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We Need Diverse Books – Autism Awareness

Too many times, people look at an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and all they see is the Disorder, and not the individual themselves.

Most people don’t understand Autism; what is it? How does it affect the individual, and the people closest to them? What are the signs? Is there a difference between boys and girls who have autism? Is Autism the same for everyone? Why is Autism part of a Spectrum Disorder?

Some questions are answered below, but at the bottom of the post, I’ve added some helpful links that can be read for more information.

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“In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four distinct autism diagnoses into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

“We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.”(https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism)

What are some signs if an individual wasn’t diagnosed at an earlier age?

  • Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Persistent preference for solitude
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
  • Delayed language development
  • Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
  • Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
  • Restricted interests
  • Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
  • Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors

Now if you have any of those signs, does it mean you have ASD? Not quite. Obviously self-diagnosis can lead to confusion, so if you think that you may have ASD, have it checked by a medical professional. Provided below the post is a link to a guide from AutismSpeaks.org titled “Is It Autism And If So, What Next?” that can assist in understanding ASD.

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What To Say Next – Julie Buxbaum

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they?  I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David.  Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

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You Look Different In Real Life – Jennifer Castle (Overdrive)

Justine charmed the nation in a documentary film featuring five kindergartners. Five years later, her edgy sense of humor made her the star of a second movie that caught up with the lives of the same five kids. Now Justine is sixteen, and another sequel is in the works. Justine isn’t ready to have viewers examining her life again. She feels like a disappointment, not at all like the girl everyone fell in love with in the first two movies. But, ready or not, she and the other four teens will soon be in front of the cameras again.

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Summerlost – Allyson Condie

It’s the first real summer since the accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar. 

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The Love Letters Of Abelard And Lily – Laura Creedle

When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, she’s intrigued—he seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?  

This hilarious, heartbreaking story of human connection between two neurodivergent teens creates characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

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Fade To Us – Julia Day

Brooke’s summer is going to be EPIC— having fun with her friends and a job that lets her buy a car. Then her new stepfather announces his daughter is moving in. Brooke has always longed for a sibling, so she’s excited about spending more time with her stepsister. But she worries, too. Natalie has Asperger’s–and Brooke’s not sure how to be the big sister that Natalie needs.

After Natalie joins a musical theater program, Brooke sacrifices her job to volunteer for the backstage crew. She’s mostly there for Natalie, but Brooke soon discovers how much she enjoys being part of the show. Especially sweet is the chance to work closely with charming and fascinating Micah–the production’s stage manager. If only he wasn’t Natalie’s mentor…

When her summer comes to an end, will Brooke finally have the family she so desperately wants–and the love she’s only dreamed about?

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On The Edge Of Gone – Corinne Duyvis (Axis360)

January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time. A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter—a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister? When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

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The Incredible Magic Of Being – Kathryn Erskine

Some might say Julian is sheltered. But he lives large, and his eternal optimism allows him to see infinite possibilities wherever he looks.

Despite his optimism, he is anxious about his stressed family falling apart. Even his ability to “uni-sense” what’s happening with his sister is gone. If he can make his family focus on the magic in the universe, surely they’ll appreciate life again. Now that they are moving from Washington, DC, to rural Maine, Julian can use his beloved telescope without any light pollution. He can discover a comet, name it for himself, and show his family how they’re all truly connected.

As Julian searches the night sky, he encounters a force that may drive his plan apart. His neighbor, Mr. X, could bring an end to his parents’ dream of opening their B&B. Could one negative force unravel everything? An avid student of science, Julian understands that there is much about the universe that we don’t yet know. Who is to say what’s possible and what’s not?

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The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.


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Slider – Pete Hautman

David can eat an entire sixteen-inch pepperoni pizza in four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Not bad. But he knows he can do better. In fact, he’ll have to do better: he’s going to compete in the Super Pigorino Bowl, the world’s greatest pizza-eating contest, and he has to win it, because he borrowed his mom’s credit card and accidentally spent $2,000 on it. So he really needs that prize money. Like, yesterday. As if training to be a competitive eater weren’t enough, he’s also got to keep an eye on his little brother, Mal (who, if the family believed in labels, would be labeled autistic, but they don’t, so they just label him Mal). And don’t even get started on the new weirdness going on between his two best friends, Cyn and HeyMan.

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Every Shiny Thing – Cordelia Jensen

In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told half in prose and half in verse, Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong.
 
Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes the person you need to take care of is yourself. 

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(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start The Conversation About Mental Health – Kelly Jensen

Who’s Crazy?
 
What does it mean to be crazy? Is using the word crazy offensive? What happens when a label like that gets attached to your everyday experiences?
 
To understand mental health, we need to talk openly about it. Because there’s no single definition of crazy, there’s no single experience that embodies it, and the word itself means different things—wild? extreme? disturbed? passionate?—to different people.
 
In (Don’t) Call Me Crazy, thirty-three actors, athletes, writers, and artists offer essays, lists, comics, and illustrations that explore a wide range of topics:
their personal experiences with mental illness,
how we do and don’t talk about mental health,
help for better understanding how every person’s brain is wired differently,
and what, exactly, might make someone crazy.   If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health, or know someone who has, come on in, turn the pages . . . and let’s get talking.

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Harmonic Feedback – Tara Kelly

Sixteen-year-old, music- and sound design-obsessed Drea doesn’t have friends. She has, as she’s often reminded, issues. Drea’s mom and a rotating band of psychiatrists have settled on “a touch of Asperger’s.”

Having just moved to the latest in a string of new towns, Drea meets two other outsiders. And Naomi and Justin seem to actually like Drea. The three of them form a band after an impromptu, Portishead-comparison-worthy jam after school. Justin swiftly challenges not only Drea’s preference for Poe over Black Lab but also her perceived inability to connect with another person. Justin, against all odds, may even like like Drea.

It’s obvious that Drea can’t hide behind her sound equipment anymore. But just when she’s found not one but two true friends, can she stand to lose one of them?

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Things I Should Have Known – Claire LaZebnik (Axis360)

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class. Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along. Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

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The Silence Of Murder – Dandi Mackall

The story of a teen’s struggle to prove her brother innocent of murder.

The Crime: The murder of John Johnson, beloved baseball coach. 
The Accused: 18-year-old Jeremy Long, who hasn’t spoken a single word in 12 years.
Witness for the Defense: 16-year-old Hope Long, the only person who believes her brother is innocent.
Other Suspects: The police have none. But Hope’s list is growing.

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Afterward – Jennifer Mathieu

When eleven-year-old Dylan Anderson is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of fifteen-year-old Ethan Jorgensen, who had gone on a bike ride four years earlier and had never been seen again.

Dylan’s older sister, Caroline, can’t help but wonder what happened to her brother, who is autistic and nonverbal and is not adjusting well to life back home. There’s only one person who knows the truth: Ethan. But Ethan isn’t sure how he can help Caroline when he is fighting traumatic memories of his own captivity.

Both Caroline and Ethan need a friend, however, and their best option just might be each other.

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Funny You Don’t Look Autistic: A Comedian’s Guide To Life On The Spectrum – Michael McCreary

Like many others on the autism spectrum, 20-something stand-up comic Michael McCreary has been told by more than a few well-meaning folks that he doesn’t “look” autistic. But, as he’s quick to point out in this memoir, autism “looks” different for just about everyone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Diagnosed with ASD at age five, McCreary got hit with the performance bug not much later. During a difficult time in junior high, he started journaling, eventually turning his pain e into something empowering—and funny. He scored his first stand-up gig at age 14, and hasn’t looked back.

This unique and hilarious #OwnVoices memoir breaks down what it’s like to live with autism for readers on and off the spectrum. Candid scenes from McCreary’s life are broken up with funny visuals and factual asides. Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic is an invaluable and compelling read for young readers with ASD looking for voices to relate to, as well as for readers hoping to broaden their understanding of ASD.

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Same But Different: Teen Life On The Autism Express – Holly Peete

Being a teen is hard enough. But when you have autism–or when your brother or sister is struggling with the condition–life can be challenging. It’s one thing when you’re a kid in grade school, and a playdate goes south due to autism in a family. Or when you’re a little kid, and a vacation or holiday turns less-than-happy because of an autistic family member. But being a teen with autism can get pretty hairy–especially when you’re up against dating, parties, sports, body changes, school, and other kids who just don’t ‘get’ you. In this powerful book, teenagers Ryan Elizabeth Peete and her twin brother, Rodney, who has autism, share their up-close-and-personal experiences on what it means to be a teen living with autism. Same But Different, explores the funny, painful, and unexpected aspects of teen autism, while daring to address issues nobody talks about.

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Rage: A Love Story – Julie Peters
[Trigger Warning: Child Abuse]

Johanna is steadfast, patient, reliable; the go-to girl, the one everyone can count on. But always being there for others can’t give Johanna everything she needs—it can’t give her Reeve Hartt.

Reeve is fierce, beautiful, wounded, elusive; a flame that draws Johanna’s fluttering moth. Johanna is determined to get her, against all advice, and to help her, against all reason. But love isn’t always reasonable, right?

In the precarious place where attraction and need collide, a teenager experiences the dark side of a first love, and struggles to find her way into a new light.

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The Nowhere Girls – Amy Reed
[Trigger Warning: Rape]

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:
Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

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It’s Not A Perfect World, But I’ll Take It: 50 Life Lessons For Teens Like Me Who Are Kind Of (You Know) Autistic – Jennifer Rose

Jennifer Rose is autistic. She’s also a college student who loves reading, writes fan fiction, and wants to be on TV someday. She sees the world a little differently than most people around her. She’s had trouble coping with school and she’s struggled with bullies, mean girls, and her own feelings of bitterness and inferiority. Through it all, with the help of her parents, she’s learned a few lessons:

#5: There are many ways to make a difference.
#20: You won’t be perfect at everything, not even the things you do best.
#22: Down times will be bouncing up soon . . .
#23: . . . but meanwhile, try to enjoy what you have.
#44: Talk about your feelings, even when it’s hard.
#45: Learn to take jokes, even your dad’s.

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Counting By 7s – Holly Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
 
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief.

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When My Heart Joins The Thousand – A.J. Steiger

Alvie Fitz doesn’t fit in, and she doesn’t care. She’s spent years swallowing meds and bad advice from doctors and social workers. Adjust, adapt. Pretend to be normal. It sounds so easy.

If she can make it to her eighteenth birthday without any major mishaps, she’ll be legally emancipated. Free. But if she fails, she’ll become a ward of the state and be sent back to the group home.

All she wants is to be left alone to spend time with her friend, Chance, the one-winged hawk at the zoo where she works. She can bide her time with him until her emancipation. Humans are overrated anyway.

Then she meets Stanley, a boy who might be even stranger than she is—a boy who walks with a cane, who turns up every day with a new injury, whose body seems as fragile as glass. Without even meaning to, she finds herself getting close to him. But Alvie remembers what happened to the last person she truly cared about.

Her past stalks her with every step, and it has sharp teeth. But if she can find the strength to face the enemy inside her, maybe she’ll have a chance at happiness after all.

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Marcelo In The Real World – Francisco Stork

The term “cognitive disorder” implies there is something wrong with the way I think or the way I perceive reality. I perceive reality just fine. Sometimes I perceive more of reality than others.

Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear ― part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify. But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo’s differences, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer . . . to join “the real world.”

There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file a picture of a girl with half a face that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

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Queens Of Geek – Jen Wilde

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie―no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

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Helpful websites:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism
“Is It Autism And If So, What Next?” Downloadable Guide
https://www.autism-society.org/about-the-autism-society/publications/resource-materials/
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml

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