While I never had a pet growing up, I loved stories about animals — Olga da Polga, Paddington Bear. I just read about a yet-unpublished animal book that sounds very appealing. 24-year-old Michael Kneeler has written a book, “Pro Bowler Cat” which is about a “cat who takes his animal friends, including a dog and a bird, to the local bowling alley, only to be told animals are not admitted,” says the New York Daily News.
The book’s plot perhaps mirrors some of its author’s experiences: Kneeler, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is autistic and epileptic. In an interview with New York Daily News writer Clem Richardson, Kneeler and his mother, Debbie Stevens, describe an incident in which Kneeler was bullied; the incident led to him testifying about bullying before the New York City Council in 2009:
Michael’s knowledge of that last came out of an incident while he was still attending city schools, Stevens said. While riding home on a bus, Michael was repeatedly hit in the head by two other students.
“They hit me,” Michael said.
His mother supplied the details. Two other special-needs children struck Michael several times in the head while he was riding the bus home after school. Stevens said the bus matrons did nothing.
“They thought he didn’t speak, but when he got off the bus, he told me what happened,” Stevens said. “So I took him out of school and got him tutors to come to the our house.”
Michael wrote his book longhand in “neat, careful script.” Said his mother: “He said he was going to write a book, and he sat down and wrote it. Maybe we will find someone to publish it.”
I was interested that Kneeler chose to write about animals not being allowed into a place, a bowling alley. As my own teenage autistic son, Charlie, has grown older, it’s gotten harder to take him to places, from movie theaters to restaurants. Some of this is due to Charlie’s own challenges, including being extremely sensitive to sensory stimuli including sounds and lights, and not being able to communicate when he is “on overload” too well. But it’s also because Charlie doesn’t have to do anything odd to attract attention: He’s almost 5′ 9″ and, understandably, people aren’t sure what to with someone adult-size who says two-word phrases over and over and still mentions Barney (yes, the purple dinosaur).
As I’ve noted, Charlie is very wary of animals. If he sees a dog without a leash, he goes running in the opposite direction. But he is also very curious and even fascinated about animals and perhaps feels a bit of kinship?. When we’re on walks around our neighborhood, he always checks out houses where he knows there are dogs. Animals also respond to him differently than others, perhaps because of his body language and his vocalizations, many of which are not words but various sounds (all of which have their meaning).
Hoping Kneeler can find a publisher for “Pro Bowler Cat.” A number of autistic authors have written about animals; animal science professor Temple Grandin is the most famous (and controversial, as she designs facilities for slaughtering livestock). Here are some others:
- The Secret Night World of Cats by Mark Rimland
- Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism by Dawn Prince-Hughes
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