Chapter G (Parade of Visitors) is the longest chapter, 36 pages, bringing back 10 characters from or mentioned in prior chapters: Exterminator & the ASPCA “alley cat”; #83; Hashtag; DeShawn with Emma (dog); 2 other cats (Brilli and Klumsy/ Kind Kat); and 2 of AM’s siblings, D & E. Each of the six sometimes overlapping segments has its own new drama: The Exterminator makes a home well-suited for mice as “punishment”; AM’s Brother D (now “Prince” D2) gets a reprieve on life and helps others find AM; Emma is now a family pet; #83 and Hashtag meet, unsure about each other, as AM gets clearer on how he feels about each. After KK returns for a couple of weeks, Brilli shows up — intent on getting back at AM — and KK pretends to cooperate; but after sabotaging Brilli, a street scene climax between Brilli and KK is followed by Aspie Mouse needing to find a new home, which his sister E (now E-flat) agrees to help him do.
Notes for Chapter G, “Parade of Visitors: Feline, Canine, Rodentine & Humine”
As with prior Chapters D, E & F, Chapter G’s “Parade of Visitors” concept goes back to the author’s childhood, when he wrote such a chapter for Aspie Mouse’s forebear, Stupid Mouse. However, since the characters Aspie Mouse has met in the current “Adventures” Graphic Novel are mostly different from the characters his forebear had met by this point in the earlier comic’s series, Chapter G’s plot line is all-new.
In the first segment, the cat the Exterminator adopted from ASPCA to get rid of Aspie Mouse in Ch. D is returned to the house, much to the horror of the Coppola family. Yet when it becomes obvious that this “fierce tomcat” is even more afraid of the Exterminator than he is of being in the house (he refuses to come out of his cage), Mrs. Coppola takes pity on the animal and agrees to find it a different home for him. However, she insists the Exterminator pay a steep price for his prior deceptions, as suggested by Aspie Mouse: he must pretend to exterminate the mice next door, but really not harm them, or Mrs. Coppola will ruin his reputation.
Potentially worth class discussion: when is being honest rewarded and when isn’t it? What makes for a “just” punishment? When should “blackmail” be used as punishment — if ever? What accounts for Mrs. Coppola being kinder and more forgiving of a wild animal than her own son?
The next visitor (segment two) is AM’s brother D (now D2), who comes as a trained mouse doctor with even grander ambitions: he’s a prince in a vast mouse kingdom, seeking to become king. But he comes hoping AM can help him deal with a personal medical issue — due to their shared ancestry — that untreated will keep brother D2 from realizing his dreams. Their obvious lifestyle choice differences — D2 being serious, ambitious and doing what others want him to do, while AM follows his heart and seeks to play — make for a notable contrast.
For discussion, which brother is more true to himself? Is that rewarded or not? Would someone with Autism be as kind to your brother as an adult as Aspie Mouse is to D2 if they were treated the way AM says D2 (then D) treated him when they were young? How about if they were treated the way D2 treats AM NOW (in this chapter)?
Next is DeShawn (Desiree’s brother, who only appeared earlier in one panel in Chapter E) with Emma (the dog from Ch. E), explaining how Emma’s evolved from a therapy dog to a “house pet.” No one seems upset, though, as Desiree is thriving since her summer nights at the Coppola’s: she still needs the support services her IEP at school provides, but DeShawn says she’s OK with Emma just being a dog that plays, no longer needing her for “therapy.” Mrs. Coppola is curious about both Desiree and Emma, but she’s supervising Mr. K as he cleans up Mr. Nakamura’s former home, leaving the mice unharmed and with fresh food and water! Emma and AM have all 3 kids playing at the end.
Perhaps worth discussing — though it’s tricky — are questions about if everyone in the chapter is acting “too politely” — instead of how they would usually behave within their own family — and if “race” might play a role in that. Also, is DeShawn’s whole family really “fine” that Emma is no longer able to serve as a therapy dog — for Desiree or for any other child — or is DeShawn painting a rosy picture to justify him now taking Emma for this long walk?
Following them, along come two female mice — first #83 (from Ch’s C-F), again proclaiming Aspie Mouse as a hero & vowing to leave her partner for him (which paralyzes AM!); and then Hashtag from Ch. B, toward whom Aspie Mouse still has (confused) feelings. When #83 sees Hashtag, she’s upset, seeing her as a rival, and departs in a huff. Hashtag reveals her own confused feelings — about Aspie Mouse, yes, after #83 — leaves — but even more about what, if any, intimate or friendship relationships she wants, nor is she sure of her gender identity. It becomes clear though that she and AM are at the very least good friends.
While this may be the most “boring” part of the chapter to younger kids and those older kids uncomfortable with their own feelings about friendship, sex roles, sexual identity and sexual orientation, it could be useful for helping Autistic teens and young adults wrestling with these questions see some positive possibilities. Many teens on the Autism Spectrum (and younger children and adults for that matter) are confused “early,” because they’re less constrained by peer social norms than most teens as to how they “should be.” Yet they the social pressure to conform is still strong — especially for girls, one reason why Autism is diagnosed less often and later for girls than for boys.
A further complication: adolescent hormones develop faster than emotional maturity for all teens , but this is even more pronounced for Autistic teens, whose emotional age is usually only 2/3 to 3/4 of their chronological age. So the interactions of #83, Hashtag and AM are intended to reassure Aspie teens that being confused about these feelings is OK, and being cautious before taking actions that may lead to regret is a wise strategy. Experimentation with drugs and sex as Neurotypical teens often do may better be delayed until an Aspie is more sure of where they stand.
This is also a good place (there are others in other chapters) to discuss anxiety and how to reduce it in a good way. You could mention a fourth way that humans often react to anxiety beyond fight, flight & freeze: “fawning” (“No, I’m not angry. Really. What can I do to show you how reasonable I am?” — while not in touch with their anger), along with strategies to get out of such executive function stuck spots. One could also explain the difference between a tantrum (which can be willful or intentional) and a meltdown (which just happens!): It’s much harder to stop or prevent a meltdown, but again, one can be tamped down with strategies aimed at slowing things down (meditation, counting to ten, deep breathing).
Just before Hashtag leaves, KK returns — much to first the joy that she’s back and then the consternation of Bobby & Claire when they realize WHY she’s back. If used in class, some discussion about science vs. faith, religion and unexplainable phenomena may be worth doing, since Hashtag is rattled when KK does things Hashtag’s science background tells her can’t be done; can science serve as a religion of sorts?
After a couple of delightful weeks of KK playing games with Aspie Mouse, Brilli suddenly shows up, intent on exacting revenge on AM. While KK pretends to buy into Brilli’s plans for AM’s demise, her “clumsiness” at just the right times thwarts those plans. Brilli, furious, decides to lure KK to her death by getting her run over by a car — until flashbacks intervene during a climactic street scene. Claire Coppola’s constant sneezing while both cats are there leads Mrs. Coppola to insist on a total ban of cats — and then all furry creatures — from the house.
Discussions about mentorship, friendship crossing barriers (in this case species), and how even those with multiple disabilities can find ways to survive and even thrive can be considered. Also, is misleading another heroic or betrayal if the intention of the one being misled is to cause evil? And how evil is Brilli really, if she’s doing what comes naturally to her (aren’t most outdoor cats serial killers?), and if she has a conscience instilled in her by a previous owner whose mind she could read? Also note how Aspie Mouse gets jarred by loud noises — a common issue for those on the Spectrum — enough not to be able to answer KK’s plea asking “what’s the trick?”
Also, Claire’s allergy and how Mrs. Coppola is determined to deal with it — despite Mr. Coppola’s plea to wait for the appointment with an allergist — may be worth exploring. Aspies and non- Aspies both deal with allergies, but Aspies may have a particular tendency toward having some, especially those related to sensory sensitivity. That’s not to say Claire has Autism; from all we know, she doesn’t. However, how the adults in the house handle things like Autism may suggest some inheritable Autism — or does it?
Finally, AM’s sister E (now E-flat, a singer!) comes by during the street scene climax. When she hears that AM now both needs to and wants to move, she vows to find AM another home. Meanwhile, #83 returns, fearful of changes in her current living situation and less than happy about her partner. But now seeing yet ANOTHER female mouse visiting (E-flat) — and unwilling to believe AM’s sibling explanation — #83 says she’s through with Aspie Mouse, and vows to seek another place to live where she can start over again. There’s a lot to unpack on the last page (G36). One thread left hanging: won’t the next door mice start flooding in to replace Aspie Mouse if all holes aren’t patched up (especially since new people are moving in next door — with multiple cats? Also, as in Chapter B when the students all graduate, notice that AM — as a true Aspie — isn’t much for long goodbye’s or hello’s. “Great, you’re here; oops, you’re leaving; oh well, I’ll see you again some day or I won’t.” Implied message (though AM speaks it aloud). I care more about things than people.”
Questions for Thought/ Discussion: Ch. G, ” Parade of Visitors: Feline, Canine, Humine & Rodentine”
G 1: Six human characters are featured in this chapter: Mom & Dad Coppola; Bobby & Claire, Mr. K, the Exterminator; and DeShawn (D-S).
- Which of these human characters do you identify with the most? Do you identify more with that character’s good traits or the character’s flaws?
- What do you think of Mrs. Coppola’s being more gracious to strangers (cleaning up for Mr. K’s visit; offering DeShawn a drink) and to animals than to her husband Tom and son Bobby? Does this remind you of anyone in your own family or the family of a friend or cousin?
- Why do you think Mrs. Coppola so readily agreed to Aspie Mouse’s suggestion, as repeated by Bobby, on how to “punish” the Exterminator, even though it’ll cost her time (to supervise him) and she’s not thrilled with the idea of getting rid of the rats next door to “save” the mice (per the prior Chapter F)?
- Why do you think Mrs. Coppola seems so eager to get rid of all furry animals from her house, before finding out from an allergist if Claire is indeed allergic to animal fur? And then, at the end of the chapter, why does she insist on it, not waiting for what Mr. Coppola thinks?
- What makes the exchange between Bobby and the Exterminator on page 5 obvious that Bobby is on the Autism Spectrum? How do you think a Neurotypical Middle School student might act instead?
- Following up from #5: When do you speak as frankly as Bobby does to the Exterminator? When do you hold your tongue? What are the consequences you’ve experienced either way? Also see Q G 7-1.
G 2: On page G4, Aspie Mouse and Bobby take turns noticing the other’s feelings, but say each has trouble knowing what he feels.
- Do you have trouble identifying your feelings — happiness, sadness, fear/ anxiety, anger, and shame? Good at some, not so good with some others?
- Do you have equal trouble, more trouble or less trouble identifying the feelings of others than you do for your own? Do you more easily identify the feelings of those whose brain functions more like yours than you do for those whose brains work differently?
- Does your ability to identify your feelings get better, worse or stay the same when you are under greater stress or the pressure of a deadline? How about your ability to notice and identify the feelings of others?
- Where do you feel different feelings in your body? Where do you feel anger? Shame? Sadness? Fear or anxiety? Joy or happiness? Does that seem like a strange question to ask, as you don’t really notice the body responding to feelings as it does to “sensations” (light, sound, touch)?
- How in touch with your body are you? Do you often not pay attention to some body signals, or delay your response — such as hunger, needing to go to the bathroom, heat or cold, even pain?
- If you’re on the Autism Spectrum, which of the following outside sensations — light, sound, touch, smell or taste — do you seem to react to very strongly (positively, negatively or both), compared to people you know who aren’t identified as being on the Autism Spectrum?
G 3: Sibling issues have been raised in prior chapters. Certainly Aspie Mouse and his brother (now “Prince” D2) present quite a contrast for brothers.
- In this chapter, in what ways does D2 act like an older brother? Identify insults D2 gives to AM. Identify insults AM gives to D2. If you have one or more siblings, are these insults familiar? Which “insults D2 directs to AM relate to AM’s Autism?
- If you’re insulted by a sibling for a trait related directly to your Autism (or if you don’t have Autism, are you familiar with someone with Autism getting insults related to their Autism), do those insults sting more than other insults that are either general (something anyone might be called) or relate to traits not related to a difference/ disability?
- Assuming both brothers were equally healthy, which brother would you prefer being? Why?
- Who do you think is “more right”: D2 insisting his name choice of “the first of the DR’s 2” be respected, or Aspie Mouse instead calling him the “second half of R2/D2”?
- Aspie Mouse says he’d do “anything” for his blood brother, but he seems unsure about D2’s request to take parts of AM’s blood. Why is he unsure, and what allows him to go ahead with it?
- Later when Hashtag visits Aspie Mouse, AM calls his brother a “blood sucker.” What do you think AM is feeling in that moment?
- Of the five mice in this chapter (Aspie Mouse, D2, #83, Hashtag & E-flat), who do you think is the smartest? The most generous? The most talented? The most self-centered? Or do you not want to compare them in that way?
G 4: DeShawn and Emma visit after walking quite a distance.
a. Why do you think DeShawn just so happened to walk to Bobby’s house and stop to rest there? Might Emma being with him have anything to do with it?
b. Why do you think DeShawn was all set to refuse the ride offer from Mr. Coppola, but then accepted? Do you think DeShawn is as polite at home as he is when he visits the Coppola’s?
c. Now that you know the “rest of the story,” what was Aspie Mouse’s influence on the Jean family? How was it positive? In what ways might it have been negative? And how has the positive influence on the Jean family had a further positive influence on the Coppola family?
d. Do you believe Desiree is as happy as DeShawn is that Emma is now a family pet instead of her therapy dog? Do you think Emma wishes she lived in the same home as Aspie Mouse?
e. Are Bobby’s food choice differences vs. DeShawn’s similar to your experience with unique food preferences by someone with Autism? Specifically, do you know anyone who is sensitive to the bubbles in fizzy drinks, or generally avoids eating sugary food without first eating non-sweet food to avoid getting too giddy or wild?
G 5: Aspie Mouse is visited by both #83 & Hashtag (from Chapter B).
- Who is Aspie Mouse more comfortable being with and why (at least two reasons)?
- What do you think of the conversation/ relationship that develops between #83 and Hashtag? Why is #83 jealous of Hashtag, but Hashtag is not jealous of the #83 — or do you think Hashtag is?
- What does Hashtag mean when she says, “Yes, I present as female”?
- Why does Hashtag admit Aspie Mouse IS her friend, when she wouldn’t say that in Chapter B?
- Why does AM say he prefers when Hashtag kisses him vs. when #83 kisses him?
- Hashtag isn’t sure about sexual identity or sexual attraction, and yet Aspie Mouse, who identifies as “straight (cis-gendered) male” isn’t discouraged by that. Why do you think?
- Why does Hashtag ask Aspie Mouse not to tell his brother D2 about their “sexual identity/ attraction” confusion, even while admitting it to AM — and even #83?
- Can you relate to blurting out secrets to someone you hardly know as Hashtag does with #83? Can you relate to hiding important “secret” information from bosses, teachers, parents, etc.? When is it OK to admit to a secret/ having Autism — and to whom? When is it not OK to do so?
G 6: As in other chapters, anxiety (form of fear) comes up again — as it does a lot for those with Autism.
- What, if anything, is the difference between “confusion” as Aspie Mouse, #83 & Hashtag use the term, and “being anxious” or “having anxiety”?
- Which of the three forms of anxiety Hashtag mentions — “fight” (saying a lot of words, or getting angry), “flight” (literally running away) or “freeze” do you experience? Or do you experience more than one, depending on the situation? What makes you more likely to freeze? To fight? To flee?
- Do you identify with Aspie Mouse when Hashtag describes “freeze” and AM says “… in that moment, I felt paralyzed”? Do you relate to a definition of “freeze” being that your body is still here, but your mind has taken “flight”?
- What methods do you use — or have been suggested to you to do — to calm down in the moment when your anxiety gets higher than usual, whichever way you respond?
- Do you have a good method for stopping yourself BEFORE you “fight” — show your anger, say a lot of words? What might work for you?
- Do you have a good method for “unfreezing”? What might you try?
G 7: KK’s return causes much upheaval in the Coppola household.
- Why is Mrs. Coppola so sure that she did the right thing by sending KK to the ASPCA? Why are Bobby, Claire and Mr. Coppola angry with Mrs. Coppola? As in Chapter D, which parent do you agree with concerning whether withholding information is lying or not?
- It is now believed that much of Autism (perhaps most) is hereditary — some ancestors had it, even if the “level” may have been different. Bobby has Autism at what used to be known as the Asperger’s level. Which parent (Tom or Gloria) do you suspect may have Autism — or neither or both? What evidence do you see in Ch.’s C-G that support your suspicion?
- What beliefs that Hashtag has about the world get shattered by KK? Is like a religion to Hashtag — why or why not? What beliefs of yours from your family have changed by getting new information during your life — in school, from friends, from news reports, etc.? What beliefs have not changed in your family, even with new information?
- In this chapter, Bobby tells his Dad what REALLY happened to KK at the end of Ch. F by saying, “If Ma didn’t get KK this morning, they’d have gassed her dead.” That’s much stronger language than “put to sleep” that Bobby uses earlier. Which do you tend to do — tone down or be blunt/ raw in describing something graphic that happens? What have been the consequences on you or others who use such direct language? Which do you wish were more common by others in your life — being direct or indirect to describe things like death, using the toilet, vomiting, etc.?
- One characteristic common to those with Autism is not looking others in the eye. That’s clearly true all the time for AM and Bobby; it’s not apparent with some other characters with Autism. Identify a character in Chapter G who usually looks others in the eye, but doesn’t when particularly anxious.
G 8: When Brilli shows up, KK and Aspie Mouse shift away from playing to deal with Brilli.
- What does Brilli say to KK that makes KK believe she can trick Brilli, despite Brilli’s ability to read KK’s thoughts as well as KK can read Brilli’s thoughts?
- What’s your reaction to Brilli’s comments to KK concerning KK’s limitations — different abilities — unless she shared the same limitation (both having been spayed)?
- In the rest of this graphic novel, Aspie Mouse seems to have no fear about playing with cats. But in this chapter, when Brilli comes back, AM freezes in fear. What’s different this time? Does it affect his future attitude toward cats (maybe come back and answer this question after finishing Chapter I)?
- As was asked about what the Exterminator said to the Coppola’s in Ch. D, is KK withholding information from Brilli lying? When have you “withheld” information and been accused of lying? What’s your truth? When have others “withheld” information from you? Were they lying?
- Brilli says KK was betraying her when she twice was “clumsy” when Brilli almost caught Aspie Mouse. Was it betrayal — or heroic? Does it depend on whose point of view it is?
- When someone is more powerful — and is behaving as a bully — threatens someone less powerful, is it “right” for the less powerful one to use trickery? What if both individuals are equally powerful?
- Continuing from G 8 4: What if one of the individuals believes in a “code of honor” (if you disrespect me, I must get revenge) and won’t accept any type of apology or “reconciliation” from the other (who wants to make peace vs. getting revenge)?
- Why do you think Brilli listened to what Mr. Nakamura’s voice in her head said, whether it helped what she wanted to do or it meant risking her own life in favor of a “betrayer”?
- Brilli is “differently abled,” but even though she can read the thoughts of other “differently abled” characters in this graphic novel, why is she NOT in the same overall category — Social Pragmatic Differences — as Autism, AD(H)D, OCD, Bi-polar, etc.? Can you identify diagnoses within that other category — Cluster B Personality Disorders, such as psychopath, sociopath, extreme narcisism — and pick one that fits Brilli? Have you encountered someone in your life that might show such traits (amoral, doesn’t care about others’ suffering, only worried about being caught)? How would you handle such a person?
- What do you think of KK’s continuing to look on the bright side of things — and saying/ believing things will still work out eventually, and she and those who read her thoughts will get together again?
G 9: Just as KK and Brilli are confronting each other in the street, Aspie Mouse’s sister E (now E-flat) arrives.
- Can you relate to being distracted, as Aspie Mouse is, when he’s about to tell KK what Brilli’s “trick” is, and suddenly E-flat calls his name? Is getting distracted, especially in social situations, a problem for you? What percent of “Aspie’s” do you think also have ADD or ADHD?
- Can you relate to Aspie Mouse “freezing” when the noises really get loud — car screeching, horn honking, Mrs. Coppola shrieking? What sensory issues do you have — noise, lights (fluorescent?), smells, taste, touch? (This is also asked in other chapters?)
- Why do you think #83 is unwilling to believe that E flat is AM’s sister? And when she leaves, AM isn’t frozen, but doesn’t really try to stop her — why not, do you think?
- In the middle panel on the last page, we learn from Bobby and Mrs. Coppola that all furry animals will be gone. However, what’s left unsaid is why that won’t stay that way — why? — unless something is done. What? Hint: a couple of pages before, we learn something that will make AM & KK’s leaving very tempting for others to replace them.
- When Aspie Mouse tells E-flat that he’d rather be curious about things than people, can you relate? If you are curious about people, do you seek patterns? Do you try to “categorize” people, and do others complain if you do?
- Does Aspie Mouse’s explanation for why he doesn’t make a big deal about leaving a good friend — even not knowing when or if they’ll get together again — make sense to you? Are you like that — immediately going on to something else when somebody is ready to leave? Are you puzzled if/ when others seem upset when you or (other) Aspie’s do this?
- E-flat seems just as puzzled by KK’s ability to “talk to her via thoughts” as Hashtag was. She seems even more puzzled by KK’s confidence that they will meet again. Do you think KK really believes this, or can predict the future, or just wants to build up her own and others’ morale? Also, is KK as sure as she sounds that she’ll be going to a good home?
G 10: Per Question A 7: a list of common Autism traits, followed by two questions related to them:
- No eye contact
- Sensory sensitivity: noise, certain lights, smells & touch
- Voice Volume, Repetition & Variability
- Stimming (repetitive body or hand movements)
- Anxiety (fear) in social situations
- Executive Function easily overwhelmed > meltdown responses of fight, flight or freeze
- Over-sensitivity: over-reaction or no visible reaction (mistaken as not caring)
- Love routine/ dislike change and transitions
- Pattern-seeking/ solving problems in unique ways
- Special Interest(s) that can lead to unique expertise
- Lack of Social Understanding
- Honesty, innocence, naivete
- Can’t remember names or faces, read body language etc.
- Not Showing or Over-showing Feelings
- Extreme thoughts swirl around inside, unrestrained by social norms.
- Talk too much/ ask too many questions or avoid attention (silence, don’t ask Q’s)
- Difficulty getting & keeping friends, relationships & jobs
- Difficulty feeling safe, really trusting others
- Don’t Understand Jokes or Overdo “Puns”
- Sharing one’s diagnosis — should I or not? When & where?
a. Which of these characteristics can you identify that Aspie Mouse or another Autistic rodent or human character exhibits in this chapter — either negative or positive? How about a non-autistic character? Feel free to skip any characteristic already answered in chapter-specific questions above.
b. Do you find examples in this chapter of cats or other non-rodent animals acting Autistic? If yes, how?
Thanks Chris! Great work here.