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Interview with Author and Autism Advocate, Jen Malia

Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism

Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism written by author and autism advocate, Jen Malia and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff is a wonderful book about a young autistic girl who struggles with sensory issues and overcomes her fears. An excellent book for both neurodiverse and neurotypical children to help build awareness and provide a peek into the struggles of everyday sensory issues and anxiety.

About the book

Holly loves experiments and science but does not like anything sticky! When Holly learns that she is going to make slime in science class, she becomes anxious. She wants to participate in the lesson but doesn’t know how. During breakfast, her hands get sticky with syrup from her pancakes. This reminds her of the slime! Her parents reassure her she will be able to wash her hands after, which makes her feel better. As the story continues, Holly uses strategies that her parents taught her to reduce her anxiety such as deep breathing and squeezing her stress ball.

When she arrives at school, her teacher reassures her that she can wash her hands after the experiment. She can’t seem to get the slime fear out of her head though! She seems slime everywhere! When science comes, Holly works through her anxiety and with the help from her peers and teacher, she feels brave enough to try the experiment.

This thoughtful exploration of Autism and sensory issues is based on the real life experiences of the author and her daughter. It helps bring awareness of sensory issues and various challenges that autistic children may face on a daily basis. The term “sensory issues” can be broad and misunderstood by many, but with this book, Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism, children and adults can begin to understand the challenges.

I also like how the author added details in the story such as Holly’s anxiety and her strategies to reduce stress (deep breathing and her stress ball), challenges with eye contact and the collaboration between teacher and parent. I also love how Holly faces a challenge in this story and overcomes her fears.

Included in the book is a slime experiment that you and your children can do together!

Jen Malia, Autistic Author and Advocate

Her debut children’s picture book, Too Sticky!: Sensory Issues with Autism (Albert Whitman, April 2020), is about a girl who has to overcome her fear of sticky hands to participate in a slime experiment.  The main character is based on her own and her daughter’s experiences living with autism and sensory issues.

She knew doctors were wrong when they said her daughter had just a language delay.  Jen spent hundreds of hours looking for answers.  She came across research on the gender differences with autism that helped her daughter get the right diagnosis.  Jen then realized that not only was her daughter autistic—she was, too.  She was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in her late 30s, on the same day as her daughter.  Her son was also diagnosed with ASD a year later.

You can read about her diagnosis in an essay she wrote for Woman’s Day, which was syndicated by CosmopolitanCountry LivingGood Housekeeping (US & UK), Dr. Oz The Good Life, and Yahoo.  You can also read more about her experience as an autistic woman and mom in her essays for The New York TimesNew York MagazineThe Washington PostCatapultGlamour, and Woman’s Day, among others.

She earned her PhD in English and MS in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Southern California.  She’s Associate Professor of English at Norfolk State University.  During her four years as an American expat in the United Arab Emirates, she was Assistant Professor of Writing at the American University of Sharjah.

She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and three kids.  Her oldest daughter was born in Dubai.

She’s a world traveler who’s been to twenty countries around the globe.  As a contributing author of Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists, and turns around the globe, she wrote about hiking Petra with her husband and oldest daughter, then six months old, strapped to her in a baby carrier.

To learn more about Jen, visit her website here.

Too Sticky!: Sensory Issues With Autism

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