Former Elizabeth resident Meir* and his mother Avigail, currently residing in Israel, are creating a book of stories written by and about children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As a teen with ASD, Meir feels it is important for children to have accessible resources to which they can relate and where they can understand the language and content.
Meir hopes to have the book published as soon as possible and is asking members of the ASD community in the Jewish Link readership area to submit their narrative, written from a child’s perspective at a pre-teen reading level, to add to the compilation.
This project originated as Meir and his mother began to realize just how misunderstood children with ASD can be. Meir recalled how he read that children with ASD are “in their own world,” and found that language to be upsetting and inaccurate. He understood that there are different kinds and levels of autism that manifest in different individuals in different ways. For example, when Meir attended a school with lower functioning students with autism, he was friends with peers who were both verbal and nonverbal. Though it was hard to understand what they wanted, he developed real relationships with the students and did not find them to be “in their own world.” Just because they had ASD did not mean they were incapable of friendships.
After that, Meir noticed the gap in resources for children with ASD, as the material was typically geared toward adults and caregivers. As he entered high school, Meir simultaneously began understanding his place in the world and what it means to be a person with ASD. With the support of his teachers, some of whom submitted stories of their own, Meir officially began developing this compilation of stories; he reviews each and every submission himself.
The goal of their project is to “help other children understand what ASD is all about … when people hear they don’t know what to expect, and Meir is uncomfortable knowing other kids are unsure of him,” said Avigail.
Additionally, they aim to provide validation for kids who are on the spectrum by showing them there are other children like them. This will help them express feelings they can mirror from the words in the book, thereby offering a therapeutic benefit. The book will also be helpful to parents and teachers, who can gain a better understanding of the childrens’ point of view.
Meir and Avigail would like prospective contributors to understand that their story submissions do not have to be professionally written and, in fact, can simply be notes or a summary. Avigail will be happy to write up the information into story form. All identifying information will be kept strictly confidential.
The following is a short excerpt from one of the stories:
One thing that’s hard for me is that it’s hard for me to tell an adult when I’m feeling pain. Last summer, I was riding my bike outside, and I fell and scraped my knees. It hurt. A lot. But I didn’t want to tell my mom about it. Why not? Because I was angry at myself. When I feel pain, I feel like it’s my fault, and I get angry at myself. Because I’m so angry at myself, I feel embarrassed to tell anyone that I’m feeling pain. Does it make sense? To me it does. This is the brain that Hashem gave me, and this is the way it thinks.
Another thing that’s hard for me is understanding what other people mean when they say things, and what they’re feeling. Which brings me back to math class.
As I mentioned, math is not exactly my favorite subject. To put it mildly. Some people think that being autistic means you have a computer brain that can figure out really complicated math problems in seconds. I don’t know. Maybe there are autistic kids who are like that, but I’m not one of them. For me, math is a really hard subject.
When I was in fifth grade, I had an arrangement with the math teacher. I would do five math problems, and that’s it. Then I could do something else. Just knowing that I didn’t have to do the whole page made it easier for me to get the work done.
*Meir requested that only his first name be used in this article.
Hannah Kirsch is a Jewish Link staff writer and a rising senior at Binghamton University.
If you or someone you know would like to submit a story which highlights the challenges or triumphs of life as a child or tween with ASD, email it to