Looking for an effective way to explain to your youngsters or elementary students what it’s like to have Asperger’s syndrome? Wondering what it’s like to live with Asperger’s? I can recommend just the series of books you need. If you have an interest in Asperger’s, Dannie’s Dilemmas’ by Carol Haldane is a series of books designed to show the challenges that children with Asperger’s and their families face on a daily basis. The main character in this book for elementary school aged tweens is an eleven year old girl with Asperger’s. All the stories in the ‘Dannie’s Dilemma’ series are based on actual events and all are true. The stories are written by Carol Haldane, mom of Debbie Haldane AKA Dannie, and the mom’s friend Karen Jones. This is a review of Dannie’s Dilemmas: The Shopping Trip.
In the Dannie’s Dilemmas series, the authors bring the reader in the world of a young girl with Asperger’s who is trying to decipher the Neuro typical world. The authors show the difficulties that arise because, like many with Asperger’s, Dannie takes things literally and gets completely confused with all our idioms. Dannie’s days are very trying. It is sometimes overwhelming getting organized to go out in the community, memorizing a list of things to do, waiting in line for service, and being misunderstood and constantly misunderstanding others herself.
Dannie’s Dilemmas are called interactive books because they have two separate endings. It is down to the reader to decide how Dannie should handle the dilemma she is in. In an interview one of the authors explained it this way, “ I chose this method because then it gives the Aspergers children a chance to think of which choice to make, although there is no right or wrong ending it shows the children that there are other ways to deal with daily situations.”
- Book 1: The Right Shoes
- Book 2: The Spelling Saga
- Book 3: The Shopping Trip
In Dannie’s Dilemmas: The Shopping Trip, the authors begin with a beautiful poem that sets the tone for the book. Dannie is fine the way she is. She has to know that and so do others. The only thing is for Dannie to know what problems can arise because of her Asperger’s and others to learn to accept and understand her differences. The last lines of the poem are very touching:
“If I could choose what to change about you,
I would change nothing at all, that’s honestly true,
Because everything about you makes you who you are,
That’s why I love Dannie the best by far.”
The Shopping Trip story begins with, “It’s Saturday today and I’ve been up since seven o’clock, I’m very excited. I’ve been saving up all my pocket money for three weeks and Mum said she would take me to the shops today.” The MUM word reveals immediately that the setting for this book is the UK.
The authors use the “dialogue” style of writing that lends itself well to understanding the confusion that happens when Dannie hears comments with double meanings. Her mom tells her, “One more shop to go then it’s all yours.”
“What’s all mine.” Dannie questioned. What’s that supposed to mean? Why do people say really silly things then expect you to understand what they mean?
To help her decide what sweet to buy the shop keeper tells her, “Plain old fashioned toffee how does that sound?”
“How old?” Dannie asked honestly.
“Dannie, stop it.” Dannie’s mum said sounding really annoyed.
“What? Now what have I done? I only asked how old, I don’t want to eat stale toffee, I’ll be sick.” Dannie said honestly.
The book is written in this simple, humorous style and is a wonderful insight to how a young girl with Asperger’s sees the world. Every day activities are explained from the perspective of a child with Asperger’s and also from her mother’s viewpoint. We see the high and low points of their shopping day. Like many parents, Dannie’s mom finds travelling with a child difficult, “Dannie’s mum could feel her car seat being kicked and looked again through the mirror to find out what Dannie was up to. “Dannie, get your seat belt back on properly now before I stop this car, turn round and go back home without going to the shops at all.”
This book is wonderful reading material for elementary school children, siblings, and friends to learn more about Asperger’s syndrome. See life through Dannie’s eyes and realize how emotionally difficult it is for Asperger’s children to understand the world that we take for granted every day.
This short story, shared with an adult, would lend itself very well for great discussions about Asperger’s. It would be fun for the adult to read the mother’s lines and the child to read Dannie’s words.
So to the question, “Have you ever thought what it’s like to live with Asperger’s syndrome?” Dannie says in the story, “Mum said if anyone wants to know what it’s like living with an Asperger’s child they should spend a day with me.”
About the Authors
Carol Haldane, AKA L.J. Haldane, was born in 1972. She spent her early years is Scotland. Both her parents worked. She started a Catholic primary school at the age of four. In secondary school is where her love for writing began. Her daughter was born in 1994. They left Scotland in 1995 and spent a brief time in Bristol. Now they are happily settled in Kent.
‘Dannie’ was a highly intelligent child which hindered her diagnosis for many years. It wasn’t until ‘Dannie’ turned seven that she was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Carol spent a great deal of time researching internet sites and books, which gave her the ability to parent slightly differently.
Through trial and error she gained a better understanding of Asperger’s. This understanding has come mainly from the day to day tasks and living with ‘Dannie’.
Read our interview with Corole Haldane.
Karen Jones has lived in South East Kent all her life. Although Karen had no experience in dealing with Asperger’s syndrome before meeting Dannie at the age of five and Carol Haldane, Karen has played an active role in aiding Dannie and her mother throughout the past ten years.
This book is available for download on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iBooks and on your computer with iTunes.