Here are two recent neurodiversity titles from Jessica Kingsley Publishers – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review.
I’m Not Upside Down, I’m Downside Up
Harry Thompson and Danielle Jata-Hall, illustrated by Mollie Sherwin
In this slim but hugely informative book we meet Ariana; PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) is what I am she says. This is a form of autism and the girl narrator gives readers an insight into her mind explaining why the feeling she has that she must be in control all the time can look as though she’s just badly behaved.
School is challenging as she feels it takes away her freedom to be her true self. Assuredly Ariana’s behaviour is often unpredictable but she’s also creative, witty and clever: ‘I want to tackle the big questions of life …what happened before the big bang’ is indicative of her preference for big talk as opposed to small talk – the everyday natter other people often use.
I wish I’d been able to read this when several years ago I had a little boy in my nursery class. who had a PDA diagnosis and like Ariana, his behaviour was unpredictable. I’ll never forget one story time he took himself off into the cloakroom and there he remained singing Rod Stewart songs until it was time to go home.
All About Dyspraxia
As with her All Cats Are on the Autism Spectrum, Kathy Hoopmann uses superb colour photos
of animals paired with a direct text (plus occasional thinks and speech bubbles) to show children how dyspraxia isn’t all about being clumsy. Along with other neurodiverse people, those with dyspraxia have brains that are wired differently from others.
This means we learn, that a child with dyspraxia might become adept at avoiding activities if they fear they might fall but with encouragement and time, with the activity or instructions broken down and lots of practice, they often manage a lot better. It’s good to allow plenty of time to learn a task or grasp new ideas,
and to celebrate achievements: reading for example is tiring and the text may well become blurred.
Did you know that movement often facilitates listening for a dyspraxia learner and for those who find writing especially challenging, a keyboard can make life much easier.
Rather than making a child with dyspraxia anxious by saying that they are lazy, not trying hard, not listening or whatever, it’s important for adults – parents, teachers or other educators – to appreciate how hard they work, how clever they really are, to celebrate their creativity, their unusual ways of solving problems, their determination and successes.
A book to have in school collections, both to show educators and classmates ways to be understanding and supportive, and to lend to parents with a child recently diagnosed with dyspraxia.