Daniel Stefanski, Author
Hazel Mitchell, Illustrator
Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., 2011, Nonfiction, Self-help
Suitable for: Grades 4 and up
Themes: Communication, interaction, inclusion, friendship
Opening/Synopsis: “Say hi. I want to be included just like anyone else. I may be different, but I am a person, too. People are different in many ways: Skin color, eye color, hairstyle, background, beliefs, you name it! It feels good when people say hi to me, wave, and notice I’m here. Please don’t ignore autistic kids just because they’re different.” Daniel Stefanski is 14 years old, and has written a biographical, self-help book of his experience as a kid with autism. He’s okay with his autism, but also wants people to know that he is “artistic, handy, funny, helpful, generous, creative, curious, a talented golfer and good at building and fixing things.” He wrote this book to “help kids without autism to feel comfortable around kids with autism. ” He hopes fewer kids with autism will feel lonely.
Bravo Daniel! You have written a remarkable guide for kids. Your book should be read and discussed in every school classroom. How to Talk to an Autistic Kid is written for any child, teen or adult who comes into contact with a kid with autism. Like Daniel, I don’t like using labels, but it is necessary in sharing his story. The book is funny, poignant and true to Daniel. Illustrator Hazel Mitchell (click on link) has done a beautiful job of capturing Daniel’s personality and the complexities of autism in her artwork. Her expressive illustrations fill each page and help readers understand what Daniel wants you to know as he navigates through life.
Why I like this book: Daniel gives kids and teens the tools they need to develop friendships. This is the first time I’ve read such practical advice from a teen with autism. Daniel has done an outstanding job of explaining to kids why he doesn’t look at them; how his words get jumbled in his head; why noises, smells and lights bother him; why he struggles with understanding figures of speech like “go jump in a lake;” why he has difficulty understanding facial expressions of anger, surprise, frustration, and boredom; and why he becomes obsessed with certain subjects. Daniel offers excellent tips to help kids interact and become friends with autistic kids. He always urges kids to be respectful, kind, thoughtful, helpful and patient.
Like all kids, Daniel has big dreams and goals. He wants to go to college and learn about computer animation, invent computer games for kids with disabilities and beat his step-dad at golf. He wants to travel and write more books. “I will always have autism, but that doesn’t mean my future won’t be great.” I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more from Daniel!
Free Spirit Publishing is a leading publisher of self-help books for kids and teens. They address tough topics such as teen depression, ADD/ADHD, kids and anxiety, grief and loss, juvenile justice, bullying and conflict resolution.