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Monday, April 29 • 10:55am - 11:45am
Neurodiverse books in the classroon

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Discussing books about neurodiversity in schools builds empathy and raises critical questions about identity and difference. Neurodiverse kids need to see themselves on the page, and all kids need to think about the neurodiversity movement as it relates to other diversity movements. Are there analogies with sexuality and race? If so, how far do these analogies go? And can there be empathy across a neurolgical divide? Is it possible to imagine perceiving the world from another point of view? These are fundamental questions about the nature and limits of empathy that resonate deeply for all high school students regardless of their neurological make-up. Reading and discussing neurodiverse books brings these questions into sharper focus.

All high-school students, indeed all humans, have experienced moments when their way of seeing or understanding a situation has been very different from that of the people around them. We have all been isolated in our own perceptions. Can books that explore this feeling give neurotypical students empathy with those who have autism, or other syndromes, like Downs' or Tourette's? And can neurodivergent kids find the understanding and comfort level they need to connect if they choose to?

It is important when selecting books with neurodiverse characters to think about complex representations and to avoid stereotypes. Autism, for example, should be one aspect of a character, not necessarily the defining one. And it should not be portrayed as a disability in need of a cure, but rather as a way to be in the world, even if aspects of it can be painful. Perhaps the analogies with sexuality or race are imperfect because neurodiverse people are on such broad spectrums. Neurodiverse book resonate with al teen readers, both neurodiverse and neurotypical, but only when they are fully imagined and not reductive.

avatar for Hilary Reyl

Hilary Reyl

Hilary Reyl has spent several years working and studying in France. She has a PhD in French literature from NYU, She now lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her adult novel LESSONS IN FRENCH, was an editor’s pick on Oprah.com. KIDS LIKE US, a neurodiverse... Read More →

Monday April 29, 2019 10:55am - 11:45am CDT
Salon G