'Every person with autism is unique': why this dad made a book about his daughter

Published on: 08 January 2018 Author: Alex Strick

Kya has autism, but she is also like lots of other four year olds: she loves ice cream and jumping but doesn't like vegetables! Her dad tells us why he wrote a children's book all about his little girl. 

Jon Roberts has just written a book called Through the Eyes of Me, illustrated by Hannah Rounding and published by Graffeg. We caught up with him to find out more about it – and the star of the book, Kya.

Tell us about Kya.

We adopted Kya when she was 17 months old and as new parents were blissfully unaware of what she was supposed to be like in regards to speaking and interacting. We knew she was quiet, but we put that down to "attachment issues",  which we were told is common with adopted children. In terms of her development, Kya's doctor told us that she was doing well and meeting all her milestones. It wasn't until we started taking her to the park and where able to observe other children the same age that we started to notice differences.

We noticed that Kya would play alongside other children but never interact with them, and just sit quietly on the swing without seeming to take any notice of her surroundings.

As she started to bond with us, she started to interact more and loved playing with her toys. She would line up all her blocks and stack them high. It wasn’t until we read about autism that we could relate to many of the traits, so we decided to ask the doctor for an assessment. It took about a further 12 months for a slot to come available and once the assessment came through, it took the specialists 30 minutes to diagnose Kya with severe autism.

When did you first start thinking about the idea of a children’s book?

I started to write about Kya after she was diagnosed with autism. I wanted to capture all her traits and quirks before I forgot them.

Kya has an amazing personality and has had since she was young. She never fails to surprise us with her abilities. She was changing so quickly from day to day and it was beautiful to watch her grow and learn new things.

I take a lot of photos of Kya but I wanted to write about her too, as I feel a photo can't explain exactly what Kya is going through. Autism is a hidden disability.

What did you want the book to capture about Kya?

We loved the way she would spin around – it is so obvious that she really enjoys doing this as her smile and laughter is so sincere. She loves climbing things and if she falls, she doesn't cry, she just gets up again until she has mastered it. You can see the sheer determination in her to get it right. It's amazing to watch.

She also loves running. She has a lot of energy and is fast, too. She has certainly kept us fit over the years.

When she started school, her teacher told us that the other children love Kya. They also had a lot of questions though, such as 'Why does she pull funny faces when she is excited?' 'Why does she run around the class when we are not allowed to?'

These questions changed the way that I logged Kya's traits and quirks. Instead of a list of traits, I wanted to explain what Kya likes to do and give answers to why she does them.

What made you write it in the first person?

There are lots of technical books available about autism, but I think people who have autistic children just haven't the time or energy to read a technical book. As Kya doesn't talk, I wanted the book to be told by her, as if she is telling the reader why she does the things she does. 

What kind of stereotypes and misconceptions did you hope to challenge through the book?

I think a lot of people stereotype autistic children as being aggressive and not experiencing a full range of emotions. Some do hit out or shout when they are frustrated or distressed but not all children are aggressive. Some children have difficulty showing emotions or express them differently to other children. I wanted to show that Kya was a loving and caring girl and that she behaves just like a lot of other children who are not on the spectrum.

Some people think that people with autism are all the same. Even though people with autism share difficulties in the core areas of social-communication, restricted and repetitive behaviours and sensory processing, every person with autism is unique and has different abilities and interests.

I wanted to show Kya's interests such as ice cream, jumping up and down and lining up or stacking her toys, which I am sure is common in many children.

You might also like

Bookmark: books and disability

Information on disability and children's books

Find advice and book recommendations for families, teachers, librarians, authors and publishers.

Read our book review

Through the Eyes of Me

Author: Jon Roberts Illustrator: Hannah Rounding

Told in the first person, the book delivers a simple but effective glimpse into Kyla’s life, with help from her father (the author). We see that one way she might differ from some children is that she has autism. Beautifully effective artwork and uncluttered layout complete this delightful portrait.

Read more about Through the Eyes of Me

Asperger’s Syndrome and autism

A booklist

This booklist aims to provide a range of children's and teens' books featuring characters who are on the autistic spectrum or have Asperger’s Syndrome.