Saturday, October 22, 2016

Autism and socializing: ‘Armond Goes to a Party’

Book cover, 'Armond Goes to a Party.' Line-drawn and colored image depicts a boy clutching a dinosaur book amidst many other children who are making noise around him: talking, blowing on noisemakers, blowing bubbles, playing games, etc.
There is little-to-nothing pleasant about the prospect of being stuck in a roomful of people simultaneously talking around me.

These numerous conversations — for me all playing at equal volume — are further compounded by  the “soundtrack of life” — air conditioning or heater, utensils clanking against dishes, the movement of people through a room.

In settings like this, I exhaust and stress myself — futily trying to focus only on the sounds produced by people I am trying to listen to.

Add to that, the anxiety of a lifelong feeling of disconnect between myself and everyone else around me.

With this personal experience, I thoroughly related to the title character of Armond as he prepares for and successfully navigates a birthday party for his friend Felicia in Armond Goes to a Party by Nancy Carlson and Armond Isaak (Free Spirit Publishing, 2014). This picture book accurately captures the problematic aspects that a person on the autism spectrum regularly has to face when s/he navigates the social scene.

At Armond’s age, it might be the disorganized chaos of a roomful of peers who have no interest in the subjects that Armond can think to talk about, leaving him “nervous ... cranky ... and invisible.”

The stakes only get higher when we take on adult responsibilities.

But whereas Armond can tug on the shirt of Felicia’s sympathetic mother and can tell her, “I need a break!,” it isn’t so easy to explain my difficulties with adult social situations.

With disclosure, I risk being dismissed as “high-maintenance,” my aversion not taken seriously.

How and where can I determine when it’s desirable to stretch myself — to venture outside my comfort zone because I want to develop as an individual — but not subject myself to pointless stressers that exhaust me beyond my ability to cope?

Armond Goes to a Party may be an ideal icebreaker for having that conversation. Middle-schooler Armond Isaak teamed with co-author Nancy Carlson to help children on the autism spectrum be able to make friends.

For neurotypicals, the book offers reasons why certain types of social settings might be painful for a person on the autism spectrum, but that there are ways to help mitigate the stress.

At the same time, the book illustrates for autistic readers the necessity of sometimes socializing as a way of being a good friend. The character of Armond models successfully completing that social obligation.

Disclosure of material connection: My taxes support my public library’s acquisition of this and other resources. I consider the access I enjoy to be a “priceless” return on my investment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Robust debate and even unusual opinions are encouraged, but please stay on-topic and be respectful. Comments are subject to review for personal attacks or insults, discriminatory statements, hyperlinks not directly related to the discussion and commercial spam.