Last night I went to see the editors and contributors at The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park. I sat in the front row—isn’t it funny that the front row is the last row to fill up? (Unless it’s a one of our kids’ recitals or events and then we’re pushing and shoving to get as close as we can to the stage.) But I had discovered Thinking Person’s guide and have been so moved by their essays that I needed to be front row, center so I could offer my support in the form of being a focused and attentive audience member.
Each panelist read one of their own personal essays—Emily Willingham going first warning us beforehand that she was going to have “verklempt” moments as she read her powerful exposition on forgiving those who “don’t get it.” Wow, what a way to kick things off and please pass me the tissues.
Essays read by Shannon Des Roches, Jennifer Byde Myers, Susan Walton and Laura Shumaker were equally as touching. And as I’m listening, I’m thinking that we KNOW each other and have a deep personal bond, even though we have never even met.
I didn’t realize that Laura Shumaker was going to be there. Her son Matthew is 27 years old, the same age as my son Jonathan so I identified the closest with her. She had written a wonderful article on Jonathan in SFGate, so to see her in person was such a joy. Her essay recalled the time when she and Matthew were on the garage sale hunt for furniture. He was moving out for the first time into an assisted living apartment. I held in my tears when she described Matthew beaming over a gently used sofa, because getting that sofa meant he was “just a regular guy.”
During the Q&A session someone asked about any children’s books that had characters with positive representations of being on the spectrum. A few were mentioned (I even shared Secret of the Songshell) but the panelists said that they wished that there were more. I wanted to burst out of my chair to declare that the protagonist in our upcoming Mighty League storybook app brings out all the wonderful, quirky characteristics of someone with Aspergers, because he’s based on a real person…my son! But I didn’t want to come across as someone who was only there to self-promote—because I wasn’t. But I can tell you that the question and responses left me feeling so positive about my decision share my son’s life through children’s storybook apps.
It was so nice to put faces to names of these strong women—moms—who are advocating for their children—our children—and giving all of us a source of inspiration and no-hype information. I am so grateful for their gift of the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.