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Something Left Unspoken: Autism in A Boy Called Bat

By Kayla Aldrich, Read to Them Staff

When introduced to Bat, it is quickly shown he has a number of characteristics that make him unique. Like how Bat has very specific food preferences and flaps his hands when he becomes nervous or excited. Or how Bat is often overstimulated by loud noises and has to wear earmuffs to stop his skin from feeling itchy. There’s also the way that Bat doesn’t like to deviate from routine along with how he has a tendency to respond to conversations in a rather blunt way. All of these characterizations are used to indicate that Bat is a child on the autism spectrum.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), frequently shortened to autism, is a developmental disorder defined by challenges with behavior, communication, and social interaction. A few things children with autism may have trouble with include making eye contact with others or having strong reactions to how things taste, sound, smell, or feel. There’s a likelihood that a child with autism will take an interest in a potential new friend, but struggle with knowing how to play or talk with them. Children with autism may also have trouble with overcoming changes in their daily routine such as having toys moved from their normal spots or trying new foods.

Not every child will show symptoms such as the ones mentioned and, by no means, are the symptoms previously described a comprehensive list. Autism is a very broad spectrum. Virtually each person who has autism is different, and will show signs of Autism in a way unique to them. Autism, you should know, is far more common than you might imagine. Approximately 1 in every 54 children is on the Autism spectrum, with ASD being four times more common in boys than in girls.

Diagnosing children with Autism can be tricky. There is no official test that can be done to identify ASD in a child, so doctors usually look at a child’s developmental and behavioral histories. In many cases, children can be diagnosed between eighteen months and two years old, but these results often aren’t confirmed until a child is older.

Like Bat, people with autism simply have a unique view of the world around them that can make it hard to connect with or translate to others. But one thing is for certain: though people with autism may view the world differently than you, that doesn’t make them wrong.

A video put together by Amazing Things Happen is a wonderful resource to explain how Autism works, especially if you are planning to have an open dialogue about ASD with your children or other members of your family. You can watch it here:

The word autism is never used in Elana K. Arnold’s book. In fact, the only character in A Boy Called Bat to receive any kind of label is Thor the baby skunk kit, who is part of the Mephitidae family. By not calling Bat autistic, Arnold is encouraging Bat’s individuality and his special view of the world around him— and it works.

Through all of the text, Bat is shown to have difficulties making friends with his fellow classmates…. with one exception. Israel consistently tries to reach out to Bat while some of the kids mock or even dismiss Bat. By getting to better know Bat, Israel learns he just needs to be patient, understanding, and serve as someone willing to take the time to communicate with Bat effectively. A Boy Called Bat, at its heart, is the perfect aid to help children understand autism and how a universal love for animals can be the thing that lays the foundations of a lasting friendship.

We hope that as the read of A Boy Called Bat comes to a close, you may talk about Autism with your family. And if you do have an open dialogue about ASD, you should encourage your children to always approach someone different from them with kindness and respect.

Be well, and happy reading!

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