I had the pleasure of interviewing the authoress herself! You'll find our exchange below...
Congratulations on your debut children's book! I found the story to be very sweet, playful, and insightful.
Being traditionally published was something that scared me in that I didn't know how much control I would have. My experience overall with Row House has been pleasant. I did not choose my illustrator. That worried me so much because I didn't know how the art would come out. I didn't talk to Kate (Cosgrove, the illustrator) until after she finished the art for the book. However, I did communicate with her via my publisher, sending over pictures and suggestions, etc. Kate knocked the art out of the park. I couldn't be more happy that she was chosen.
✹ What is your favorite page/spread in A Day With No Words?
All of them, lol. I know, easy way out. But if I had to choose it would be the ones that show Mama and Daddy and how their voices come from their mouths. It shows the path of their speech. How the words flow from their open mouths. And then by the time you get to the page with Aidan tapping the tablet and the bird flies off the device, you are connecting that voices can be different but they are doing the same thing...conveying a message that is meant to be shared.
✹ You mentioned A Day With No Words being a call to action. If families and classrooms were to have their own "day with no words", what do you hope they would learn from that experience?
I don't want them to just "try on" disability. I want them to think more deeply about the interactions they have themselves that don't involve speech. Humans communicate nonverbally all the time. I want them to lean into that and then think about how that feels to them. What would it be like if it were like that all the time for them? Why is it that it's okay when they communicate nonverbally with their friends and family that people do not think anything of it, or less of them, but to see someone who uses a device to communicate that they are considered "weird" or that they lack an awareness of what is going on around them. I hope they would not treat these experiences, these times when they communicate without speech as a game. This is not a game for those like Aidan. I want them to acknowledge the privilege they have in being able to engage in an activity like this and then being able to go right back to speech.
✹ How do you hope this book will be used in the classroom?
I haven't really thought about exactly how, but I do know that everything I wrote in the previous answer serves as the foundation for any activities and lessons they do in the classroom.
✹ I feel like typically when we talk about autism and children, the conversations revolve around relating to or parenting an autistic child. Your blog Fidgets.and.Fries touches on many subjects as a Black mother with autism raising two autistic Black sons. What would you like people to know about your experience as a parent with autism and relating to non-autistic parents?
That I learn just as much from my kids as they do from me. They are of me, but not me. Part of me, but not me. I do my best to not speak for them, think for them, or talk over them. They lead their lives and I narrate. I help them to secure what it is that they need. I watch and observe. I take deep care and consideration of the areas they struggle in and I do my best to help them where they need it most. I live whole. Period. I relate to Autistic persons. Some of the time. I relate to Allistic (not Autistic) parents. Some of the time. We come to this community online and like to break into the factions, stand on our side of the line, and yell at one another. I don't do none of that. I carry no banner, no color, no symbol. I am unbound. I live free here. On the outside. I am a parent. And I am Autistic. I hold a unique perspective and it is because of that, I learn from everyone, in all spaces. I take what I need and leave what I don't, or most often I pass it along to someone who could use it. I don't know everything. I think we tend to forget that there's not a person in this community that is going to have the answer to everything. It is okay to learn from all persons in a variety of spaces.
✹ I know mommy groups can be kinda savage sometimes. What do you feel is the biggest myth/stereotype about children with autism?
Depends on the person's perception of Autism in the first place on what would be the biggest misconception to me. Just as Autism is a spectrum, so are the stereotypes surrounding those diagnosed with it. I am in the unique position to not only be Autistic myself, but to raise two boys who present so differently. The biggest thing my youngest and I get is either denial of our diagnosis in the first place because we can speak, type, read, socially communicate with others, do well academically, etc. or they will assume we have some special talent. The biggest misconception those will place on my oldest is that he is not aware of the world around him. He is unthinking, incapable of autonomy, and understanding words.
✹ What can we do to better help Black children and parents with autism?
Recognize their diagnosis. It is not “overdiagnosed.” It is not something that “everyone has.” Accepting their diagnosis does nothing to hurt you but denying their diagnosis does so much to hurt them and their families.
So, be welcoming and inclusive. Show families like ours that we are accepted and loved.
To be supportive of families like ours, educate yourself about Autism.
Our community is quick to judge each other for our parenting and our children’s behavior. Our families are doing the best that we can. Just having someone to listen to us without judgment can mean so much to us.
Reach out and see how you can help us. Having someone ask us what they can do to help is such a beautiful way to support us.
Invite our children to play with yours. Many think that because Autism presents challenges in social communication that this means we don't want social interaction. This is not true. Many want friends and connections. Playdates are a great way for families to get together and our children to learn and play with one another.