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ASD and Leo, the author’s thoughts

In my teaching career I met so many children and was never bored. The wonderful variety of kids’ personalities is no different to the glorious spectrum of adults that we meet. I know that the word ‘spectrum’ is used in many fields now, and I was tempted to portray Leo as being easily identifiable as autistic or on the spectrum. I didn’t do that in the story but in my mind he is on the spectrum. Many thanks to others who have helped me along this journey of describing how I feel about Leo.

The fact that the little boy who inspired this story (more on that later) was obsessed by ladders interested me because I had met other boys who were fixated on fire engines, ambulances and trains. People on the autism spectrum often have a fixed focus on a particular subject.

The little 4 year old boy who inspired the story was obsessed by ladders. His grandma, my friend and neighbour, told me that he sees ladders everywhere! I thought this was unusual, until I started to think about all the places a child would see a ladder. From down there, child height. (I am quite tall, and have been since 11 years old!) So for me, to imagine all this was fun, and the story of Leo and his ladder began.

Immediately I listed the places that ladders were obviously found, and realised early on in the planning of Leo’s Ladder that a link with jobs was natural. Following this, I began my search for ladders that were a bit unusual, like the cherry picker.

Ladders feature in my own life, as my dad drove a fire truck in New York, where it is known as a ‘hook and ladder’. One of my favourite photos of my dad was a clipping from the newspaper, where he perched on a ladder adding the lights to a huge Christmas tree in Far Rockaway, Queens. The picture is long gone, but the memory remains. But my dad loved his job, and his fire truck and who knows, perhaps he was fixated. We all have our interests and are fascinating in our own way.

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