This month is all about neurodiversity at Gymboree Play & Music!
Neurodiversity is a concept that’s been around for a while. In a nutshell, it means that brain differences are just that: differences. So conditions like ADHD and autism aren’t “abnormal.” They’re simply variations of the human brain. For kids with learning and thinking differences, the idea of neurodiversity has real benefits. It can help kids (and their parents) frame their challenges as differences, rather than as deficits.
Our book recommendations for April aim to support both kids and their parents understand the complexities around neurodiversity, and to educate others on this concept as well. Check out our full list below.
Recommendations for Children
Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down
by Lindsey Rowe Parker and Rebecca Burgess
A Picture Book about Sensory Differences.
The vibration in her feet when she runs, the tap-tap-tap of her fork on the table at mealtime, the trickle of cool water running over her hands–these are the things that calm her jitters down. This book is for anyone who has ever felt the need for a wiggle, stomp, or squeeze!
A Friend for Henry
by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song
In Classroom Six, second left down the hall, Henry has been on the lookout for a friend. A friend who shares. A friend who listens. Maybe even a friend who likes things to stay the same and all in order, as Henry does. But on a day full of too close and too loud, when nothing seems to go right, will Henry ever find a friend—or will a friend find him? With insight and warmth, this heartfelt story from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum celebrates the everyday magic of friendship.
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
by Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael López
Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.
In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.
I See Things Differently
by Pat Thomas
I See Things Differently will help children understand what autism is and how it affects someone who has it, and is a wonderful catalyst for discussion that will help children to better understand and support autistic classmates or siblings. Titles in the sensitively presented A First Look At series explore the dynamics of various relationships experienced by children of preschool through early school age. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, these books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The storylines are simple and direct–easily accessible to younger children. There are full-color illustrations on every page.
All My Stripes
Zane the zebra feels different from the rest of his classmates. He worries that all they notice about him is his “autism stripe.” With the help of his Mama, Zane comes to appreciate all his stripes — the unique strengths that make him who he is!
Includes a Reading Guide with additional background information about autism spectrum disorders and a Note to Parents and Caregivers with tips for finding support.
Foreword by Alison Singer, President, Autism Science Foundation.
Recommendations for Parents
Sincerely, Your Autistic Child
by Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network (Author), Emily Paige Ballou (Editor), Sharon daVanport (Editor)
Most resources available for parents come from psychologists, educators, and doctors, offering parents a narrow and technical approach to autism. Sincerely, Your Autistic Child represents an authentic resource for parents written by autistic people themselves.
From childhood and education to culture, gender identity, and sexuality, this anthology tackles the everyday joys and challenges of growing up while honestly addressing the emotional needs, sensitivity, and vibrancy of autistic kids, youth, and young adults. Contributors reflect on what they have learned while growing up on the autism spectrum and how parents can avoid common mistakes and overcome challenges while raising their child.
Part memoir, part guide, and part love letter, Sincerely, Your Autistic Child is an indispensable collection that invites parents and allies into the unique and often unheard experiences of autistic children and teens.
Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
by Steve Silberman and Oliver Sacks
What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. Wired reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years. Going back to the earliest days of autism research, Silberman offers a gripping narrative of Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, the research pioneers who defined the scope of autism in profoundly different ways; he then goes on to explore the game-changing concept of neurodiversity. NeuroTribes considers the idea that neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia, and ADHD are not errors of nature or products of the toxic modern world, but the result of natural variations in the human genome. This groundbreaking bookwill reshape our understanding of the history, meaning, function, and implications of neurodiversity in our world.
Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine
Autism therapy typically focuses on ridding individuals of “autistic” symptoms such as difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant offers a new and compelling paradigm: the most successful approaches to autism don’t aim at fixing a person by eliminating symptoms, but rather seeking to understand the individual’s experience and what underlies the behavior.
“A must-read for anyone touched by autism… Dr. Prizant’s Uniquely Human is a crucial step in promoting better understanding and a more humane approach” (Associated Press). Instead of classifying “autistic” behaviors as signs of pathology, Dr. Prizant sees them as part of a range of strategies to cope with a world that feels chaotic and overwhelming. Rather than curb these behaviors, it’s better to enhance abilities, build on strengths, and offer supports that will lead to more desirable behavior and a better quality of life.
The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention
Why can humans alone invent? In The Pattern Seekers, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen makes a case that autism is as crucial to our creative and cultural history as the mastery of fire. Indeed, Baron-Cohen argues that autistic people have played a key role in human progress for seventy thousand years, from the first tools to the digital revolution.
How? Because the same genes that cause autism enable the pattern-seeking that is essential to our species’s inventiveness. However, these abilities exact a great cost on autistic people, including social and often medical challenges, so Baron-Cohen calls on us to support and celebrate autistic people in both their disabilities and their triumphs. Ultimately, The Pattern Seekers isn’t just a new theory of human civilization, but a call to consider anew how society treats those who think differently.
Connecting With The Autism Spectrum
For a friend, family member, or coworker with autism, communication can be challenging. But Connecting with the Autism Spectrum can help you find common ground with expert tips and helpful insights about talking (and listening) to neurodiverse adults so you can make your interactions more transparent, meaningful, and rewarding for all.
Written by Casey Vormer, a self-taught artist and autism advocate, this comprehensive guide is a trusted source for understanding neurodiversity that features a brief introduction to the autism spectrum. It also provides easy communication strategies like active listening and positive encouragement as well as steps to avoid misunderstandings by teaching how to recognize biases and correct them. Additionally, you’ll learn why the term “high functioning autism” is a misnomer to define members of this vibrant community.