beautiful story about motherhood, friendship and autism. It tells the story of Olivia, a young mother coping with the loss of her young autistic son, and Beth, a stay-at-home mother of three who is struggling with a separation after discovering her husband’s long-term infidelity. Olivia and Beth meet by accident on a Nantucket beach and forge a friendship that allows them to look at the past and face the questions that haunt them. It is when Beth begins to write again and finds herself channeling the voice of an unknown autistic boy, exuberant in his perceptions of the world around him, that these two women begin to find peace, validation, and the courage to heal and move on.

Learn more about Love Anthony, and check out the Reading Group Guide.
Watch Lisa Genova talk about her deeply personal connection with Autism and why she wrote Love Anthony.
Visit Lisa’s website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

At the age of two, Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with sever autism and an oral motor condition that prevented her from speaking. Doctors predicted that she would never intellectually develop beyond the abilities of a small child. Although she made some progress after years of intensive behavioral and communication therapy, Carly remained largely unreachable. Then, at the age of ten, she had a breakthrough: while working with her devoted therapists Howie and Barb, Carly reached over to their laptop and typed in “HELP TEETH HURT,” much to everyone’s astonishment. Over the next three years, she became a writer (of an almost-complete young adult novel) and a passionate advocate for understanding autism. Her IQ is well over 130. Carly now has regular, witty, and profound conversations on the computer with her family, her therapists, and many thousands of people around the world who have been inspired by Carly’s story of finding her voice and mission.

I loved Carly’s story, namely because its one of the first books out there to explore the challenges of this condition from the clear perspective of an individual with autism. Her father, Arthur Fleischmann, helps to capture their family’s journey through some remarkable moments – from the low points of hopelessness and pain to incredible discovery and joy. He blends Carly’s own words and perspective with his story of getting to know his remarkable daughter and learning to navigate the world she inhabits. The book prominently features Carly’s own writings, which brings – and shows us how she’s inspired so many others and gained so many followers.

Read an excerpt from Carly’s Voice.
Watch Arthur discuss the decision to write Carly’s Voice.
Last but definitely not least, Jodi Picoult’s House Rules tells the story of Jacob Hunt, a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject: forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do — and he’s usually right. But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s – not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect – can look a lot like guild to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder, and together his family must try to deal with the outcome.
House Rules looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way – and fails those who don’t. Jodi Picoult proves once again that she is a master storyteller, as she tells Jacob’s story with an emotional resonance that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Read an excerpt from the book.
Follow her on Twitter!

For more info on autism and autism related services in your province visit the Autism Society of Canada’s website here.