The picture book is called Why Johnny Doesn't Flap／NT is OK! If you do not know what "NT" stands for, it means Neurotypical, also known as ordinary people. In fact, this is a book about ordinary people told from the perspective of an autistic child.
Ms. Lee Kwan Yu, Team Leader of Jockey Club A-Connect (Family Support Programme), Heep Hong Society, has really enjoyed this book because of its exceptional point of view. "Some more expressive adult patients like Naoki Higashida (author of I Can't Talk, But I Can Still Smile at the World) have written about the world they perceive; however, not many books have written about children with autism and this is the only one, as far as I know, that speaks to a child audience from the perspective of an autistic child."
"We always hope that more people can adopt this point of view. The school, family, and friends should gain a better understanding of the thoughts behind the patient's behaviours." The excerpts below are drawn from the account of the autistic protagonist of the book –
"Johnny [a non-autistic patient] doesn't know to follow the same order every time. But we still get to play all our favourite games…"
"Johnny doesn't have a topic that he knows everything about, like World War II or dinosaurs or hydraulic forklifts. I try to share in-depth information with him, but he seems uninterested. He may never be a real expert at anything, but he is a good person…"
"Johnny has problems with communication. He will say that a math test was "a piece of cake" when he really means that it was easy. I try to explain to him that cake has nothing to do with an easy math test, but he never seems to understand that he should say what he means. I can always figure out his strange statements eventually, so that's OK."
Every page of the picture book gives a detailed description of one behavioural characteristic of autism, such as repetitive behaviours and compulsive adherence to routine, to unravel the thoughts of the patient. Under the lens of the author, these thoughts are in no way bizarre – perhaps, ordinary people who do not think the same are weirdos! Ms Lee Kwan Yu is particularly fond of how the young protagonist depicts Johnny's lack of excited body language even when he is happy with his ice-cream – "Maybe he doesn't know much about how to express emotions!"
Ms Lee Kwan Yu hopes that more parents will get to read this book so as to better understand that everyone's brain is uniquely different and grasp the logic of the patients' behaviours – they do not intend to embarrass anyone.
As for ordinary people who are neither patients nor their family members, please reflect on and learn from the autistic child protagonist's forbearance towards NT: "I like Johnny. I think that being NT is OK."
June, 2017We are more than ready to describe children as having “special needs”. CoorDown – National Coordination of Associations of People with Down syndrome has created a short film for this year’s World Down Syndrome Day. The video humorously challenges our preconception – are these needs really so “special”?
April, 2017The little boy, who loves laughing and dancing, succumbs all of a sudden to a curse shortly before his third birthday. Like being locked in a cave, he retreats into silence, walks wobbly, lies wide awake all night. His parents have searched far and wide for medical help and their search finally ends on the word "autism". Life, Animated, nominated for Academy Award 2016 for Best Documentary Feature, gives real insight into the family and daily life of a person on the autistic spectrum. His confrontation, as an adult, with growth, independence, breaking up, and employment also embodies a journey full of love and hope.
February, 2017"What is your impression of Siew Man?"
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