When Elaine Marie Larson’s grandson Sam was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism that is characterized by deficiencies in social and communication skills, her first reaction was to look for a book to help him understand his condition. As a writer and poet for nearly 30 years, she expected to easily find a book that would give Sam a positive approach to Asperger’s and boost his confidence. Instead, she found empty shelves.
“I couldn’t find anything anywhere about Asperger’s [written] for kids,” explains Larson, who lives in Excelsior. “I’d done a lot of research and reading on the subject, so I decided to write it myself.” I Am Utterly Unique, an A-Z book celebrating the gifts and special perspectives of children with Asperger’s, filled the void Larson discovered and made 6-year-old Sam’s eyes sparkle.
“He thinks it’s pretty cool,” says Larson. “He came to a book signing and helped sign books and told people ‘I’m Sam. My grandma wrote this for me, and I’m famous.'” I Am Utterly Unique has not only made Sam famous, it’s also received plenty of positive feedback from parents and teachers who similarly felt that Asperger’s Syndrome was ignored on the bookshelves.
Later this fall, Larson will release her second book with the Autism Asperger Publishing Company. Kaleidoscope Kid will have the same positive message for elementary-age kids that I Am Utterly Unique sends to younger children.
“I want kids with Asperger’s to accept themselves as children who have unique characteristics and not be discouraged about their situation,” says Larson. “These are the most important books I’ve ever written.”