Embracing individuality and neurodiversity with Christine McGuinness

Primary Times talks to Christine McGuinness, Author, Television Personality and Charity Ambassador for the National Autistic Society about autism awareness and the release of her new book.

Neurodiversity means that someone’s brain works differently from a neurotypical person, and this includes conditions such as autism. Neurodivergent people may have their own ways of learning, communicating with others, have their own social preferences, and individual ways of understanding the world, with around 700,000 autistic adults and children currently in the UK. Differences in thinking have helped humanity progress in art and in science throughout history. Christine McGuinness is proudly on the autism spectrum herself. Having been diagnosed as an adult, Christine is passionate about raising awareness for the community and in encouraging people to embrace their true selves. Christine discusses her debut children’s book ‘Amazing Me, Amazing You’ with us.

This beautiful picture book for ages 3+ celebrates kindness, friendship, and inclusivity with a focus on the importance of accepting people exactly the way they are. The book also aims to help parents and carers of neurodivergent or autistic children. We asked Christine a few questions about the book…

What are your hopes for parents and children who read ‘Amazing Me, Amazing You’ together?
For parents and carers of those with additional needs, I’d like the book to be a useful and helpful tool. For children and those who are neurodivergent, I want them to understand and accept themselves for who they are, to smile and feel included. We’re all unique and books that include autistic characters can really help with early diagnosis.

Do you personally relate to any of the scenarios in the book, or do you find that your experiences being a mum feed into the story itself?
Definitely the friendship side of things and needing time out and time to be alone, and with the sensory aspects - my children and I do have some food aversions. It’s important to show readers that that’s okay. Be authentically you and don’t shy away from it!

How do you think Hannah Jayne Lewin’s illustrations suit the story and do you think that children will enjoy them?
I’ve been involved in the illustrations all the way through, going back and forth to get them just right because as someone who is neurodivergent, I know how important it is to appeal to visual learners and to make the book child-friendly when discussing autism. I wanted to make sure they’re inclusive with a wide range of characters and to include settings that are familiar to children, like the beach.

Which part of the book do you think your children will like best?
Hopefully all of it! My children being able to recognise themselves in the book and relate to the characters is what I wanted. I can’t wait to read it to them!

What were your motivations for writing the book?
I’ve always journaled and always loved to write and be creative. Being able to actually release a children’s book is a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment. My own children are always my biggest motivation in life, and it’s really important to use my platform for good and to raise awareness to help others with autism. If reading this book helps at least one person, then it’s worth it for me.

Can we expect any other children’s books from you in future?
I definitely feel like I’ve unlocked something with writing and I’ve enjoyed the whole process so much, I can’t wait to hopefully do more.

Amazing Me, Amazing You by Christine McGuinness and illustrated by Hannah Jayne Lewin is out now (published by Scholastic).

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