In Emma Lesko's words:
I didn’t start realizing I was autistic until high school, and of course, at that time, I didn’t even know what autism was. I wouldn’t get the label until much later. I just knew that I had difficulty coping with injustice; I had to fake enjoying large social events; and I could never seem to verbalize the depth of my thoughts, except in writing. I grew increasingly disoriented by the uniqueness of my own perspective, and ultimately I slipped into the danger zone that many, many girls endure: voicelessness.
In the long run, the challenges that presented themselves during my voiceless era would give my work meaning and passion. I am grateful for those struggles today, because they connected me to human suffering. They gave me purpose...
...I wrote Lexi as a highly introverted second-grader with autism, despite pressure from the publishing industry to make her more like a neurotypical kid. The idea behind this advice was marketability and mainstream appeal, which I consider unfounded and ableist.
In my opinion, emotions are universal, and triggers are personal. It’s the author’s job to root a character in relatability regardless of those personal triggers, and I’ve worked consciously to do that. Not every kid gets “the feeling of barf” like Lexi when they have to perform in a school play. But every kid has had that feeling for some reason. As such, I focus a great deal on Lexi’s emotional journey and try to portray it in a funny way.
My refusal to bend Lexi to fit publishing standards is reflected in the plot of Super Lexi, a stage fright story. Frequently in this type of book, the main character ultimately realizes she is a star at heart and ends up shining on stage. Lexi does not do that. Instead, she stands up for her right to be her authentic self and unapologetically accepts her fear of “staring eyeballs.”
You can read the interview in its entirety, here.
For more on, Emma Lesko and her Super Lexi books, go here. You can also follow Emma on twitter, here. She's wonderful.