Guest Post from Natalie Sampson

Thanks for the invite, Angela! You suggested I could chat about Henry’s voice which is def one of my favourite topics when talking about #GoodDay.

I’ve worked with people who have been diagnoses with autism for fifteen years or so now as a speech language pathologist. Autism is a disorder that includes a set of traits or behaviours but how each person exhibits and deals with autism is very different. Which means Henry is not fashioned off of any one person. He’s a composite of many people, including some I’ve worked with and some I’ve only read about. Now that autism is more widely known there is opportunity to read first hand experiences told or written by people with autism. It’s invaluable to have insight into some of their feelings and what leads to their behaviours, since often that is one of the hardest things for people with autism to explain and express. I tried to use this information to build Henry’s interests and actions.

Henry’s voice itself was actually the easiest of the four characters to write. This is probably true in part to the rigidity of his language. It needed the most editing though, to go through and make sure my voice didn’t slip in with a contraction or inconsistent pronoun. It was also the trickiest to make sure his perceptions were limited by the constraints I chose for him. Many people with autism have difficulty ‘reading’ contexts around them, including how other people feel and act. Figurative or abstract language can be challenging – this includes idioms but also sarcasm. Henry was very literal, while he knew some comments were Just a Phrase he wasn’t able to detect the less obvious uses of metaphorical language. It obviously caused him trouble, but at times saved him some pain too.

What was of utmost importance to me was that I present Henry with respect and compassion. I don’t want people to think Henry is a caricature or a flippant tool created to write a story. I hope that by reading Henry someone gains some appreciation for the challenges people with autism face, but also the contributions autistic people have to offer. One thing I know for certain from working with autistic people and their families is they are so much more than what a diagnosis identifies. Even if a person can’t communicate well, there is someone in that mind and body who is worth getting to know.

Btw, here is my review of It Should Have Been a Good Day.

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