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Hello and welcome to my website! Here, I talk about autism, education, books, writing, pop culture, and some other geeky stuff.

If you’re looking for something in particular, here’s an index to help you navigate through the site’s content. (This pinned post will be updated as additional content is added to the site.)

Continue reading “Welcome!”

Neurodiversity in Our Libraries – School Librarians United Podcast

Interviewed on: School Librarians United podcast
Episode Date: May 7th, 2021
Show Noteshttp://bit.ly/SLUNDLib

Description: Adriana L. White guides us in understanding neurodiversity and how our library spaces, collections and teaching can embrace all our neurodiverse students.

We Need (Neuro)Diverse Books – Literacy for Texas Webinar

To Be Presented at: Literacy for Texas Webinar
Presentation Date: June 15th, 2021
Presentation Slides: TBA
Register for the webinar.

Description: According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental condition such as autism. Most of us already serve these patrons in our libraries! How can we update our collections to better represent this diverse group? How can our programming promote empathy and compassion? An autistic librarian will share some of her favorite #OwnVoices books, and you’ll leave with resources that will help you keep up with this growing subsection of children’s literature.

We Need (Neuro)Diverse Books!

To Be Presented at: The TLA Annual Conference
Presentation Date: April 23rd, 2021
Presentation Slides: https://bit.ly/NDBTLA21
Register for the conference.

Abstract: It is estimated that 1 in 54 people are autistic. Many of us are already serving autistic patrons in our library! How can we update our collections to better serve this growing population? With neurodiverse books, we can share stories about characters with conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette Syndrome, and more. Come learn about the latest books by neurodivergent authors, and leave with resources that will help you keep up with this growing subsection of children’s literature.

Short Abstract: A librarian and advocate with a personal interest in serving neurodiverse students will share the latest books by neurodiverse authors. Leave with resources to help you develop your collection.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

It’s been four weeks since we found out about the death of my friend Scott Bradford.

And as I struggled with my grief over these past few weeks, I’ve also had the amazing opportunity to share Scott’s story with over 100 Texas librarians.

A week before we learned about Scott’s passing, I was invited to present a professional development session on the importance of children’s books about mental health and neurodiversity. Scott’s death led me to throw out my entire introduction and write a new one entirely from scratch.

I talked about being an awkward, weird kid with few friends. I talked about how Scott was one of the first people I reached out to when I began pursuing an autism assessment – something that would help explain my lifetime of awkwardness. How Scott and my husband Kyle have been friends since high school, so we’ve known Scott for years. How much Scott cared about helping people.

How none of us knew Scott was suffering until it was too late.

I told the librarians in attendance how the quarantine has worsened the mental health of so many, and how young people with mental health conditions need us now more than ever. Young people need to feel a connection, a sense of belonging. Young people need to read stories written by authors who have experienced the darkness of depression and lived to tell the tale, so they can know that there is always hope, that they too can survive this.

I can’t say that hearing stories of other people’s recoveries would have saved Scott. Depression is too complex for me to ever make a simplified claim like that.

But if those 100+ librarians can go back to work and make a commitment to talking more about mental health in their schools and libraries, then maybe they can reach a kid who’s been suffering alone, in silence. Maybe they can help make a difference, and put that kid on a path to recovery and healing.

Maybe they can help save a life.

Today, Kyle and I will observe the annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. We’ll remember Scott. We’ll grieve. And we’ll keep going.

And in the coming weeks, I’ll prepare for future presentations, at TCEA in February and TLA in April, where I’ll share Scott’s story with even more librarians and other educators. I’ll try to use his memory, and the pain of his passing, to inspire others to help make the world a better place.

I hope I do his story justice. I hope talking about him helps me process my own feelings of grief and loss. I hope my work honors him and helps keep his memory alive.

Reading the wonderful comments that I’ve received from people who’ve attended my presentation sessions fills my heart with joy.

I hope he’d be proud. ❤️

Scott Bradford, 1983 – 2020

We Need (Neuro)Diverse Books: Building Empathy for Children’s Mental Health and Neurodiversity

Presented at: The Region 20 Learning & Libraries Virtual Conference
Presentation Date: November 5th & 6th, 2020
Presentation Slides: https://bit.ly/NDB1120

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder (such as autism). Most of us already serve these children in our libraries! How can we update our collections to better represent this group? Books help our students build empathy and increase understanding, and this is especially true for books about characters with conditions like autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and more. Come learn about the latest and greatest books in this category (including #OwnVoices titles), and leave with resources that will help you keep up with this growing subsection of children’s literature.

We will offer an introduction to neurodiversity and mental health, an explanation of why stories involving empathy, understanding, and social emotional learning are important, some ideas for displaying and promoting neurodiverse books, and resources to locate additional books and ideas for programming.

Additional Information:

As an autistic librarian (who also suffers from anxiety), this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I have written multiple articles about the importance of books by neurodivergent and autistic authors, including a blog post on the wonderful website A Novel Mind (anovelmind.com). I think the site is an incredible resource and should be shared with librarians! As an undiagnosed autistic/anxious kid, I didn’t really get to see myself represented in the books I read. Today, there are so many amazing books that make me feel seen. These books can be invaluable for all audiences – students with similar conditions can relate, students without can gain a greater understanding of their peers, and the same is also true for adults (such as teachers and librarians)! As we integrate more Social-Emotional Learning concepts into our libraries, it is important for us to also include SEL topics in our library collections. While many books are available that cover these topics, it is my opinion that the best ones are written by those with direct experience. I look forward to sharing these amazing books with other librarians!

Social-Emotional Learning and the Power of Stories

To Be Presented at: The TCEA Convention & Exposition
Presentation Date: January 31st, 2021
Presentation Slides: https://bit.ly/SEL0221
Register for the conference.

Social-emotional learning, or SEL, involves teaching our students incredibly important life skills, such as managing emotions, developing empathy, and fostering relationships. As librarians, we can help our students improve their SEL skills through the power of stories. Books, social media, and personal narratives can all be used to widen our students’ perspectives and celebrate diversity.

Strategies and resources will be shared to help you find the right books and tools for your students.

Celebrating Neurodiversity: Insights from an Autistic Educator and Self-Advocate

Presented at: The Inclusion Works! Virtual Conference
Presentation Date: October 26th, 2020
Presentation Slides: bit.ly/ND1020

Our understanding of autism has changed greatly over the past few decades. Once thought to be a rare disorder that primarily affected non-speaking boys, we now know that autism encompasses a wide spectrum of diverse individuals. Today, autistic people are writing books, speaking at conferences, and advocating for change worldwide. Self-advocates are tackling important topics like racism, autistic culture, and representations of autism in the media. Their unique perspectives add an exciting new dimension to the way we think about autism.

As educators, we can learn a lot from the insights of self-advocates, and we can use their stories to improve our teaching practices. We can make our schools and classrooms more autism-friendly and accessible, and we can discover new ways to celebrate differences and neurodiversity. Researchers are also discovering that autistic students benefit from connecting with other autistics.

Come learn about what the world of autism looks like today, from an autistic librarian and former special education teacher. You will leave with a variety of ideas for promoting and celebrating neurodiversity in your school and classroom.

Links to resources will be shared with attendees, including recommended websites, social media accounts to follow, and book lists for teachers and students.

Tongue-Tied

Hi, everyone!

I’ve added a new tag called “Tongue-Tied.” These posts are excerpts from a Young Adult novel that I’m currently working on. It’s the story of two very different young women who both happen to be autistic, and what happens when they unexpectedly enter each other’s lives. I’ve thrown a bit of science fiction into the mix, with the inclusion of virtual reality devices that give users a little more control than one would expect. Our main characters, Cecilia and Hope, are both dealing with the hardest parts of growing up (identity, love, family, etc.), and they find that things are further complicated by their very different life experiences on the spectrum.

You can find a more formal summary of the book below. Thanks for reading!


Cecilia Miller has been in love with Jacob Hunter for as long as she can remember. When he mysteriously vanishes from their hometown one bright summer day, Cecilia wants to join the search and help bring him home.

There’s just one problem. Cecilia is autistic, communicates using an AAC device, and requires a lot of daily supports. Her big brother Michael, who takes care of her, doesn’t like the idea of her heading out on her own – especially to look for someone who likely doesn’t want to be found. Plus he’s too busy with his new job, at the local meat processing plant, to help her with her search.

Enter Simulera Incorporated.

When Esperanza “Hope” Diaz agreed to be a part of Simulera Inc.’s pilot program, she wasn’t sure what to expect. They told her she would be helping disabled people who couldn’t leave the house or travel great distances on their own. Through the company’s patented VR headsets, she would be able to show users parts of the world that they could not physically reach themselves. Hope is both nervous and excited about her first assignment.

When Cecilia asks for help in her search for Jacob, Hope doesn’t know if she should accept the job. But once Cecilia reveals her autism, Hope is completely on-board. Hope has recently been diagnosed with autism herself, and she has been trying to make sense of her life, through reflecting on her past and writing about her experiences. Hope is also incredibly curious about this nonspeaking girl who wants so desperately to chase after a lifelong crush. Hope has had some experience with relationships, both good and bad, and she knows first-hand how hard unrequited crushes can be. Even though she has learned to communicate relatively well with others, her worst crushes can leave Hope completely tongue-tied and vulnerable.

Cecilia is tired of feeling powerless, and hatches a plan to meet up with Hope on her road trip. Hope decides that she wants to help Cecilia get closure, so she can move on and get over her infatuation with Jacob. Maybe then, Cecilia will be able to find someone better to love. Hope presents herself to Cecilia as the expert on relationships, but her confidence hides a darker story – one that Cecilia is determined to get to the bottom of. As they follow the trail that Jacob left behind, both girls discover that they still have a lot to learn about life, love, and friendship.

A Site Refresh, and More Info on Autistic Authors

The site has a new look, with a new theme that will hopefully be more accessibility-friendly. It’s still a work-in-progress, so forgive any missing alt-text, wonky headers, etc. I’m still learning the ins and outs of accessible web design!

I’ve also added more links to resources about autistic books and authors, and I’ve updated my own list of Autism in Literature. I also plan to add information on recent and upcoming books by autistic authors, and I’d like to differentiate more between books by autistic authors and books by neurotypical authors. (There’s so much I want to add and update that I may end up having to split the page into multiple pages, and/or create a database! Stay tuned!)

In the meantime, you can visit my list of autistic authors on Twitter. Thanks!

Autism, Neurodiversity, and More: Insights from an Autistic Educator

Presented at: The South San Antonio ISD Special Programs Symposium
Presentation Date: October 26th, 2019
Presentation Slides: bit.ly/AWAutism

Description of My Symposium Session:

Our understanding of autism has changed greatly over the past few decades. Once thought to be a rare disorder that primarily affected nonverbal boys, autism today encompasses a wide spectrum of individuals. Autistic brains are wired differently than neurotypical brains, but no two autistic individuals are exactly alike, either. As the number of autistic adults grows, their unique perspectives are adding an exciting new dimension to the way we think about autism.

Now a school librarian in South San Antonio ISD, Adriana White was previously a special education teacher in North East ISD for 5 and a half years. She is also autistic, and would like to share what she has learned from her experience as an educator on the spectrum.

Links to resources about autism (including recommended websites and books) will also be shared with attendees.

Día de Muertos

The older I get, the more I appreciate Día de Muertos.

Years pass, loved ones pass, and I grow to understand more fully the philosophy behind the Day of the Dead.

Holidays can be tough, for years after you’ve lost someone. Memories of the past can come flooding to the surface, and in these moments, you can’t seem to see anything else – except the fact that the loved ones who used to be there with you are no longer around.

Birthdays can be hard, too, for the same reasons. Anniversaries, and new additions to the family. It’s all too easy to be reminded of what it is you’ve lost.

But Day of the Dead is magical.

Here, we do not mourn the losses of our loved ones.

We celebrate life. We share stories. We cook good food and watch monarch butterflies and we sing and we dance.

When we talk about the ones we’ve lost, on other days of the year, sometimes our talk is tinged with pain and sadness.

But during Día de Muertos, we talk about food and life.

  • When else would I bring up my father’s love of Carvel ice cream cakes?
  • My dad’s whipped pumpkin and chocolate chip pie may be mentioned during the Thanksgiving holiday season, but there’s really no designated time to discuss the fact that my dad, who never drank milk, instead would pour hot cocoa – with marshmallows – over his Wheat Chex cereal for breakfast every morning.
  • Who would know to ask me about the fact that my father, like his father before him, would typically not take a single sip of his drink until he had finished the entirety of his lunch or dinner?
  • When is the time to share the fact that my dad strongly preferred Burger King over McDonald’s, and loved eating at Friendly’s when we lived in New York?

The answer is, of course, on Day of the Dead.

I might not be making ofrendas and visiting graveyards at night (not yet, at least), but I’m still building a sort of digital altar, watching the butterflies, and telling my stories.

The more time passes, the more likely that our memories will slowly start to fade away. Wading through those memories on a regular basis can be a difficult task, when you know there’s a very good chance that it will lead to tears and sadness.

But if we can put that positive spin on our recollections, the way we do on Day of the Dead, then maybe it won’t be so bad.

And so, my father:

  • Who loved to travel, cook, take pictures, and listen to music.
  • Who would wake my sister from her naps by playing “Chop Suey!” by System of a Down on his stereo system.
  • Who would drive too fast and park entirely too close to the edge of the mountain roads in California.
  • Who took us trick-or-treating in a Sacramento shopping mall in the mid-90s.
  • Who would take us on surprise trips to theme parks like Six Flags.
  • Who, when I was briefly vegan, would set aside a small bowl of steamed potatoes for me, so I could add my own fake milk and fake butter.

Without a word.

My dad was quiet and introverted. He showed his love through actions, not phrases.

Sometimes it was hard for me to relate to him – especially when my autism was already making me awkward and socially at a loss.

But no matter how many years pass, no matter how many specific memories I forget, I will always remember how happy his presence made me feel.

That happy feeling is now all wrapped up in the imagery of monarch butterflies, marigold flowers, pan de muerto, calacas and calaveras, and the bold colors of all the cute little Day of the Dead items my Mexican mother sometimes buys for me.

I didn’t grow up with Día de Muertos, and my father was from Puerto Rico, but living in San Antonio – the last city he lived in – for the past decade or so has given me a great appreciation for the holiday.

I’ve cried a lot of tears over the past few months, so I am more than ready for a change.

So tonight, let’s say a toast.

To life, to love, to family, to friends, to good food, and great memories, and one amazing shared experience that is celebrated all across the world.

To anyone else observing Día de Muertos this year, I hope it brings you peace, joy, and happiness.

September 25th

September 22nd, 2018.

A cool, fall day.

My husband drives us across town to visit his ailing grandmother.

He’s been preparing me, or himself, or the both of us, all morning – telling me who else might be there, what we’re going to do, what to expect…

And finally, he says to me: “The location will be familiar, but not the situation.”

– – –

Summer 2007.

My maternal grandmother lies in her bed.

Every other time I have come to visit my grandmother, she has either been sitting in her recliner or making food in the kitchen.

I have never seen her bedridden like this before.

She dies in November.

– – –

August 2007.

My parents and I fly down to Puerto Rico to visit my paternal grandmother.

She is lying in bed, surrounded by family members I have never met, speaking a language I can barely comprehend.

I stand to the side, unsure of what to say or do.

My father says hello to her. He is kind. He smiles. He just stays there by her side, for a long time.

I wander around the house. There’s a full-size basketball court next door. Lizards and stray cats skitter down the street.

I sit on the porch and listen to the sounds of conversation and laughter. Family members reunited, after far too much time apart.

She dies in September.

And shortly after, my father receives a diagnosis of Stage II nasopharyngeal cancer.

– – –

January 2011.

I sit by my father’s bedside, after months of hospital visits, chemotherapy sessions, and radiation treatments.

He is sitting in his recliner, next to the bed, resting.

My anxiety gets to me, and I check his pulse. He’s still alive.

He doesn’t look like he’s alive.

He dies on February 5th, 2011.

– – –

September 22nd, 2018.

A cool, fall day.

I’m coming down with something. I’m exhausted, I feel terrible, but I’m here.

I sit close by her side. I hold her hand. I talk with her and my husband and his grandfather. I try my hardest not to worry about what to say. I just talk – about work, my students, Halloween, whatever comes to mind.

Voices carry from the next room, as family members talk about what to eat for lunch.

A letter from a childhood friend speaks of holding a book club in an overcrowded kitchen.

We all do our best to focus on life.

My husband’s grandfather tells us that he knows that she is proud of us.

There are pink watercolor hearts on her bedsheet. I study the pattern, and try desperately not to cry.

– – –

September 25th, 2018.

I understand more fully now, why we gather at our loved ones’ bedsides.

Yes, we are there for them, to comfort them at the end of their life.

But we are also there for each other.

Over the past 11 years, I have seen far too many loved ones stricken with cancer.

Losing a loved one to this terrible disease has not gotten any easier for me. It still tears me apart.

But as I sit beside my husband and listen to him talk about his grandmother, and his grief, and how to handle losing her, I hope that I might be at least getting a little better at comforting those left behind.

I am heartbroken today. Overcome by memories of my own grandmothers, and of my father.

But I am not alone. We still have each other.

Our family, our friends, our loved ones – losing them can hurt so much, can make us feel so lost and alone.

But then we make our way back to each other, and we remember the good times, and we comfort each other, and we celebrate life.

Love the ones you still have left.

Love them with all you’ve got.

Life is just too short.

#GirlsCanBeAutisticToo – Week 1

As one great autism event (#TaketheMaskOff) ends, another important one begins: #GirlsCanBeAutisticToo. Week 1 focused on Barriers to Diagnosis, and there are so many for girls and women!

Societal expectations of girls are different, and autistic girls are better at masking and blending in socially. Our special interests are generally more accepted, and our sensory sensitivities are often more subtle.

In general, autistic girls may look more “put together” on the outside, while on the inside, they’re falling apart. Anxiety can be hard to spot, or hard for others to believe.

When I sought out a diagnosis, I personally wrote a 16-page report documenting my autistic traits, but not everyone can do that – especially not young girls! We need to get better at diagnosing autistic girls!


Join the #GirlsCanBeAutisticToo conversation on Twitter!

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