Children are often curious about my disabilities and how I got them, whether they hurt, why I have to use a cane. I encourage them to ask questions, but sometimes struggle to include in my answers themes that I think are important:
- People with disabilities are more like you than than they are different from you.
- We don't need to be afraid of people who are different.
- I don't mind walking differently and using my hands differently than other people, and my real friends don't mind that I do these things either. They know that my disabilities are part of what makes me "me", and wouldn't change them about me.
Sometimes it's difficult for children to understand these things, so I'm always on the look-out for resources that help explain concepts involved with "disability", but with an emphasis on inclusion and on the importance of focusing on peoples' commonalities, not their differences.
That's why I really like "Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero With Autism" by Gregory G. Allen, printed by ASD Publishing in 2012.
A Boy With Autism
I liked "Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero With Autism" as soon as I saw illustrator Dennis Culver's drawing of him on the front cover of Allen's 32-page book. He's a smiling young man wearing jeans, a purple t-shirt with a large chicken graphic on the front, and a red cape. We learn that Chicken Boy is a super hero that the smiling young man sometimes becomes.
We also learn that the young man has autism, "which is a fancy word...for me living inside my own brain," he explains.
A Chicken Boy!
Head back, cape flowing behind him, the smiling young man becomes Chicken Boy soon after explaining that he has autism. I smile too. It's difficult not to smile at the illustrations, and at the way that Allen neatly draws the boy's narrative away from being a boy with autism to one of, "This is when Chicken Boy comes out, this is what Chicken Boy likes and doesn't like, and Chicken Boy acts the way he does because..."
Offering these explanations, he just asks for a little bit of patience from his schoolmates, so that perhaps they can be friends with him...and maybe even become Chicken Super Heros themselves.
Why I Like "Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero with Autism"
Allen's book paints a picture of a boy who not only doesn't let a diagnosis and any potential stigma that it carries stop him from doing what he wants, but doesn't give his diagnosis much thought at all. He's totally accepting of his tendency to "live in his head" and of his Chicken Boy alter ego. In a world where people with autism have to endure significant social stigma and constant attempts to "fix" them, it's quite an empowering message.
"Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero With Autism" is also a great book with which to do disability education with children. There is some mention of a disability/diagnosis, but the book's main themes are the ones I outlined in my first paragraph. The message that we can be friends with people who are different than us (diagnosis or not) is a powerful one with which parents and educators can work.
It all makes for a delightful story, told in a dynamic and visually appealing way for children and in a thought-provoking way for adults. Expect some good conversation to come out of this one as you share it with the children in your life.
"Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero With Autism" is available at http://www.amazon.com/ and http://www.asdpublishing.com/childrens-titles.htm