Note: Before I dive into the post, I wanted to comment on the serendipity of placing these images together. It struck me how the child's eye appears to be reflecting the colors of the kaleidoscope. I suppose this is how an image can be worth a thousand words. And now for those thousand words (more or less)...
If a kaleidoscope is all about the fluid movement from one perspective to another, then I hope to be kaleidoscopic and smoothly present a differing perspective on the development of book lists for autistic readers.
I suspect that most of those serving autistic children in a library setting are aware of Lesley S.J. Farmer's book, Library Services for Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorders. It provides an over-arching approach to the unique needs of neurodiverse library patrons. (Side note: Those seeking specific guidance on youth programming design and development will want to consult Barbara Klipper's Programming for Children and Teens With Autism Spectrum Disorder).
Farmer spends one chapter ("Chapter 6: Focus on Reading") discussing the characteristics, preferences, and needs of autistic readers, including recommending specific types and titles of books. The "kaleidoscopic turn" I want to suggest is not to counter or undo any information presented by Farmer, but, rather, to frame it somewhat differently.
I believe that a well-designed framework reinforces and reveals the essential features of that which it frames. The arrangement of elements in the Periodic Table, for example, is not haphazard, nor is it based on the principles of visual design, or even alphabetical order. The particular arrangement is based on properties of the elements and those elements' relationships to one another.
In a similar fashion, the "book list" template I am going to suggest contains its own blueprint for understanding the characteristics and needs of autistic readers. It goes beyond the monolithic "books for autistic readers" lists that one finds on many websites online or on library hand-outs. There is nothing inherently wrong with such lists, they have been a great place to begin; but now it's time for the next generation of book lists for autistic readers.
The template is based on my Three E's of Autistic Literature. Here it is:
Books That Address the Unique Needs of Autistic Readers
I overlaid this template on Farmer's "Chapter 6: Focus on Reading," merely reorganizing her discussion on the characteristics of appropriate literature for autistic readers. Here's how it looks after a "turn of the kaleidoscope:"
Auditory: Rhyme, songbooks, alphabet books, alliterative books, audio books
Visual: Books that make use of visual discrimination (i.e., "look-and-find" books), large-format coffee table books, graphic novels, wordless books, picture books, books with photographs
Tactile: Books that make use of motor-skills and motor-planning, board books, books with multisensory features, e-books, books with props, large-format coffee table books (per Farmer, "carrying them often meets a youth's need for sensing heaviness")
Olfactory:----- (none cited)
Gustatory:----- (none cited)
Visual Thinker: Books that make use of visual discrimination (i.e., "look-and-find" books), large-format coffee table books, graphic novels, wordless books, picture books, books with photographs
Word-Fact Thinker: nonfiction books, reference books published by Dorling Kindersley, newspapers (per Farmer, "...can also be great reading sources for youth with ASD's, especially allowing them to focus on specific interests, such as sports statistics, weather, or cartoons.")
Pattern Thinker: Predictable books, formulaic stories, cumulative stories, familiar sequence (i.e., number, alphabet, days of the week), change books (i.e., seasons, butterfly, life cycle, yesterday-today-tomorrow), patterned stories with "scenes repeated with some variation," question-and-answer, repetition of phrase, rhyme
Newspapers (per Farmer, "...can also be great reading sources for youth with ASD's, especially allowing them to focus on specific interests, such as sports statistics, weather, or cartoons."), Thomas the Tank Engine (Farmer cites as a "favorite for many children with autism.")
Applying the template not only serves as a compass forward in developing appropriate autistic book lists, but it also provides valuable feedback on a particular book list's extent of coverage regarding the sensory, modality, and affinity needs of autistic readers. In a cursory glance, one can determine if there's an adequate representation of titles for word-fact thinkers, for example. Are there enough titles addressed to the olfactory and gustatory senses, etc.?
Accessing greater insight into the minds of autistic readers is readily available. All it takes is "turning the kaleidoscope."