I had a book signing in Jacksonville yesterday at Barnes and Noble from 1:00-3:00 where I was at the front of the store as people came in. It was a lovely day- had I been home, we would have been outside on my bike, or at the beach. I got a People magazine to read in case I got bored. Not a chance. Being at the front means that people stop and talk to you- particularly when they saw the title of the book “Children with High Functioning Autism”. Seeing the word “autism” makes people stop- and they start to talk. I talked with-
- The mother and teenage son who had a neighbor with Aspergers who went to the Youth Group with the son. Their frustration with the neighbor child. The worry that their son would start to hate Youth Group because of this child. Their realization that the child was “different” but believing that the boy was using it as an excuse to misbehave and get attention. My attempts to convince them that, no, he wasn’t doing it in intentionally, but that he wanted attention- and bad attention is better than no attention. If they really wanted to change the dynamics, they needed to notice when he was doing the right thing. They wandered off, not convinced. Believing that he was different, but that he could change- with God’s help. That maybe they could understand it out of him. That they could make him well.
- The teacher who taught his first year in an upper middle-class school to “get his chops” and then transferred to a school for kids with attention disorders, but a lot of the children also had autism. He now teaches in an inner-city school, where children go undiagnosed, and disabilities are the least of the children’s issues. How he will probably be leaving teaching because of the pressure to connect pay to school performance. How he loves kids who are different, but can’t perform miracles. How he’s tired of the system that asks him to make kids who are ignored and abused and who don’t have their existence noticed, much less their disabilities. Much less their abilities.
- The grandfather who spoke broken English who stood in front of my table with tears in his eyes. “Do you think that a DVD about telescopes will be too much? He’s 13. He loves science. We don’t know what to do. This he loves.” I said “Yes- buy the DVD.” Barnes and Noble thanked me, I’m sure.
- The young man with Aspergers who has a degree in film who was there with his mother. Who discussed his favorite movies with the teacher who was still there. Who loved college because he didn’t have to pretend to party, but could study all the time. Who was really cute, but had never had a date. Who was bussing at a restaurant because he couldn’t find a job. Whose mother had another son who was also bipolar and who was also at home, but had dropped out of college. Who didn’t have a passion that drove him.
- The little 5-year old girl who, with her mother whispering to her, asked me “How did you write a book?” I had a lovely conversation with her about how I started with an idea and just sat down and did it, how it took a lot of fixing to become a real book, how my daughter wanted pictures and color, too, but it was all words and I was sorry there weren’t any more pictures for her. How the PhD after my name meant that I went to school for 22 years and how I loved teaching teachers. Her mother told me that she wanted her daughter to meet a “real author, particularly a woman”.
- The grandmother of a 13 year old boy who poops in the bathtub. She is frustrated and angry and grossed out. Her grandson lives on the computer and hates school. Her husband tells her that the child should be the one to clean up the messes, not her. I suggested that she set up a positive reinforcement system. That she talk to others. That she find a support group. That she reads- books other than mine, which is really more for parents of younger children. That she knows that she is not alone.
- And one aunt of a child who has just been diagnosed with autism at age 4 and whose sister, the child’s mother, is grieving. She bought a book.
It was quite the two hours. Overall, I sold three books that I wrote, but I am so much richer and full of stories.