- Kavan, Stefan and Barbara. Illustrated by Michaelin Otis. Trainman: Gaining Acceptance…and Friends…through Special Interests. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing, 2011.
- Kluth, Paula and Victoria Kluth. Illustrated by Brad Littlejohn. A Is for “All Aboard!” Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing, 2010.
I wanted to share these two books in recognition of Autism Awareness month. About 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)¹. Autism is diagnosed on a triad of issues: Social Skills, Communication, and Unusual Interest and Behaviors². These two books give perspective on the unusual interest and behaviors legs of this disorders. Sometimes these unusual interests can keep children with autism apart from other children, who don’t share them.
Trainman is Stefan’s story. He is a boy with autism. His interests are maps, roads, and trains! His mom and his teacher both worry about him. He sits alone at lunch, partly because the cafeteria is too noisy and partly because his interests aren’t shared by the other children. One of the goals on his individualized education plan (IEP) is self-advocacy. To address this goal, his mother suggests that he might like to make a presentation to his teacher and classmates about his autism and his special interests. He agrees. Stefan is good at PowerPoint. Armed with information from his mother, he creates a presentation for his class. He shows this to all his peers, his teacher, and his principal. This presentation helps them understand that Stefan is much like them. They are impressed with his knowledge of trains. This disclosure helps Stefan with his classmates, teacher, and even the principal (who Stefan only sees when he is in trouble). The children in his class have much more patience, when he talks about trains or roads. Stefan, also tries to remember to ask them about their special interests.
Stefan and his mom wrote this book for other students with autism. It is her hope that this book will encourage classroom discussions around relationships. All children, including those with autism, need acceptance and understanding from peers. They all need friends.
Kari Dunn Buron, a noted autism education specialist, has contributed ideas for using this book as a teaching tool. She also contributed information on special interests and students with ASD in the back of the book.
The second book I offer is a delightful alphabet book written by Paula Kluth and her sister, Victoria Kluth. Paula is also a noted specialist on autism, literacy, and inclusive education. When she was researching for her book on literacy and autism, she discovered that there were no train ABC books. Paula drafted her sister, Victoria, to help her write this alphabet. From “A Is for All Aboard” to “Z Is for Zephyr,” all the letters have a special significance to train lovers including these two authors. Their father worked on the railroad and they spent some quality time in the railyard.
When I was reading this book, I thought about my own Grandpa worked on the railroad. I wonder how he would have liked this book. He never talked much about his work and I was too young to collect his thoughts.
Paula and Victoria created an alphabet book for any train enthusiast. Like Trainman, this book can also be used as a teaching tool. Paula has included a section on using alphabet books to teach.
Here are some great autism resources.
- Texas Statewide Leadership for Autism Training: http://www.txautism.net/
- Autism Circuit: http://autismcircuit.net/
- Texas Autism Conference: http://txautism.esc2.net/