I came across this book while looking for books to read for my bi monthly storytelling at a public library near my place. My name is Nadia and I have Autism is a bilingual book about a 8 year old girl Nadia Sander who has autism. It is written in both English and Malay. It shows that Nadia, despite her developmental difficulties, is just like any other child her age.
I chose this book to read to my group of children on 13th Nov. I was a little trepiditious as I was new to reading books about children with special needs and was a little concerned if I could explain autism to the children in a simple concise manner and wondered how the children will respond. When I seeked permission to read this book, I found out that apparently, I was the first storyteller to read a book about autism to the children in that library.
It was 7.30pm when all the children had settled down and I was overjoyed to see 12 eager children in front of me. I started off by announcing that I had a really special book to read and got the children's attention right away. But to hold their attention and eagerness for the next 30 minutes, I informed them that I will only read the special book at the end. I started reading the other 3 books first and when it came to this book, they were at the edge of their seats.
When I read the title, many questioning eyes looked at me. What is autism ? I explained very simply that some children view and react to the world differently from us and they get affected by loud noises and bright lights. That they are special, that's why they are called special needs children and we shouldn't look or treat them differently from us. Confused looks followed until I opened the pages and starting reading and showing the pictures of Nadia's experiences. In the end, when I posed the question in the book to the children - 'I am Nadia, will you be friend?' and probed 'Who will be Nadia's friend?' many hands went up which gave me an immense sense of fulfillment.
I hope I had introduced special needs children to these group of children so that they realise that special needs children should not be judged or stared at or worse bullied and that they are just like all of us.
Researching more on this book, I unearthed that Nadia is a 9-year-old autistic girl from Johor, Malaysia whom Huda, the author, met whilst conducting her research for her personal study. After meeting Nadia and her family members, Huda felt the urge to do something more. It didn’t take her long before she decided to retell the story of Nadia from a first person narrative. Huda says this :
“I hope this book will help to raise the awareness of autism in the community; it still carries social stigma and there is a lack of understanding about it. As mentioned by Dr Mariam Aljunied in the foreword of the book, ‘with better awareness, early intervention and good understanding as well as support from people around them, children with autism are being helped to reach their full potential’.”
I enjoyed reading this book to the children and it also helped me to understand autistic children a little better since I have expressed my interest to volunteer to help at a school for autistic children near my place. The pages are illustrated very colourfully to appeal to the children and its written very simply to allow many kids to understand autism better. Apparently, there is also another book in this series called My Name is Mikhail and I have Cerebral Palsy. Interesting. Perhaps one of my next books to read to the children?
Book rating : A