How to Talk to an Autistic Kid

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By Helen Kossler

Reading Between the Lines

The Magic Tree Book Store hosted an appearance by Daniel Stefanski, author of How to Talk to an Autistic Kid on Saturday April 16.  Stefanski is 14 and the book is written from his point of view.  The slim volume gives some basic tips about how to understand and be friends with a kid who has trouble with social cues.

According to the Autism Society of America, there are about 1.5 million people in the U.S. with autism. It isn’t known what exactly causes autism and children with the spectrum disorder vary from those who are very bright but socially isolated to those who are severely cognitively impaired. In fact, labeling someone “autistic” doesn’t tell you much about the person, his abilities or needs.

One of the persistent stereotypes that How to Talk to an Autistic Kid skewers is the notion that autistic children don’t care about others. They do have trouble relating to others because they miss important social cues, don’t understand irony and sarcasm and frequently have odd behaviors that are off-putting to their peers.  However, they do get it when they are being mocked, they just don’t understand why. They would like to belong but haven’t a clue about how to make it happen.  Stefanski’s book makes it clear that he would very much like to have friends if only they could look beyond some of his idiosyncrasies—behaviors that he cannot completely control or extinguish.

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid would be useful for a classroom teacher who wants to give specific cues to a group about how to act toward an autistic classmate or for a social worker who is looking for a straight-forward explanation of how to interact with a kid who is socially isolated.

Stefanski is obviously a bright kid and articulate about his condition.  It’s important to remind kids and adults who interact with people with autism that not all autistic kids are as capable as he apparently is.

For a more in-depth understanding of high functioning individuals (also referred to as Asperger’s), read Temple Grandin’s memoir Thinking in Pictures.  She provides an insight into the enormous range of sensory problems that autistics can have as well as some ideas for interventions that have been helpful to some (but not all) children and adults with this brain disorder. Grandin also provides several pages of resources at the end of her book.

Stefanski will be appearing at an autism walk in LaPorte, IN, on Saturday, April 30th. In Chicago, there will be an Autism Speaks Walk on May 21st at Soldier Field. Copies of How to Talk to an Autistic Kid are available at The Magic Tree Book Store.

Reader Comments

3 Comments - Add Your Comment

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kathy johnson from mokena  

Posted: June 11th, 2011 9:13 AM

What a great resource for educators. Thanks Helen

Melissa from OakPark.com/EmpoweredParentBlog  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 10:15 AM

Helen, thanks for this post! Looking forward to reading his book. Another wonderful book - Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison provides great insights.

In OP  

Posted: April 22nd, 2011 8:24 AM

I wish I had seen this earlier, there are many kids in D97 who could learn a lot from this presentation. There seems to be a contagious cruel streak, or worse, organized shunning of children with differing ablities in our village.

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