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Help with literature that’s “scary”

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    Help with literature that’s “scary”

    I’m not sure if this has been asked before, but I was curious how to introduce literature which has violence, etc in it to my son who is 5 and has mild/moderate autism. I was reading the three pigs (the original version ) and had to stop toward the end after the wolf was boiled alive because my son was looking nervous. He did the same listening to Peter and the wolf when the music became too intense. I just don’t know if I should soften these stories? Choose to leave out some? He seems to see things as mean, even when there is someone who has to act in self defense. I’m just at a loss for how to explain it to him. Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciated!

    #2
    Littleway, I think it can be helpful to think of our children with autism as "sensitive," rather than fearful, just as we might with textures of foods or clothing. The heightened senses of a child with autism renders his perceptions more easily affected by intensity, just as you described. In many ways this is understandable.

    With the classics, you may find an alternate version. You will need to be choosy. Some alternate versions miss the original point. Example: I searched quickly for substitute editions of "Three Little Pigs" and found one in which the wolf retires to the beach (??). Some newer versions soften the story so much as to miss the point about hard work vs. laziness. But one writer's version seems promising from what I can see: Bernadette Watts has a book that offers softer illustrations. Not only this, I think she avoids the topic of the animals devouring each other (wolf eating first two pigs or third pig eating boiled wolf). Yet she seems to retain the overarching lesson of the importance of careful planning, hard work, and a desire to protect one's family. You might search for this version at the library to view before reading, as I could only see a few pages.

    Over time you'll be able to anticipate some of the sensitivities and create your own alternative. For example, I spotted little finger puppets of the the three pigs and the wolf. Your 5-year-old might enjoy hearing the story told in that manner. You can edit the story yourself! Then use the puppets as a language exercise by having him retell the story and act it out. The main thing is not to let yourself become fearful of his sensitivities, or this might breed more of them. Just anticipate where you can, adapt where you can, and move on.

    This may be something you encounter for years to come. Just last night my (adult) daughter and I opened a vintage board game, The Great Composers. Someone had given us this game. When I lifted the lid and removed the board, she recoiled. "This is so creepy!" (Creepy? I thought, "It's just the great composers with little biographies, cards, and accompanying music.") She could hardly bring herself to look. Then I noticed the unusual, almost angry Van-Gogh-like renderings of each composer's face on the game board.

    Sometimes I can override such sensitivities with reassuring comments that ease her mind (e.g., "Oh, that is just the artist's interpretation. I don't really care for them either, but we'll focus on the cards and the music when we play the game."). But sometimes I just need to respect the sensitivities as being very real and difficult for her to overcome. In such cases, we can usually find other ways to accomplish the same goal.
    Last edited by cherylswope; 09-08-2022, 07:36 AM.

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      #3
      Cheryl,
      Thank you so much for your helpful response. I was afraid of losing the message of the story. I think my other concern, which you mentioned, is that I don’t want to push him too hard, but I don’t want to be overprotective either. It’s difficult to find that balance.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Littleway View Post
        Cheryl,
        Thank you so much for your helpful response. I was afraid of losing the message of the story. I think my other concern, which you mentioned, is that I don’t want to push him too hard, but I don’t want to be overprotective either. It’s difficult to find that balance.
        Littleway ,

        I have a son with autism who is now 19 years old. When he was 5, he could not tolerate listening to fairy tales either. Besides being very sensitive to the violence, he also believed it was lying to read a story about anything that hadn't or couldn't really happen. He explained that when he was a little older; at age 5, he would just put his hands over his ears and scream "Bad!!" After trying a lot of different ways to introduce these kinds of stories, I just ended up shelving them for a long time. My son didn't study Greek mythology in the elementary years for this reason. But as he got older and was able to reason more, he was able to understand how stories can be fictional and tell a truth at the same time, and how an exaggerated or violent event could be used as a rhetorical device to communicate truth in a story. This was a huge leap for him and didn't happen until he was a teenager. By that point he had learned the purpose of a narrative from Memoria Press's Classical Composition program. He had to be "taught" the purpose of fictional literature in a similar way as he had to be taught many social skills, and he had to learn the reason for different literary elements before he could enjoy them. So don't worry at all if you need to shelter your son from these kinds of stories at this age--there are many years of education to come when he can learn to appreciate them! My son loves all kinds of fiction now.

        Hope that helps! :-)

        Catherine

        2022-23
        14th year homeschooling
        7th year with MP

        DS19, college freshman
        DS16, 10th
        DS & DD14, 9th
        DS10, 4th
        DD7, 2nd
        DS4, JrK
        DS & DS, 1yr old

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          #5
          Thank you for sharing your experience Catherine, it was very helpful. I agree that I may just need to refrain from exposure to certain literature for a time, that he may take too literally. It’s encouraging to hear that your son enjoys fiction now!

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Littleway View Post
            Cheryl,
            Thank you so much for your helpful response. I was afraid of losing the message of the story. I think my other concern, which you mentioned, is that I don’t want to push him too hard, but I don’t want to be overprotective either. It’s difficult to find that balance.
            Have you looked over fairy tale adaptations by illustrator Paul Galdone? We found that his books retain traditional elements of the stories and his illustrations are realistic (not comic anthropomorphic depictions of animal characters), but humorous enough to not be scary for our crew.
            Laura H.

            2022-2023:
            DD: 17, special-needs: language processing issues, aspiring illustrator, our "Meg"
            DD: 14: aspiring pediatric nurse, our "Jo"
            DD: 9: our "Beth"
            DD: 9: our "Amy"
            We use MP Latin Resources, Literature guides, & Geography
            plus homeschool co-op

            Comment


              #7
              Laura,
              Thank you for the recommendation, we do own a few books illustrated by Galdone, and my son doesn’t seem to have any trouble with them. I should look into investing in more of them!

              Comment

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