Updated: Aug 4
One of the questions we get asked the most is, "how do you explain autism to a child?!" It's always a question which is full of emotion from parents, and who can blame them. You're already raising a child who thinks in a different way to the majority of the population. Now you need to try and explain it without making a big deal out of it, or worrying them. All this at a time when you're most likely worried yourself as you don't know what the future will hold and you have information flying at you from all over the Internet which all conflicts with each other.
Not everyone has to or is able to explain to their child what it means to be autistic. Some children grow up knowing they're different and are comfortable knowing that. Others don't have the comprehension to process what is being explained and don't have enough understanding to realise they are somehow just a bit different to most others. But for those children, what's really important is that the people around them understand.
We've always said with Autability that change starts with supporting and educating parents to really understand what it means to be neurodivergent. If we can help a generation of parents to provide the right environment and support their child needs, that information and support will more often than not get passed down though generations. Autistic children grow into autistic adults who remember what worked for them and what helped them, and they pass it on to their children or other children.
The day we decided to write something to help parents explain autism to children, we had no idea it would actually end up being a children's book. Autism is such a unique experience and profile for each child, the original idea was to write prompts for parents to use and start conversations. It was then that Charlotte came up with the "brain recipe" idea. Every autistic person has a brain with different needs. It needs different ingredients to work well. You can't use the same recipe to help every child, it simply won't work.
It was then that we decided the best way to help parents explain autism to their children was to write a book FOR their children. A book that could be read together. A book that took the pressure off parents to really get the message right, but that give them the starting point to explain what Autism is, and what being autistic means for their child.
We had seen some lovely children's books in the past about being autistic. What we struggled with is that many of them were about 'autism superpowers' (a lovely way of looking at it). However, when you're autistic and you take things very literally, being told you have a super power can be genuinely confusing. We know we would have found that really peculiar if someone had said that to us as children, we wouldn't have known how to process that.
As we worked through we realised that the same pressure could be taken off teachers. You can't expect everyone to be experts on autism, but you can help them teach the basics in a fun and stress free way! And so the activity pack which accompanies 'The Wondeful World of Gwen' was born, giving teachers, Club leaders and again parents a fun and easy way to help young children experience some of the challenges that autistic people might face.
Our main characters all have different presentations of autism, with different stims, educational needs, sensory needs and interests. We have more books planned for Gwen and her friends, where we will look at different events and environments.
We really hope it helps get your family off to the best start possible and promotes a really positive view of being autistic for you, your family and friends 💖
Find out more at www.autability.co.uk/thewonderfulworldofgwen