I’m a huge anglophile and can tell you, in order, about every British monarchy since the early ages. I’ve seen every Dr. Who episode, and can recite lines from every Harry Potter movie from memory. Should I keep going? Yeah, I’m a total geek.
I was already captivated by Asperkids founder, Jennifer Cook O’Toole , and what she’s manage to create in just over a year…but to proclaim her ‘geek’ so enthusiastically? I’m hooked!
Jennifer had no plans to write a book or start a company, but felt called to duty when several clinicians told her she either needed to start her own school or write a book because her practical and positive approach could change how the world looks and treats those with Aspergers Syndrome.
Jennifer, her husband and three children have all been diagnosed with Aspergers, so what seemed intuitive to her was completely foreign to neurotypicals. She wrote her first manuscript in three weeks, sent it off to renowned Jessica Kingsley Publishing, and had a publishing contract two weeks later. For those who aren’t familiar with the publishing world, that just doesn’t happen very often.
Asperkids, An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome, received high praise from such notables as autism advocate Templin Grandin, but the most important accolades are those she receives daily from parents, educators, clinicians and kids who feel hopeful and empowered by her tools and insights.
But wait! Here’s where her story gets even better…. On May 15, 2012, Asperkids was released while she was in NYC receiving a GRASP (The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership) DSM Medal for Outstanding Parenting by a person on the spectrum (with her daughter by her side). While there, she found out that she had also won the Temple Grandin Award for her personal achievements.
Call it serendipity or a message from the universe, but Jennifer marks this as the day she KNEW that helping kids with Aspergers Syndrome (and their families) was going to be her life’s work. She has gone on to found, Asperkids, LLC, a multi-media social education company.
Jennifer considers herself a translator who helps interpret the inner workings of Asperkids in a way their communities can relate to, while helping spectrum folk understand the social rules and expectations of a neurotypical world.
I speak Aspie-speak with a neurotypical accent so parents, educators, clinicians and peers understand an Asperkid; and I neurotypical-talk with an Aspie accent so Asperkids can grasp what the heck they’re being asked to do. Everyone expects them to play the social game, but no one has told them the rules.
Jennifer has gone on to publish two more books, The Asperkid’s SECRET Book of Social Rules, a friendly, approachable social guide for spectrum tweens and teens, and The Asperkid’s Launch Pad: Home Design to Empower Everyday Superheroes, a Real Simple® meets Martha Stewart meets Asperkids design book. She’s launched an Asperkids website, created a “Congratulations You’re an Asperkid” Kit, and interacts with Asperkids on Facebook, at public appearances, and in private consultations.
Never one to rest on past accomplishments, Jennifer is busy producing more products under her Asperkids brand. The Asperkid’s Not-Your-Average-Coloring-Book, featuring coloring pages of subjects Aspies’ enjoy, will be released this Fall, and The Asperkid’s Game Plan of over 100 “purposeful play” activities is coming the end of this year.
Jennifer’s indefatigable energy and passion for her mission is admirable. She’s a natural teacher and role model of hope and acceptance. Her message of positivity has attracted legions of devoted fans from around the world… count me in!