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Autism Lite

Kathryn Tucker shares her family’s journey with a child with mild autism in the new book, “Autism Lite.”

In Kathryn Tucker’s new book “Autism Lite,” Tucker narrates the story of her daughter Janie, and her early and unexpected diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), which has since been incorporated into Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The book, published in November, 2020, was an enjoyable read considering the challenging topic of one family’s journey with autism. 

I recently spoke with Tucker, who uses a pen name, about the book and her experience.

Why did you write the book?

Tucker: “It definitely was a journey. I feel like we got so lucky in so many ways. I never realized [Janie] had [autism]. That was a big reason I wanted to write it, because I didn’t know what mild autism was. My degree is in psychology and I have a cousin with autism. I didn’t see it. When [Janie] was diagnosed I still thought it was so confusing, I couldn’t understand it. That was the purpose to write [the book], to help people like me who were just kind of shocked and baffled by the whole thing.” 

Tucker added that she wanted to share her family’s experience with mild autism, what worked for Janie, and how she was able to help Janie get over some of the symptoms that isolated her. Tucker lamented the lack of resources for parents with children diagnosed with mild autism and hopes this book can help other families like hers. 

Why did you use a pen name?

Tucker: “I used a pen name because it really is Janie’s story, not my story, and she is too young to decide if she wants other people to know her story or exactly what she went through as a child. I really did it for her. I didn’t think it was fair to put her name in it. If one day she wants to tell everyone, she is more than welcome to.”

What advice do you have for parents who are just beginning their journey?

Tucker: “For the parents who suspect there might be some kind of developmental delay with their child, get into the pediatrician or a specialist and get Early Intervention (called MD Infants and Toddlers Program in Maryland) involved right away. Getting started early, as young as possible is key, which is hard because mild autism is so hard to detect at a young age [but it is] when you can make the biggest impact.” 

“Get as much therapy and read everything you can to really dedicate those first couple of years, especially, to helping them develop those social and communication skills. It took a friend to say to me ‘there is something going on and a lot ‘hardwires’ between two and three.’ Those words really hit me hard. It is much easier as these habits are just forming to try to rewire and get the child to be more social.”

About Janie’s Therapies

In “Autism Lite,” Tucker thoroughly explains many of the therapies that helped Janie, including Early Intervention, the Early Start Denver Model, and the Social Thinking Learning Model. These resources, therapies, and strategies were a big part of Janie’s success and can be really useful tools available to kids on the autism spectrum. 

Throughout our conversation Tucker also stressed how lucky her family has been—from the early diagnosis from the pediatrician, to the therapist assigned to Janie being trained in Early Start Denver Model (rare at the time), to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting going above and beyond Tucker’s expectations. 

Janie and Kathryn’s story of autism is a happy one. Tucker acknowledges that everyone’s journey with autism is not as smooth. It is an uplifting story that celebrates a little girl and her spunk, creativity, and hard work to find a way to communicate and connect with her world. It provides hope and guidance for families navigating mild autism.

You can find the book on Amazon in paperback or ebook editions.

—Janet Jefferson

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