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Thomas Morrow Writes 'The Autistic Turtle' to Explain Autism to His Friends

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Thomas Morrow’s friends always wanted to know about the toys on his desk and why he sat on a different type of chair. The third-grader realized his classmates didn’t quite understand autism — how he used the toys for sensory play and the chair felt more comfortable, and why sometimes, he seems to view things in a “different” way.

Instead of answering question after question, the 8-year-old set out to do something not many adults have done: write a book.

thomas holding his book

“Sometimes I am different than my class,” Thomas told The Mighty, “and I wanted them to understand autism.”

A year later, with the help of his grandmother, he published “The Autistic Turtle.”

In the book, an autistic turtle named Henry explains the ins and outs of autism to his friends. Thomas used the real names of his classmates, which he says thrilled them. He wants other autistic children who read the book to “know how different and cool we are.”

To write the book, Thomas would articulate how he saw the story and his grandmother would type it out. This all occurred while his grandmother received chemotherapy for stage 3 breast cancer.

“It was a complete blessing to watch the two of them work through the process,” Thomas’ mother, Tiffany Morrow, told The Mighty. “He would stand on his head, flip on the floor, pace and run all over the house and swing on her four poster bed, and she would sit in the middle on her laptop, and they would hash out the chapters one by one.”

Thomas received his autism diagnosis when he was 2 and a half years old. His mom says, at the time, she’d never have imagined him doing something like this. He proved preconceived notions wrong. Morrow says she’s a better person from raising a neurodiverse son. She hopes parents new to this journey will ultimately accept the diagnosis.

“Embrace the diagnosis, don’t fight it,” Morrow said. “I know that’s hard to hear that your child is not ‘typical,’ but dive in deep and take off running.”

the morrow family


Originally published: March 8, 2016
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