“Kids Across the Spectrums” Cover Reveal and Publication Plans

I’m thrilled to reveal the cover design of my next book, Kids Across the Spectrums: Growing Up Autistic in the Digital Age, which will be published by MIT Press this coming August 2023.

The cover art was created by Jen White Johnson, an immensely talented “Afro-Latina, disabled artist, designer, educator, and activist, whose visual work explores the intersection of content and caregiving with an emphasis on redesigning ableist visual culture.”

Over the years, I’ve drawn inspiration not only from Jen’s artistic work, but her activism as well. In addition to her piece “Follow the Light” being featured on the cover of KAS, I make multiple references within the book to the important advocacy work that she does to “empower and activate change encouraging communities to engage in conversations about acceptance, rooted in how Black Neurodivergent children are valued and seen.”

“Follow the Light” itself perfectly represents the core message of KAS for several reasons:

1) It’s an artistic collaboration between Jen and her autistic son, Knox. As I note in the book, there’s much to be learned about maximizing the benefits of media and technology for children on the spectrum by better understanding and appreciating relationships between neurodivergent parents and kids, like Jen and Knox.

2) As a collaborator, Knox also showcases how young people on the spectrum can be active media creators, not just passive media consumers, as they are commonly assumed to be.

3) Graphically, the image shows a Black neurodivergent child containing multitudes of color and movement. This is symbolically important considering the insidious ways that structural racism and anti-Blackness have been embedded in the history of autism as a diagnosis and cultural category, as well as how non-White autistic children are regularly denied freedoms and expressions of joy in society.

4) The image reflects “the digital” through pixilation without being so overtly technological. Research for the book took place over several years, from 2013-2020, so I tried to avoid overfocusing on any one technological trend or platform.

I can’t say enough good things about Jen’s work, and encourage you to check out her website (https://jenwhitejohnson.com/), as well as her social media accounts (Twitter and Instagram).

Lastly, I’m excited to share that Kids Across the Spectrums will be made available open access online through MIT Press’ Direct to Open (D2O) program, a publishing approach fully aligned with the book’s emphasis on digital accessibility.

More to come this Fall 2023! Please reach out at m.alper@northeastern.edu if you’d like to arrange a book talk or event in Fall 2023 and Spring 2024.

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