In His Shoes - A Short Journey Through Autism

Imagine spending a year in middle school without being able to talk with friends and not understanding the concept of “hanging out.” In His Shoes – A Short Journey Through Autism provides an opportunity to follow Nicholas Hansen, a 13-year-old boy, as he ventures onto a middle school campus for the first time. Converse Shoes Middle school can be overwhelming on its own. What would it be like to face that challenge as a student with autism? Embark on a journey with Nicholas as he encounters the beach, the mall, the Locklocker room, a party, a track meet and his first school dance to gain a glimpse of his unique middle school experience. Learn how Nicholas faces the same things we all do, but from a different perspective.

Observe how his classmates gain an understanding for Nick and overcome some of the barriers autism sometimes presents. Meet people in Nick’s life who provide support for him and also those who create additional challenges. Cheer in Nick’s successes and gain understanding through his disappointments. Get introduced to the Peer Assisted Learning group (PALs) on campus and see how they learn to interact with Nick creating unique friendships and lifelong lessons.lunch

In His Shoes offers a valuable tool for classrooms, community groups and families to promote discussions about life on the autism spectrum. Learn ways that each of us can offer support and encouragement to these individuals. Helped by a series of “Points to Ponder” at the end of each chapter, the bookprovides a springboard for students ages 11-15 to consider and talk about the differences and similarities experienced by someone with autism.By putting ourselves “in Nick’s shoes,” if even for a moment, perhaps we can all have a fresh perspective and, in turn, open doors in our communities for our peers who have autism.

How In His Shoes originated…

After completing my first children’s book,A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend, I felt that I needed to expand on that concept beyond an introduction. As an instructional aide working with students who have autism and other disabilities, I have come across so many typical schoolmates who don’t understand what autism is and how to best interact with these wonderful individuals. Targeting an upper elementary through middle school audience, our character Nicholas Hansen came to life. He led me on a journey through his first year in middle school which, for most, is intimidating on its own. Adding the fact that he has autism made his transition even more overwhelming. However, Nick is lucky to have family, staff and classmates supporting him making his journey not only easier, but more fulfilling.

So many typical peers never take the opportunity to interact with students who have autism (especially severe autism), because of the barriers that autism sometimes creates. By introducing Nicholas, I have tried to demystify some of the behaviors and challenges that students with autism experience while also opening up a discussion about autism.

I have done my best to affectionately present this fictional character created from a rainbow of students with whom I have worked. They are my inspiration and my heroes. My hope is that In His Shoes will increase autism awareness and possibly open up some opportunities for wonderful and unique friendships.


“In His Shoes”, is an extraordinary adventure into the mind of a teenage autistic. It teaches us all quiet wisdom and love - love for humanity, and the world, with insight to our strengths, limitations and possibilities....This is an educational, uplifting, empowering and inspirational read. I recommend it to teachers, students and scholars attempting to unravel the mystery of autism.

- Dr. Susan M. Larsen, Assistant Professor of Human Services, California State University, Fullerton

"In reading In His Shoes, I felt Nick's 'voice' was the same as the voice I hear in my own son. Joanna did a great job of conveying the thoughts and feelings of those who are nonverbal and affected with autism. This book is a must read for all those who have been touched by autism."

- Erika Hall, proud mom of two children with autism, CAC chair, Northeast SELPA

"In His Shoes is a valuable resource for helping middle school students as well as adults to understand and appreciate individuals with autism, their unique qualities and strengths, as well as their social and sensory challenges. Highlighting the similarities between middle school students and their peers with autism through everyday, common experiences such as school and community situations allows teens to relate to their classmates with autism in many ways. The Points to Ponder at the end of each chapter set the stage for great discussions and provide opportunities for better understanding."

- Laura Pellegrini, speech/language pathologist

"As a mother of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, I know firsthand how important it is that we see the child before we see the diagnosis. In His Shoes - A Short Journey Through Autism is an accurate portrayal of what living with autism looks like. Autism affects the way a child interprets the world around him, and by educating ourselves on autism and the struggles these children may face, the better chance we have of breaking through and forming a relationship with them. Joanna Keating-Velasco helps us do just that."

- Kate Jones, owner of JuKa Books - Special Books for Special Kids

"As a middle school teacher, I would strongly encourage my students to read this book. It is sometimes difficult to empathize with people who are different from us. This book, by giving the perspective of a boy with autism, helps readers not just to understand better what the experience is, but to care more. I recommend it strongly."

- Stephanie Matheny, middle school language arts teacher

"As a sister of an individual with autism I can most definitely say In His Shoes gives a realistic insight to the world of autism. Joanna Keating-Velasco shows readers that there is so much more to people with autism than just the disorder. The book chronicles an adolescent boy named Nick and his journey through junior high and the challenges he faces and obstacles he has to overcome related to his autism. You will come to love Nick, an adolescent with autism just starting middle school, and through him come to appreciate those who have autism and those who work with them. After reading this book you may think twice before judging someone because he or she is 'different.'"

- Kaitlin Lanning, high school student who has a brother with autism


"You're a child of few words. With a heart made of gold. You've got something to say. Let your story be told."

In this excerpt from In His Shoes – A Short Journey Through Autism, we have journeyed to the middle school art class where our main character, Nick, is busy working when he overhears two girls talking about him…

Dani turned sideways and stared at Nick, crinkling her nose in confusion. Dani thought, Is no one else noticing this guy? Whatsup with him?

“…Time is ticking, so get to work, students,” finished Miss Smith.

The kids pulled out their photos and sketches from their binders. The week prior, Miss Smith had piled stacks of photos all around the class and let the students choose a photo to duplicate. Nick had chosen a photo of a hot air balloon taken at a local balloon festival. He was immediately drawn to the rainbow colored balloon set against a clear blue sky. Tami was at Nick’s desk showing him her new set of colored pencils. “Would you like to use some, Nick? These colors seem to match the colors of your balloon.” Nick looked up and took the pencils she held out to him.

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A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend