Fan Mail Wednesday #30

I’ve thought about whether I should pick this one or not, because it’s sort of grossly self-aggrandizing, but isn’t that what is all about? Hopefully my reply might be helpful to somebody out there. Note: As always, I’ve removed any names that would identify the writer or, in this case, her son.

Dear Mr. Preller,

I wish I could find the words to thank you for your newest book Along Came Spider.  My son, who is in the fifth grade, has been recently diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.  I’ve always known that he’s struggled with the whole playground rules and pecking order but after reading your book, I’ve gotten an even better understanding.  My heart breaks to see how his classmates talk to and treat him.  I’m coming to understand that it probably hurts and upsets me more than it does him.  He says he knows he weird and different from everyone else and while he’d like to fit in he’s also come to accept the fact that he won’t.  As a parent, that’s hard to hear.  I suppose I need to come to accept what my son has already accepted.  I’d like to think there are teachers and educators in the school systems similar to your characters who have these children in their eyesight and are willing to go the extra mile for them without a parent having to fight for it or for being afraid of administration.  We all have a part of us that likes to believe that everyone is there for the greater good.  I’m finding I have to fight tooth and nail for administration to see the need for special services.  Something as simple as your characters allowing Trey to have a special quiet place to escape to would be wonderful for my son.  Unfortunately, I am required to prove that he needs something as little as that and that means paying for private psychological testing, private OT assessment and therapy, and psychiatric consultations.  Short of the psychiatric consultations, the school system should have provided me with the other two but they refused.  I wish your book would be a “mandatory” reading for anyone in an educational setting. Instead of frowning upon, criticizing and singling a child out for their oddities, perhaps they would see the wonderful traits and characteristics children like Trey and my son possess.  Thank you once again for this incredible book.


I replied:


Thank you for sharing that remarkable letter. I am truly touched. As much as this book touches upon Aspergers, it is also, I hope, relevant to any child who might be something of an outcast in school. As the trend continues to move toward inclusive classrooms, it’s so important for everyone to become more alert to these issues.

I profoundly recall when my oldest son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with leukemia at two years old. Suddenly we were thrown into a world that was confusing, frightening, overwhelming. We had to become instant experts. We would be called upon to be “strong” in ways we weren’t sure we were capable of. One great solace through all that was the slow realization that we were not alone. There were communities available, support groups, information. I mean to say: There’s help out there. And you are stronger than you think.

Here’s a few links that might be useful:

* Children’s Disabilities Information — featuring an annotated list of support groups for children with autism/Aspergers/PDD.

* The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide by Dave Angel.

* O.A.S.I.S. — Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support.

* A Directory for Asperger Syndrome — support groups and organizations.

Jana, the very fact that you read Along Came Spider tells me  you are already well on your way in finding the resources you need. For books, I’ve found the life and work of Temple Grandin . . .

to be particularly . . . insightful and inspirational.

Another book that really got me thinking is called Elijah’s Cup by Valerie Paradiz. Subtitled, “A Family’s Journey into the Community and Culture of High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome,” it is a mother’s story, and she happens to be an incredibly gifted writer — insightful and honest.

Highly recommended. There’s so much great information out there, so many amazing books.

Good luck, my best to you and your son. Remember, you are not alone — and there’s a bright future ahead.

James Preller

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