Gi Hallmark | The Children’s Book Review | April 10, 2014
Jennifer Cook O’Toole is founder of Asperkids™, a multimedia social education company focused on making life for children and families with Asperger’s profoundly positive and purposeful. O’Toole’s comfortable, conversational, and humorous style has translated Asperger’s Syndrome for the world via an authentic, friendly, and relatable voice.
O’Toole was diagnosed as an Aspie in adulthood, is the mother of three Asperkids, the wife of an Aspie, an award-winning educator and author of the internationally-celebrated “Asperkids” book series. Wildly intelligent (O’Toole graduated with honors from Brown University) and infectiously bubbly, O’Toole maintains the compassionate and dedicated heart of an educator as she takes on the task of helping children with Asperger’s by using clever creativity, useful strategies, and relentless positivity.
We are delighted to share our chat with self-proclaimed “geek who wants to save the world” and author Jennifer Cook O’Toole.
The First Book Came Together Quickly:
O’Toole had no plans to write a book or start a company, but felt a call of duty to create something beautiful out of sometime broken. She realized that what was intuitive to her and her family as Aspies, was foreign to neurotypicals (non-Aspies), creating a large disconnect. In 3 weeks, she wrote the manuscript for Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding, and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome. Two weeks later, O’Toole had a publishing contract with Jessica Kingsley Publishers. O’Toole notes, “I write books in weeks, not years-strange Aspie gift. Except I don’t feel as though I write them. More that I catch them from the air.”
On Dreams to be an Author:
I have always enjoyed writing but I wouldn’t necessarily say that I imagined myself as an author. However, now that I have written books, I realize that writing has always come naturally and has been a big part of my life. I remember once during an author visit in elementary school, I asked if the author if he would read a story I had written and give feedback, which he did! I have danced, acted and participated in theater my whole life. So although I may not have always been expressing myself through writing, I’ve always known I am a creative person.
Favorite Childhood Books and Quite Possibly Current Favorites As Well:
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Favorite Poet and Quote:
“I will take things from all sides and filter through them myself.”—Walt Whitman
Favorite Place to Write:
Thoughts are constantly flowing in my head and so I find myself writing constantly. This happens in airports, coffee shops, and Target among other non-obscure places. But my favorite place to write is by a window, where I can look out at the moving pictures while I write. It bears mentioning that Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables by her window, overlooking the fields of Cavendish and Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote Little House on the Prairie at her window, looking out onto Rocky Ridge Farm.
If I Could Have 3 Wishes For My Books:
- Unlock the precious, precocious potential of kids with Asperger Syndrome and convince them they matter enough. Aspies are miraclesz—not mistakes—who are strangely, urgently, and chaotically, amazing.
- Inspire readers to realize we can be different together and move forward in a positive way. And by all means, we will not be boring!
- Remind the world that love always wins. Always.
O’Toole is currently working on multiple fiction and non-fiction projects, all at once. Also, The Asperkid’s Game Plan: Purposeful Play, Extraordinary Minds….Ordinary Stuff is coming in April 2014 (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).
Current Books by Jennifer Cook O’Toole:
Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome (Jessica Kingsley Publishers May 2012).
“This book is full of original and effective methods for engaging with children with Asperger’s Syndrome. Affirming that different doesn’t mean defective, this book offers the insight and guidance that parents and professionals need to connect with the Asperkids in their life and get them excited about learning.”
The Asperkids’ (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Guidelines for Teens and Tweens, (Jessica Kingsley Publishers October 2012)
“This isn’t your momma’s Emily Post, and there is no “don’t do this” finger-wagging or patronizing “high and mighty preaching” here. Instead, the “Secret” Book gives Asperkids (aged 10-17) respectful, funny insights written “for Aspies by an Aspie.” Chock full of illustrations, logic and even a practice session or six, this is the handbook every adult Aspie wishes they had growing up, but never did.””
The Asperkid’s Launch Pad: Home Design That Empowers Everyday Superheroes (Jessica Kingsley Publishers May 2013)
“The Asperkid’s Launch Pad is a visually-led guide to preparing a home environment that supports the development of children with Asperger syndrome. From a bedroom light switch that the child can easily reach, to a tucked-away safe place that he or she can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed or anxious, small changes in the home can boost the child’s self-confidence, independence, comfort and life skills.”
The Asperkid’s Not-Your-Average-Coloring Book (Jessica Kingsley Publishers October 2013)
“Gathering the artistic talents of Asperkids and artists from around the world, as well as her own original artwork, Jennifer O’Toole has created a one-of-a-kind coloring book that’s educational, fun and above all a celebration of difference!”
To learn more about Jennifer Cook O’Toole and Asperkids, visit www.asperkids.com.