On November 8, students at NorthPointe Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan lined up for a book signing. The author, Rylan Vogelzang, was not a renowned literary superstar, but one of their own classmates, whose book, “If I Squeeze Your Head, I’m Sorry,” describes his experience living with autism.
“My day is unpredictable because you don’t know who will touch you or if I will be grumpy, happy, sad - tons of emotions,’’ Vogelzang, a 12-year-old currently in the seventh grade, said, prior to the book signing. “It says in here (book), ‘will they touch me like vines in the forest.’”
In addition to the writing, Vogelzang’s book features his own original artwork capturing his unique view of the world, in addition to artwork from co-illustrator Ellie McLaughlin. The book signing offered an opportunity for Vogelzang to share that perspective with his classmates and to foster empathy, understanding, and inclusion.
Classmates were also given the opportunity to speak about their own special needs and abilities, which included ADHD, dyslexia, stuttering, and sensory processing disorder.
As explained in a report on the event by Mlive.com, the title of Vogelzang’s book comes from his need to squeeze things as a coping mechanism to help him calm down. Rylan’s mother, Gwen Vogelzang, said she hopes that with the book “the focus of disabilities gets shifted to special abilities and people can start to look at everyone around them as what are their abilities first.’’