A place to find and suggest books for children with autism, and to discuss autism and reading comprehension.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Free to Be You and Me
Back in the 1970s Marlo Thomas and some of her friends addressed overcoming gender stereotypes in stories and song. Free to Be You and Me came out as a book and as an Emmy award winning television program in 1974.
A year or so ago I bought the book for my oldest boy and last week I brought home a cd of the television show.
We put it on, and there, in slightly faded technicolor, was my early childhood, filled with hope, joy, and bell bottoms.
My older son happily quoted the book and settled in
for a predictable show. He stayed with it all the way through, which doesn't happen that much any more.
He likes to know something inside and out, that's part of the way he thinks, so this was perfect.
"Wow" said my younger son at the wide array of vibrant colors and patterns,
"they sure dressed fancy."
All of the discussion about being yourself no matter what gender you are should seem naive and irrelevant forty (!) years later. But a surprising (and somewhat saddening to me) amount of what Marlo and friends said back then still needs to be said in our fairly rigid gender stereotyped culture. Girls are still judged on whether they're "pretty," boys on whether they're "big and strong." I think the straight forward discussion of the wide
range of options for both genders can help kids with autism who are particularly susceptible to prescriptive
thinking. And the message "we don't have to change at all" may reassure our kids who sometimes receive the opposite message.
"William Wants a Doll" is a story song that says we don't play by gender. This may not be needed by many of our kids, who are often oblivious to indirect peer pressure, but it has a nice message about nurturing and how important dads are.
Other highlights include "It's All Right to Cry," (as sung by the world's cuddliest Football player, Rosie Grier), which gives permission for kids to be sad. The conversation about brothers and sisters shows real unscripted kids in a positive and honest
interaction. I can't remember the last time I saw that on tv or in a video. Since the book is available, your kid with autism can have the luxury mine did of knowing what the show is all about from the beginning. Warning - if your kid is prone to echolalia, you may be hearing some of these lines and songs for a long time.