Rochelle Caruso Flynn was going through a difficult time professionally when a pediatrician colleague told her this: “You understand patients in a way I never could. You should write a book about your unique perspective.”
Flynn, 45, didn’t think too much into it at the time, but the idea stuck in her head. As a woman “on” the autism spectrum, she often felt different; she knew others might view her social behavior as “quirky” or even “inappropriate,” and began to picture a child who desperately wished to be “off” the spectrum. From this, the basic concept of “Floppy Lop-Ears,” an autistic bunny, was born. About a month later, she produced a full-length version of the tale: “Floppy Lop-Ears Tries to Get ‘Off the Spectrum.”
In the book, upon learning he has autism spectrum disorder, Floppy Lop-Ears sets out to get off the spectrum. He “tries to make himself ‘better,'” but soon discovers “sometimes being different is the only way to really find acceptance.”
Flynn, from Philadelphia, hopes her story will help children with autism see that, while their challenges may make life more difficult, autism comes with “many positive things that make those who have it special in ways that should be valued, appreciated and even admired.” She also wants people unfamiliar with autism to understand why those on the spectrum may act a certain way — that “inappropriate quirks” are “also incredibly valuable in certain careers or circumstances, and those are the things that should be focused on.”
“Just because someone is different doesn’t mean you should reject them,” Flynn told The Mighty. “Understand them better.”
For kids and teens on the spectrum, Flynn offered this advice:
It [can be] so hard to be on the spectrum sometimes! No one wants to feel different. It is important to trust your family, friends and caring teachers to help you. You have something that makes you unique and special. Value this and participate in therapies that can help you understand the difficult world of social skills. Not giving up what makes you you, but learning how others not on the spectrum talk and act sometimes can help to form a bridge between these two different worlds. Hopefully you have supportive family and teachers or counselors who can help you navigate through and find your own special place in life where your special gifts shine!
Sometimes you have to allow yourself to have a bad day, but having a way to decompress is important. Understanding yourself, your “triggers” for meltdowns, your sensory sensitivities… these can help ease the inner anxieties. It is about finding a balance, pursuing your dreams and never giving up.