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The first time I remember being proud of something I made myself was when I was 6 years old, trying to sew a doll purse with fringe. By accident, I figured out that if you sewed it together inside out, you’d get a nice clean seam on the outside. When I turned that purse right-side-out, it was like lightning struck! You can probably remember this feeling from when you were a kid, too - the deep pride and satisfaction of imagining something and making it happen, no distractions, reservations or worries, all within the space of a summer afternoon. 

 

Some say this creative drive, this “flow”, is instinctual until we extinguish it, and I believe that because it certainly becomes harder to access for most people as we age. Maybe we start to care so much about the final product being “good” that we never get started, and lose that natural language. Maybe we become so consumed with being productive and with our responsibilities that we can’t access that undistracted flow anymore.  Pablo Picasso said, “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

 

Colouring is a great example. Most children enjoy long sessions of colouring or drawing, spending time exploring their minds. Most kids are proud of their drawings, ‘good’ or not, and plenty of adults now use colouring books as a way of meditation or therapy. You can find adult colouring books in any category to suit your interests. It’s a great way to do something we all struggle with these days: focusing on one task and being present. Now more than ever, it’s important we look for ways to destress, and making things with your hands is a fantastic way to do so.

 

Drawing exercise prompts like Lynda Barry’s Syllabus is another great way to get started. Lynda Barry teaches a grid method to break down a sketchbook page – include 3 drawings, 5 thoughts, 8 observations and 1 dream daily. When that becomes rote, it gets more complex. The idea is not to produce good drawings, but to be mindful and to see that practice begets inspiration. 

 

Comics: Easy as ABC by Ivan Brunetti is a guide for kids to make comics, but would work wonderfully for the adult who doesn’t know where to get started with drawing or journaling. Brunetti deconstructs more than comics – he breaks down even simple stick figures to become accessible for the reluctant drawer, and focuses on mindfulness, similar to Lynda Barry.

 

Colouring and drawing prompts may be enough to tap into that satisfied "I Made Something" feeling, or perhaps they open the door for more complex projects. If colouring books and sketchbooks don’t do it for you, take notes from Arts and Crafts founder William Morris who felt that handmade items were of utmost value, and that every practical item can also be beautiful. It is no wonder practical, meditative skills like tapestry, macramé, weaving , embroidery and calligraphy have become popular again – they all take time and focus. As Morris mused, “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

 

We could all stand to slow down a little bit, to focus on one task at a time, and find a way to create like a kid again.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Until next time!

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As a mom of a toddler on the spectrum, recent life has been a crash course about neurodiversity. It’s painful to acknowledge that until recently, the main representation of autism in popular culture was the movie Rain Man, where Dustin Hoffman plays an autistic savant. Things have come a long way since then, but there is so much room for improvement. Still, only characters with “cute” special needs are reflected in popular media. Think Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory. What is never addressed is that our world is built for those who are “normal.”

 

Some treatments that were considered effective for autism therapy are being described by the now autistic adults who undertook the therapy as detrimental to their core being. Instead of focusing on inclusion and support, the focus was on compliance, but a tide is turning. Consider for example being nonverbal. Books like Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar and The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, both nonverbal young adults on the spectrum, have opened eyes globally. Both of them learned to express themselves (from basic needs to complex imaginative thoughts) through a simple alphabet chart. Previous to these books, there was a basic understanding among professionals that nonverbal meant non-understanding; meant non-intelligent.

 

Luckily, we have great author advocates like Meg Raby who released picture book My Brother Otto: An Autism Awareness Book this year. Otto is a young nonverbal crow on the spectrum. The book is told by his sister who describes his traits, likes and dislikes, and how much she loves him. He is pictured ordering bugs and cheese for lunch using an alternative communication device like an iPad. This picture book is ground breaking, in my opinion – the underlying message doesn’t leave you pitying Otto, it’s about two kids’ everyday experiences with an emphasis on kindness and understanding, one of them just happens to be autistic. It is also extremely refreshing to see an alternate mode of communication in popular media.

 

In a similar vein, I shared a copy of I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism by Pat Thomas with my son’s daycare teachers for reading with his class. The gentle, informational approach describes the sensory challenges people on the spectrum deal with daily, how they might feel like an alien on their own planet sometimes, and how everyone needs a friend for love and support.

 

A less serious picture book we have enjoyed very much is Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT is OK by Clay Morton. This book reverses the common depictions of neurodiversity by showing how a neurotypical (NT) kid is seen by his best friend on the spectrum. The narrator’s funny confusion at his NT friend’s habits (for example, his tardiness for showing up at 4:59pm or 5:01pm instead of 5pm on the dot) show that “normal” depends on who you ask. Similarly, we can all take a page from recent picture book My Shape is Sam by Amanda Jackson, about a square who wants to roll like a circle – but scratch that, Sam ISN’T a square or a circle, he’s just Sam! He doesn’t have to be what others want or expect him to be.

 

The point is, “normal” doesn’t exist anymore. Put your love and patience into high gear and show those who are flappy, nonverbal, hyper, and differently abled from you that you love them, want them around, and that the world is becoming a more inclusive place day by day. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Until next time!

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