Storybook Helps to Understand Autism

Tuesday, January 13th 2009, 7:10 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- A new storybook is helping children to better understand autism and helping kids with autism relate.

The author and illustrator wrote the book in the metro. The author is from Norman, and he has two sons with autism who go to Roosevelt Elementary.

If you listen to Steven Decker read, you can hear the rhythm. The steady tempo of his voice is meant specifically for kids with autism like his sons, who often enjoy rhyming words. But the story of "Zack the Prairie Dog" is truly meant for all children.

"I want them to be able to see that autism is no different than the color of someone's eyes or their hair, you know, it's just a different kind of person," Decker said.

In the story, the two main characters, one with autism and one without, find they have more similarities than differences. Together, they become heroes by saving the town.

"My don, who's only 6-years-old and has autism, has the whole book memorized; he'll sit there and recite," Decker said. "You know; walking through the house, recite every word of the book."

The story of "Zack the Prairie Dog" is beginning to catch on, and it's hitting a key niche.

"It shows that children with autism are special, they have their own gifts and that's something that I haven't seen much in children's literature; portraying someone with autism as having a special ability or talent, that's useful," Autism Resource Teacher Lori Evans said.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child; what does it take to raise a special needs child?" Decker said. "And whether it be Oklahoma or anywhere in the country, or in the world for that matter, it's an important thing for us to look at these kids and again, realize their gift."

Decker is hoping kids begin to come to that realization through his words on the page.

There's a book signing with the author at Full Circle Bookstore in 50 Penn Place at 6 p.m. on Thursday.