Stories about: autism

Reading to teach and heal: Best books for 8-12 year olds

Best books for 8-12 year olds.

Books are great tools for teaching empathy to children. They can help kids understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes — someone with a physical or mental disability, chronic illness or learning difference. They can also help kids with medical issues see how other kids cope — which can be validating or even help spark new ideas. And books help younger generations recognize that no matter what obstacle they may face, they’re still just kids, and they’re not alone.

Today, many children’s book authors are weaving characters with medical conditions into their stories with appropriate sensitivity to both inform and create a sense of understanding among readers. Here are four must-reads for 8-12 year olds:

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Focus on: Autism spectrum disorder

Definition of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

April is Autism Awareness Month and there is a lot in the news about autism. More and more children — up to one out of 68 — are diagnosed with autism. Sesame Street even has a new character, Julia, who has autism. But what exactly is this condition, how does it affect children and what can you do to help?

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Samantha’s story: Partnering with BACPAC program to end bullying

During the fifth grade when Samantha was 10 years old, she was bullied by a male classmate. She remembers walking through the halls of her elementary school and hearing the bully call out these words:

“Why are you on this earth? You don’t deserve to be alive.”

The bullying followed her every day.

“I didn’t want to go to school because I knew he would be there. I was afraid,” says Samantha, now 12.

Weeks into the school year, the harassment and intimidation escalated and turned physical.

“It was usually mental [abuse], but at one point in fifth grade the bully came up to me, and he punched me on the back,” says Samantha quietly. This was the breaking point.

“I had enough,” says Samantha’s mother Karen. “The verbal and physical abuse needed to stop.”

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One mom’s insights: Navigating care for children with behavior differences

autism complex care

Diba Jalalzadeh, now 12, paces energetically around the waiting room. She has been coming to Boston Children’s Hospital since she was a baby. Today she is seeing her developmental medicine specialist, Dr. Carolyn Bridgemohan.

But she’s just one of the many specialists Diba sees at Children’s.“We touch on many departments,” says Monir, Diba’s mother.

Diba was diagnosed with Crouzon syndrome when she was 10 months old. She has had several surgeries to manage the effects of her craniofacial syndrome on her skull, eye muscles, tonsils and adenoids. She currently wears a brace on her chest to counter kyphosis (her shoulders’ tendency to cave in).

Though she’s never gotten really sick, Diba is a complex patient. Unrelated to her syndrome, she also meets criteria for autism spectrum disorder, so procedures most kids will put up with can potentially make her very anxious.

Blood pressure measurement? “She doesn’t enjoy that at all, but she tries to get through it.”

Sleep study? “She had a very hard time sleeping through the night but she managed to sleep a little,” says Monir. “If you ask her to do it again, she says, ‘No I can’t even try it!'”

Eye patching for an exam? “I won’t do it.” (She finally agreed to it at the end of the visit.)

Even measuring Diba’s head circumference can be a challenge.

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