Happy National Autism Awareness Month!
And to celebrate, here is an inspiring book everyone should read about a girl who is severely autistic and nonverbal.
Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger – it’s the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home.
While foster families and teachers dismiss Nova as severely autistic and nonverbal, Bridget understands how intelligent and special Nova is, and all that she can’t express. As the liftoff draws closer, Nova’s new foster family and teachers begin to see her potential, and for the first time, she is making friends without Bridget. But every day, she’s counting down to the launch, and to the moment when she’ll see Bridget again.
Because Bridget said, “No matter what, I’ll be there. I promise.”
This story involves 3 major plot points: being autistic and nonverbal, foster care, and the 1986 Challenger launch.
This is the first book I’ve read that is told from the point of view of someone who is severely autistic and nonverbal. You have to remember that this story takes place during the 1980’s, before people had much of an understanding of autism. I did some research on the internet and learned that even to this day, it is still unknown why some people with autism can’t, or don’t, speak. It all has something to do with a difference in brain function, but no one know what exactly. But just because someone can’t speak, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand what’s going on around them.
I can’t relate to not being able to speak but I do relate to being overwhelmed. After so many years, I’ve developed a coping mechanism where when I’m in a stressful situation I am able to shove all my anxiety and fear deep down inside of me and appear normal until later when I can let it out. It doesn’t always work so when I start to feel nervous I try to get out of the situation before I go into what I like to call ‘Shut Down Mode’.
There are many times in the story where Nova hits herself on the head when she is having a hard time. Some might not understand why she, or anyone, would do this, but I do. In middle school, I used to bang my head on my desk, trying to release some frustration. It didn’t work. I stopped after I started taking anxiety medication.
Today, children with autism are getting the help they need. It’s important for them to have consistency and understanding. Unlike Nova, who was in 11 different homes in 7 years and was constantly being misdiagnosed as ‘severely mentally r’ (you can figure out what ‘r’ means on your own, I refuse to even write it).
There are no foster home horror stories in this book, but Nova and Bridget’s are still emotionally damage from being passed around from foster home to foster home like they’re a used couch instead of two human beings. Luckily, Nova’s new foster family treats her like she’s a person instead of a burden.
Now on to the subject of the 1986 Challenger launch. If you already know what happened to the space shuttle, you might already have an idea on what’s going to happen in this story. If you don’t know, don’t look into it.
I know this isn’t a great review and I talked too much about myself. This story has so much to offer and I’m unable to put into words how great it is. So, I leave you with this quote:
“And now I know it is perfectly natural for me not to look at someone when I talk. Those of us with Asperger’s are just not comfortable doing it. In fact, I don’t really understand why it’s considered normal to stare at someone’s eyeballs.” – John Elder Robison
Yeah, I don’t understand why people are so obsessed with autistic people looking them in the eye either. For the record, you can usually get away with looking in their general direction.
This weeks’ Weird but True Fact about Future Space Travel
On future space missions to Mars, poop from astronauts could be used to shield the spacecraft from harmful radiation.