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Florida Frenz is the pen name of a high school student who kept a journal as a tool to figure out her emotions and how to read those of others. Diagnosed as retarded and autistic when she was two, Frenz worked intensively for many years with a team of autism and educational specialists. She's succeeded so well that in her new high school, she isn't identified as autistic or special needs and is even taking Advanced Placement classes.
"This book is a terrific read for adolescents with ASD and Social Communication Disorders as well as for all types of caregivers (professionals and parents). On one hand, Florida's enchanting descriptions and illustrations help us all to understand better the perspective of those born to social learning differences. On the other hand this book is filled with insight and practical strategies to encourage teachers, counselors and students how they can all work to help each other adapt one's social thinking and related behaviors to get along in the world, what ever world they may live in! I love the sensitivity, artistry and ideas that flow from these pages." "For all the people going through similar challenges with this diagnosis, How to Be Human just may be the learning tool they need to better understand autism and feel whole again. All who read this book will find Florida's profound wisdom to be awe-inspiring. Through her desire to understand this world and her place in it, she provides us with invaluable insight into how a person with autism thinks. It is ironic that despite her own inner struggles she is able to break down and simplify the intricate complexities of the human spirit. At times she is humorous, making light of the situation and showing us how she has learned not to take herself too seriously. The book is a pleasure to read and is so enlightening, you do not have to be dealing with autism in your own life to appreciate Florida's philosophic genius. I commend her highly for having the courage to share her deepest thoughts and feelings with the world and for having the rare gift to express herself in such an intelligible and honest way. She has taken the confusing topic of autism and has explained it and organized it in such a way that we can all understand. I recommend that all children read this book -- whether or not they have autism or know someone who does -- so they too can better understand. --Michelle Garcia Winner Founder of Social ThinkingR Speech Language Pathologist, MA-CCC A teenage author addresses others with autism with a mix of expressive drawings and insights from her own experiences intended to help "give your brain the right tools to reconfigure its hardware."...Frenz has received enviable quantities of parental and professional support from kindergarten on. Still, she's the one who had to do the work of figuring out how to make her way in the world, and readers with or seeking to understand autism will find her matter-of-fact observations both savvy and easy to absorb. A distinctive addition to the chorus of writers who are proving that "spectrum disorders" do not equal "silence." (Self-help. 10-14) -- Kirkus Reviews HOW TO BE HUMAN begins with a foreword where the author explains autism and how it makes her feel. I found this section to be fascinating as well as extremely powerful! Then the book becomes a step-by-step guide for dealing with autism. There are so many positive suggestions including how to figure out faces and feelings as well how to avoid being a perfectionist. While the advice is geared towards children with autism, this picture book has so many wonderful messages for anyone who wants to improve themselves and the way they deal with others. HOW TO BE HUMAN is so good on so many levels. First of all, I was struck by the insight I got into how a child with autism feels. I was somewhat familiar with a few of the references; however, I was blown away by just how many things affect an autistic child. The simplest things to my children can put a child with autism over the edge -- it's all so overwhelming. Additionally, I liked that this book explored the themes of bullying and peer pressure. I've seen with my own eyes how cruel children can be to each other and I'm sure that children with autism face even more mean-spirited behavior. I loved how the author explains ways to cope with other children (both good and bad) as well as how to carefully select quality friends. She also talks about the different types of behavior and how to express yourself! I can't rave enough about Florida's story. She truly is a special child who has worked extremely hard at communicating with others, and I know that her words will help parents and children better understand autism. However, I also think she has some wonderful messages about friendship, bullying, and peer pressure that are helpful to all children and tweens. -- Booking Mama It is amazing on so many levels: it's artistic, it's instructive to the general public about what autism does, it's instructive to children with autism who are trying to understand social dynamics, and it's just an easy and very interesting read. Catharine Brehm Special Education Coordinator Administrative and Cultural Arts Center "I am always searching for books about autism, which address the social thinking aspect, more so than a lack of communication aspect, of autism. This book perfectly fits what I have been searching for endlessly. Florida Frenz does a fantastic job describing and illustrating how she has become an empowered autistic. Social thinking is something she has worked hard at mastering, and she beautifully explains that daily process through words and illustrations. I believe every teacher, parent, therapist, peer, sibling, and person with autism should read this diary, and the images of social thinking that Florida shares with the world. Essentially, we are all aliens, on this planet, just trying to fit in and be human." ----stephanieshouldis.blogspot.com It seems that autism awareness is everywhere. Colorful puzzle piece pins adorn parents and doctors, and celebrities host autism awareness telethons. But awareness and understanding are two different things. I have tried to understand the true nature of autism, but like most people, can't. Despite having friends with autistic children and reading books on autism, I've never even come close to understanding what it must feel like to walk through this life with autism. The book, How To Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl, helps someone like me get about as close as possible to understanding life with autism as a non-autistic person can. As the book titles suggests, it is beautifully written and illustrated with intense and fantastic drawings by Florida Frenz, a girl with autism. Florida explains that she often feels like an "alien." While the thought of someone walking through life always feeling out of place saddened me, it is an accurate description of what it feels like to see the world through a different lens, always wanting to act differently than everyone else. I appreciated her openness and frankness, especially when discussing how she interprets her mother's communication of consequences of what she hears compared to what is being said. I would recommend this book to any parent or child who knows someone with autism (and given that 1 in 88 children are on the autism spectrum, that likely is all of us). -- One Good Dad book reviews "This amazing book should be read not only by autistic preteens and teens but by all preteens and teens because I haven't found a single one who has gone through those years without the need of a guidebook such as this. It is an eye-opener to those who have never been diagnosed with any kind of learning and/or autistic disability. And a comfort to those who have." -- Lucy Dixon, librarian "Diagnosed with autism at the age of three, Florida Frenz has compiled eight years' worth of therapy work in this inspiring and revealing book. Using cartoonish drawings and conversational language, she traces the twenty--three steps she practiced to help her communicate. Readers will better understand the autistic brain and even learn how to express their own emotions more effectively. Ages seven and up." Aimee Jodoin August 31, 2013 ForeWord Reviews "Frenz shares eight years of her journals and illustrations that helped her to define herself and draws back a curtain to reveal the mysteries of autism. Her introspective entries span from when she was a child of eight through her freshman year in high school. Her explanation of her confusion with "normal" daily experiences-noise, touch, personal and emotional interactions-is succinct yet sensitive, and her details are interesting and informative. She writes in her notebook's foreword...how she's had to work hard to get her brain to make new connections so that "the autistic person doesn't feel like planet earth is the worst planet they could have accidentally landed on." Frenz explains that her family, therapists, and educational counselors devoted years of support while encouraging her to develop her strengths: her art and creative spirit. This astute and unique book pulls readers into a world beyond their own. The author's ability to take them along, devoid of self-pity, is refreshing. She bridges the divide and paints a picture of the value of communication, contributes to public awareness, and celebrates her achievements.--Alison Follos, formerly at North Country School, Lake Placid, NY -- School Library Journal "For all the people going through similar challenges with this diagnosis, How to Be Human just may be the learning tool they need to better understand autism and feel whole again. All who read this book will find Florida's profound wisdom to be awe-inspiring. Through her desire to understand this world and her place in it, she provides us with invaluable insight into how a person with autism thinks. It is ironic that despite her own inner struggles she is able to break down and simplify the intricate complexities of the human spirit. At times she is humorous, making light of the situation and showing us how she has learned not to take herself too seriously. The book is a pleasure to read and is so enlightening, you do not have to be dealing with autism in your own life to appreciate Florida's philosophic genius. I commend her highly for having the courage to share her deepest thoughts and feelings with the world and for having the rare gift to express herself in such an intelligible and honest way. She has taken the confusing topic of autism and has explained it and organized it in such a way that we can all understand. I recommend that all children read this book -- whether or not they have autism or know someone who does -- so they too can better understand." -- Debbie Glade, SmartBooksForSmartKids "This is a remarkable book, both for its information and for its humor and compassion in the face of difficulties." -- ACL 2013 Distinguished Books (Association of Children's Librarians of Northern California) "Illuminating and wise. A first-rate work of juvenile nonfiction." -- Asheville Citizen-Times "An accurate representation of autism...the only book of it's kind, that I have seen, which is targeted towards kids. Pure Genius! Should you get this book? You should get ten copies. You should get one for your child, to let them know they are not alone and help them to understand themselves... You should also buy a copy for everyone else! Give one to your child's teacher next year. Have one on hand for a a regular baby-sitter. Send one out to family. Read it in your child's classroom. Use it in a social skills group. It is useful for children of all ages to learn and understand about what it is like to have an ASD. While the book is a lot about how to navigate the world, it also tells others what the autistic mind is like. While Florida is autistic, this book is also useful for teaching social skills to other youth who have difficulty. S, who is bipolar, also has a hard time with social interactions. She also is very artistic. She completely related to this book, and then started on working on writing her own. How is that for empowerment?" --Life With Autism and Bipolar Review "The work of an an inspirational, brave and very smart autistic teen." --Special Needs Book Review "If you want to understand what it's like to have autism, this books takes you right to the heart of the matter." --Joy Corcoran "Frenz's humorous journal is an essential survival guide for any kid dealing with the hazards of school, cliques, and gossip. Reading her book makes us all feel a little less alien." -- Marissa Moss, author of Amelia's Notebook