My project is a story about a young girl with high-functioning autism. I hope to depict her character development within the story, from the point at which she begins to understand that she has high-functioning autism and what that means, until she comes to a point of self-acceptance where she is confident and comfortable in herself – I want to use this project as though I am addressing a younger version of myself to say that being different is not something to be ashamed of.
I was inspired to write a story about a young girl with high-functioning autism, as I recently submitted my dissertation on the representation of girls with high-functioning autism and the discrimination that they face within children’s literature. In the course of my preliminary research, I found that there are, in fact, very few novels or stories for children that are centred around girls with autism. Most of the novels about girls with high-functioning autism are written by neuro-typical authors – while this is by no means a bad thing, I think that it is important for there to be more self-representation of authors with autism in children’s literature.
Of the many titles that I considered, only one book was written by an author with Asperger’s Syndrome – Rogue, by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. This novel is about a young Hispanic girl called Kiara who does not have an official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome until the very end of the novel. The story details her difficulty with making and maintaining friendships, and the problems that she comes up against while trying to befriend her new neighbour, whose parents are drug dealers. I realised in the course of writing my dissertation that most children’s novels about characters with autism are centred around boys with the condition – according to Marilyn Irwin, Annette Y. Goldsmith, and Rachel Applegate (Autism in Young Adult Novels: An Annotated Bibliography), 67% of characters with high-functioning autism in children’s literature are male. Almost all children’s novels about autistic characters are set in either America or Britain – I want to write stories that Irish children on the spectrum can relate to, therefore I think it’s important to write a story that is set in Ireland.