Dr. Sharon Mitchell, a mom to an adult son with autism, has worked in schools as a teacher, counselor and consultant for over 30 years. Her Master’s and Doctorate degrees focused on autism and she has shared her insights with thousands through workshops and seminars across the country. Sharon has co-authored the Amazon bestseller, The Official Autism 101 Manual, but it’s her “School Daze” series that caught my attention. She wanted to use storytelling instead of scientific journals as a way to help people understand autism. Each of her books in this fictional series features a different child with autism, their strengths and challenges and ways their family and school helps. None of her books focus on the negative. She tries to show the difficulties in everyday life and the strategies the characters come up with to make progress.
Summarize each of your School Daze Series’ books.
Autism Goes to School (Book One) – Not even knowing he had a child, Ben gets sole custody of his 5 year old autistic son, Kyle. Off to a shaky start, Kyle enters kindergarten where they meet Melanie, a gifted teacher. Under her guidance, the two take tentative steps to becoming father and son.
Autism Runs Away (Book Two) – What started as a fun chase game when Ethan was a toddler has turned terrifying. His parents never know when he might take off in a panic. His teachers talk about calming strategies and choices. Do they not realize what could happen if Ethan flees the building? The impact of a car on one small body? Sara is about to learn if this new school is up to the challenge.
Autism Belongs (Book Three) – Manny is a non-verbal 10 year old who doesn’t leave the house because his parents worry about his meltdowns. Passing by a bakery one day changed the course of his life. There, his family met people who understand autism and help Manny communicate how to have his needs met. Is it possible that Manny belongs? You bet!
What inspired you to write the School Daze Series?
I have worked as a special education teacher, counselor, psychologist and consultant for decades. I often hear from parents that they are hanging on by their teeth and from teachers who are overwhelmed by all the demands of their classroom. Neither of these groups have the time or energy to wade through heavy textbooks in the evenings or search the internet for reliable answers. Even I must admit that some of it is tough to get through. So, I decided to write something easy to read – something enjoyable that would still give the information educators and families are seeking.
Who are your ideal readers?
Originally, I assumed that my readers would consist of parents, teachers and caregivers to autistic children. But my books have reached a broader audience and I have heard from many readers who picked one up as an interesting novel or romance (There is definitely a romance aspect to books 1 and 3). The books are also being used as a part of required reading in some university classes.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading one of your books?
Yes, it can be scary for a parent to learn that their child might have an autism spectrum disorder. As a parent, I have been there. And yes, it might make a teacher nervous to hear that she’ll be getting a child with autism in her classroom next year. But being autistic is not all bad. There is hope. There are strategies that can help significantly. It really makes a difference when the adults understand what life might be like from that child’s perspective and how he perceives what is happening around him. Most definitely, life can get better for the child and for his family.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book series?
Books Four and Five are in the editing stages. Autism Talks and Talks, is about a bright, vivacious, and highly verbal 6th grade girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Autism Grows Up, focuses on young autistic adults’ and the challenges and triumphs of living independently, attending post-secondary school and holding down a job.
Do you have any moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
I have received so many great reviews from fans like this one:
“Unlike some stories that speak of autistic children, this one brings a wealth of hope and information! As we look over Ben’s shoulder, we see a glimpse of the learning tools currently being used in the classroom today, and we get glimpses of things that could be helpful in the day to day life of an autistic child.”