Manitoba

'This is who I am and I'm fine with that': Kids' book featuring heroine with autism celebrates self-acceptance

At school, Adam Schwartz was bullied for having autism and never felt included. So in his new children's book, his heroine lives with autism too, and she ends up saving the day.

Adam Schwartz, who has autism, said he wanted to show why inclusion is important

Winnipeg author and stand-up comedian Adam Schwartz is on the autism spectrum. His book Ana and the Substitute Teacher features a heroine with autism who ends up saving the day. (Nadia Kidwai/CBC )

At school, Adam Schwartz was bullied for having autism and never felt included.

In his new children's book, his heroine lives with autism too — and she ends up saving the day.

The Winnipegger says he wrote Ana and the Substitute Teacher to show kids why it's OK to be different, and that it's important to include people with differences.

When he was in school, Schwartz said that wasn't the case.

"I always wanted to belong, and I pretty much did everything to try to belong, but I never did belong. And I was unable to accept being different and unique in my own way," he said.

"Which was really a detriment, and I would have had a better life if I could have been, like, 'This is Adam,' instead of always trying to fit in."

Schwartz said his book is really about inclusion. 'We need to be strong like Ana and say, "This is who I am and I'm fine with that,"' he says. (Nadia Kidwai/CBC )

So he decided to create a character who finds the positives in having autism.

"Even though [Ana] doesn't fit in, she's OK with that," he said.

In the book, the main character's class gets a substitute teacher who has evil superpowers and takes her teachers and classmates prisoner.

But because Ana has a hard time making eye contact, she's immune to the substitute's influence and ends up saving the day.

"The book is about autism, but it's more about inclusion and our need to be accepted, and how we need to be strong like Ana and say, 'This is who I am and I'm fine with that," Schwartz said.

This is the second book for Schwartz, who also performs stand-up comedy. 

The book, which features illustrations from Cathi-Anne Cook, had its official launch Saturday morning at the McNally Robinson in Winnipeg's Grant Park Shopping Centre.

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