Sunday, February 6, 2011

Something Different About Dad

Something Different About Dad 
Kirsti Evans, author
John Swogger, illustrator
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Pub; 1 edition (January 15, 2011)
Review based on ARC from Amazon Vine.
5/5 stars

Something Different About Dad is a both a nonfiction and fiction illustrated resource with an intended audience of children aged 7 to 15 that have an adult in their life with Asperger Syndrome. It is designed in a style similar to the graphic novel, with friendly monochrome illustrations and a handwritten type of font.

The preface introduces the author and illustrator as guides to the story, and gives a brief explanation of what the book will be about:
Whether or not you know for sure that the person you are thinking of has Asperger Syndrome, we hope this book will help. We hope it will help you answer some of the questions you might have and give you some ideas about how to deal with parents or other adults with Asperger Syndrome.
Something Different About Dad certainly lives up to this expectation.

It is essentially a story told by a preteen named Sophie, whose father (Mark) has Asperger Syndrome ("AS"). Each chapter begins with Sophie describing an incident in their family life that has led to difficulties for Mark, and as a result, to embarrassment, emotional pain and misunderstanding for the family. After the incident is recounted by Sophie, with illustrations that do a fantastic job of showing the emotions that each person is experiencing, Kirsti and John appear in the chapter to explain what caused Mark to act as he did.

Ms. Evans, whose experience with Autism and AS is obviously not in name only, does a wonderful job of explaining just what AS is, the four main areas that difficulties occur for persons with AS, and what can trigger the socially unacceptable behavior. It is explained with clarity and in detail, and yet is not overwhelming with all the factual information.

After picking apart the situation to find the antecedent to Mark's behavior, Kirsti and John then speak to the various family members, giving advice on how to lessen the frustration of a situation for Mark. The family then talks about what changes they have made and how these changes have reduced that type of behavior from Mark.

Despite addressing such serious issues as anger toward the parent with AS, having one's feelings hurt deeply by the parent with AS and frustration at having to arrange schedules around that parent instead of oneself, the book ends on a very positive and hopeful note.

My only complaint about the book was that Mark was not generally held accountable for his behavior or asked to work on reducing his reactions. After I pondered on this, however, I realized that the book is geared for children who would not have the right to ask for such changes from an adult, who would only be able to make changes in their own life to help, and therefore showing such a situation would not be appropriate.

Swooger's illustrations fit the story and the information very well. I not only work with young children that have Autism and AS, but have AS myself, and I thought his he caught the expressions of situations very well. I was particularly impressed with the way he showed conversations going on around Mark, and how overwhelming it was to have some much going on. I found it interesting that he drew Mark with blank eyes, different from everyone else; I'm not sure if it was meant to simply show a difference in how Mark looked at the world, but I rather uncomfortably interpreted it to be a blank stare and didn't find that to be as appropriate as the rest of the illustrations.

I think this book would be an excellent resource for children with adults, or even other children, in their life with AS. Regardless of the book's language being geared toward a younger age group, it is also an excellent resource for adults who are experiencing the effects of AS in their life.


  1. Interesting. I interpreted Mark's blank eyes as a barrier he erected, or symbolizing the trouble others had in reading his emotions. Anyway, your review is spot on!

  2. I imagine this perspective (children's book about a parent w/AS) hasn't been addressed much; sounds like a great resource!

  3. I've never heard of this kind of book - usually it's guides for parents with kids with AS. Great to know this is out there. Thanks for the great review.

  4. I have only seen a book for siblings of kiddos with Autism, otherwise never anything really geared for kids. I was quite pleased with it!

    My husband may be on to something there--I didn't think about it being Mark's barrier, I was too busy thinking bad about the illustrator. :P

  5. K, if you want to borrow it after my parents are done, I'll loan it to you!