The Panda on PDA / The Red Beast

The Panda on PDA
Gloria Dura-Vilà , illustrated by Rebecca Tatternorth
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Explaining autism and especially PDA through the lens of ursine characters is an ingenious, highly accessible, child-friendly way of doing so. Both the strengths and the challenges of PDA are explained by the Panda narrator and co-author of the book, a positive, charming and honest character. who also offers some things that might be helpful to turn a potentially bad day into a good one, (Keeping calm is key to remaining in control, we learn.)
Underscoring the idea that each Panda and thus child, is unique, are opportunities to personalise the narrative helping to make this such an affirmative book.

With her wealth of experience, Gloria Dura-Vilà is a passionate advocate for neurodiversity and her enthusiasm is apparent on every page of this book; and Rebecca Tatternorth’s illustrations are a delight as they bring her main character to life.

Maybe though, the real show-stealers are the Pandas depicted on both front and back endpapers; these were drawn by children with Pathological Demand Avoidance, their siblings and friends.

Altogether a super resource: I strongly recommend it to any parent with a PDA child, other family members, all teachers and professionals who support such children, and indeed anybody who seeks to understand PDA. Read the book and join the Panda tribe (or see things from a Panda’s perspective) is the message.

The Red Beast
K.I. Al-Ghani, illustrated by Haitham Al-Ghani
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The main aim of this book – now in a new edition – is to help children who are neurodivergent to cope with and process their anger. It could however also work well with any child that has occasional outbursts of uncontrollable anger. But first they have to acknowledge this emotion, the ’red beast’ that lurks deep inside us all, dormant until something happens to awaken it. Said beast then starts to grow and grow and grow until it can’t be contained and out pour those hurtful words, “I hate you! I hate you!” accompanied by spiteful actions such as kicking, biting, swearing and spitting.

The story here is one of Danni and what happens when the Red Beast within him is accidentally woken up when a ball kicked by somebody in the playground hits him in the stomach. Despite Charlie’s apologies, the Red Beast rages alarmingly at him, 

until a teacher arrives on the scene to remove Danni from the situation. 

Once inside Danni is calmly given a stress ball to help diffuse his anger. Little by little with slow deep breathing and squeezes of the ball, Danni’s Red Beast grows smaller and sleepier until it’s fast asleep. Danni is then given cool water to drink, followed by some bubble wrap to pop and it’s not long before he’s ready to return to class where he apologises to an understanding, non-judgemental Charlie. Thereafter Danni knows what to do should that Red Beast reawaken.

Further helpful calming strategies are listed after the story. It’s good to see that the overarching idea in this accessible story is to deem the behaviour negative rather than the child. That is one all adults should remember to adopt when dealing with youngsters both at school and at home, so this is a helpful book for any primary school collection.

ADHD, Tics and Me!

ADHD, Tics and Me!
Susan Ozer & Inyang Takon, illustrated by Sophie Kennedy
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

In this slim paperback we meet Jamie. Jamie is almost ten and he has ADHD and also a tic disorder called Tourette Syndrome. He talks directly to young readers about living with both of these conditions in a chatty narrative that is divided into two parts.

In the first ‘Meet Jamie’ the boy provides straightforward information about himself including his likes and dislikes, introduces his family members, and talks about how he was diagnosed.. In addition we hear how it is not always easy to tell whether those fidgety bouts he’s prone to are on account of having ADHD, tics, or both; and we learn that he is a member of an after school club called the ‘Tic Club’. As the young narrator takes readers through the first section, he offers several interactive activities for reader participation including, ‘Tell me about your happiest/ your scariest places.’ He also shares how he has learnt to relieve his ADHD symptoms, keep his tics to a minimum, and how friends and adults (including teachers) can help both at school and at home.

In part two Jamie explains the key role his Grandfather played in encouraging him to learn more about his tics. We hear how, thanks to a clever project with a competitive element, he and his fellow members of the Tic Club learn about each other by sharing their experiences of ADHD and tics at school and at home. We also meet some of Jamie’s friends who participated in this question and answer activity.
By encouraging youngsters to think about their own lives, the authors help readers like Jamie to understand that they aren’t defined by the label that comes with a diagnosis, a definite boost for self esteem – as well as showing others how to take a positive approach.

Whether or not a primary class has a child similar to Jamie on roll, this is a book that should be available in schools for both children and adults, offering as it does a good starting point for discussion.

The Amazing Autism Brain Cards

The Amazing Autism Brain Cards
Glòria Durâ-Vilà, illustrated by Rebecca Tatternorth
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can be the most effective and so it is with this set of cards that offer an excellent resource for those who live or work with children/ young people who have recently received an autism diagnosis.

In the pack there are 150 laminated cards and an explanatory booklet explaining their purpose and offering words of wisdom about how to use them and with whom, (it could be with an individual or within a group) plus ideas, advice (choosing one’s words carefully, for example), and quotes from children themselves.

The cards are divided into two sets, one blue and the other yellow and each set also has some blanks for personalisation.

The yellow set are the ‘I am’ ones – those showing a strength – ‘fair and just’, ‘a good friend’, ‘observant’, ‘determined’ and ‘good at science’ for example.

The blue set are the ‘challenges’. They might refer to something sensory such as ‘Being cuddled’ or ‘Recognising feelings of hunger or thirst’; or related to the emotions ‘Showing my true feelings’ for instance, or seeing the big picture – ‘working towards a goal’, or perhaps ‘Knowing how to behave in different situations’.

In having the opportunity to choose those cards they feel relate to them, the young person feels in control and is helped to get a personalised picture – a celebration of how their autism looks.

The Everyday Autism Handbook for Schools

The Everyday Autism Handbook for Schools
Claire Droney and Annelies Verbiest
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The authors of this excellent book draw on almost forty years experience of working with neurodiverse pupils in a variety of settings. Linking theory and practice it’s a must-have, extremely readable resource for all teachers and others working with children with autism, in both mainstream primary and special schools.

Within in the six main sections or themes there are over sixty ‘guides’, encompassing associated practical activities, techniques and case studies; all anchored in evidence-based practice.

The first part comprises two important short guides on understanding autism – a kind of ‘what you need to know’ and it was especially good to find the authors stressing the importance of a focus on children’s strengths and on using positive language at all times.

It’s crucial to develop an inclusive and collaborative whole school community and this is covered in the next two sections.

Most importantly, by following the guidance herein, practitioners are likely to be able to guide the children they work with towards reaching their full potential. Whether you are looking for help on lesson plans, communicating with parents, or strategies to help youngsters cope with anxiety or stress, you’ll find it and much, much more herein.

I’d like to think that every primary teacher could find the time to read right through this book but I suspect that particularly during the current covid times which are causing increased stress to pretty much every member of a school’s staff, that’s unlikely to happen. However this is a book that works as a ‘dip in and out’ read too, and equally could also form the basis of a series of staff inset sessions.
How ever you decide to use it, if you are responsible for buying books for your primary school staff, then put this one at the top of your list for 2022.

Are You Feeling Cold, Yuki?

Are You Feeling Cold, Yuki?
K.I. Al-Ghani and Haitham Al-Ghani
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This picture book is about a family of snow monkeys that live in Japan, and one young monkey, Yuki, in particular. He gets so absorbed in what he’s doing that he frequently fails to realise when his body is signalling to him that, for instance, he is cold or hungry, needs to wee or to poo. This is of great concern to his parents and sister. Things come to a head when the family go off to bathe in the hot springs in the valley, for instead of joining the others in the warm water, Yuki continues playing in the snow. His mother calls upon his grandfather to help and the following morning Yuki pays him a visit.

Step by step, over the next days, weeks and months,

Grandfather helps Yuki to understand how his brain picks up sensations and sends ‘funny feelings’ to the relevant part of his body. For instance when he’s too cold, the skin on his feet and fingers get a tingly sensation and he starts to shiver so his brain tells his body to do something to warm up. Thus, he learns to recognise as well, the meaning of “a rumbly tummy” and the sensations he feels when he needs to get rid of excess liquid or the remains of food after all the goodness has been extracted.

The problems Yuki was having were on account of his being unaware of his bodily sensations and what his Grandfather taught him was something called ‘interoception’, which scientists call the eighth sense: the perception of sensations from inside the body including the perception of physical sensations related to internal organ function such as respiration, heartbeat and fullness.

By providing a place from which to become aware, story is a great way to help neurodiverse youngsters to learn. This one written by specialist advisory teacher Kay Al-Ghani with its mixed media illustrations by her son Haitham, subtly teaches about interoception and is accessible, empathetic and gently humorous. It would make a useful resource for parents, teachers and support staff.

Have Fun With Feelings on the Autism Spectrum

Have Fun With Feelings on the Autism Spectrum
Michelle Garnett, Tony Attwood, Louise Ford, Stefanie Runham and Julia Cook
Jessica Kingsley Publishing

Young children with ASD often find it difficult to understand and control their emotions/feelings and they seldom use emotional expressions. Here’s a CBT activity book compiled by five clinical psychologists with considerable experience of working with people who have autism to help in these respects. It’s intended to be used in conjunction with another JKP publication, 10 Steps to Reducing your Child’s Anxiety on the Autism Spectrum: The CBT-Based ‘Fun with Feelings’ Parent Manual, but is a helpful publication for analysing and exploring commonly experienced feelings and emotions, in its own right.

There’s a common pattern for each feeling and the book is divided into six ‘booklets’ each introduced by a friendly funky fruit character representing a positive or negative emotion.

The first is smiling Happy Henry the Honeydew with his Emotional Toolbox of special Happy Tools. Our happy host talks about the importance of self-awareness and ‘Awareness Tool(s)’ reassuringly stating ‘Together we are going to become very smart about you, your feelings and your tools.’ There’s a thermometer for measuring different levels of happiness, followed by a page of small pictures of things that might be used on the subsequent three pages.

The text says ‘Cut out the pictures of the things that make you happy and stick them on …’ those three pages. Now this book is a high quality production and personally I wouldn’t advocate cutting it up. Rather I’d stick to the other two suggestions – to draw and search the internet for things.

The other five booklets – Sad Sally the Strawberry (who can be helped by Henry), then Worried Wanda Watermelon and Relaxed Ryan the Raspberry who can work together; and Angry Allan Apple and Loving Lulu the lemon all follow a similar pattern. Each, like Henry has a toolkit that includes a thermometer as well as a ‘We are all different page’ and a Mr Face’ to complete.

Wearing my yoga teacher hat, I was particularly drawn to Ryan and his relaxation tools, most of which I’ve used with early years and KS1 classes in general, rather than with a specific child who has autism.

This activity book could really help parents who have a young child on the autism spectrum; but equally in a nursery or KS1 setting, it could be used by a key worker/classroom assistant who has specific responsibility for a child with autism.

Forest School and Autism

Forest School and Autism
Michael James
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Let me say from the outset, wearing my early years teacher’s hat, I’m a firm believer in the benefits of Forest School for all children be they neuro-typical or with an autistic spectrum condition, so I was excited to receive this book, the first of its kind on Forest School and Autism.

The author, Michael James has a wealth of experience of Forest School and now runs his own Forest School in Somerset; his enthusiasm shines through in everything he says.

Having provided background chapters on both Forest School, its principles and practice, and autism (wherein he asserts crucially, ‘In order to offer autism-inclusive practice, you must view each autistic person as an individual.’), Michael goes on to discuss with the help of case studies, the positive impact of Forest School on health; its sensory benefits and the opportunities it can offer for the learning of new skills. Fun however, so the author asserts, is a primary objective.

Sensitivity and positive relationships lie at the heart of the whole of Forest School practice and the importance of empathy is paramount.

So too is observation, which is the biggest responsibility of all practitioners; how otherwise can effective communication between learners and practitioners (who need to be clear, sensitive and frequently literal) take place (each can learn from the other) and true developmental learning take place?

Crucial to the success of an inclusive practice is preparation – preparation at the outset of a course of sessions – coupled with on-going reflection and further preparation. A chapter is allocated to this and a summary of its key points, such as the importance of individual learning programmes, is given at the end. Indeed a useful summary of key points concludes the other chapters too.

This most definitely is a book to be recommended for all Forest School practitioners rather than only those who work with learners who have ASC. After all, our connection with nature enhances our humanity and focussing on a child’s strengths, abilities, sensory preferences and likes is beneficial to every learner.

All About Ben / The Giant from Nowhere

All About Ben
Dorothy Markham & Aileen O’Donnell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Here’s a little book for children from around five to the age of Ben, the narrator who is eight, particularly those who have attachment issues, but equally for children who have a Ben character in their lives either as a friend, member of their peer group or relation. It aims to help children like Ben understand their feelings and emotions and how these cause them to behave in certain ways; and to develop the confidence to open up to an adult who can help them manage all their different parts.

Ben introduces himself, part by part: his action parts and nine feeling parts.

He goes on to talk about and give examples of, how different situations cause him to feel different parts – when playing with friends he feels his happy part whereas falling out with a friend brings his hurt part into play;

when he helps others he feels his caring part; and it’s the combination of all these different parts that makes him who he is.

Readers are then asked about their own feeling parts to add to Ben’s lists and we learn how feeling parts affect action parts (cause and effect) – which is important for children’s self understanding.

The final pages are devoted to the crucial roles of talking and listening (including the role of a trusted adult) in the development of a secure, integrated, happy and confident person able to understand and manage his/her emotions.

Reassuring and helpful, this is a useful book to have in primary school classrooms.

The Giant from Nowhere
Frances Dickens and Peter Hughes
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

When the Giant from Nowhere sets out to find a place with some company, little does he know that his sheer size is going to cause him problems. So it is in the little village of Somewhere. Its residents are terrified when he appears in their midst, and tell him in no uncertain terms to go away. His angry response causes damage to their homes and the Giant departs.

The villagers then decide to hunt him down and put him on trial. After a newspaper report and a police search, the Giant is found and eventually a little boy succeeds in getting him to answer some questions.

A trial follows and the defendant pleads guilty. The boy speaks up for him and the judge decides on a community sentence.

To reveal what happens thereafter would spoil the ending but suffice it to say all ends happily for everybody.

This is an insiders and outsiders story that should encourage plenty of discussion on such themes as empathy, mutual understanding and inclusivity.

A class of primary children could have fun acting it out in addition to participating in some of the activities included at the back of the book.

Can I Tell You About … Auditory Processing Disorder / Forgiveness?

Can I Tell You About … Auditory Processing Disorder?
Alyson Mountjoy, illustrated by Kelly Davies
Can I Tell You About … Forgiveness?
Liz Gulliford, illustrated by Rosy Salaman
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

These are two recent additions to the excellent Can I Tell You About series aimed at primary school audiences, their families, teachers and others who work with them.

Each illustrated book has a child narrator, and in the Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) book it’s Amy who herself has the disorder. After an explanatory introduction for adults, she talks about how the condition affects her; how she got her diagnosis and how she is supported both in school and at home.

We also learn that APD isn’t the same for all those affected: one of her friends, Tom has the condition too but has different challenges to cope with. Amy’s dad also has APD but received his diagnosis after his daughter.

One of the most important things for teachers to know is the emotional strain that children like Amy are under and in addition to this being a helpful book for young readers, it’s one teachers should read too.

Amy herself ends on an upbeat note: having described both her own and Tom’s particular strengths she says, “Work hard, believe in yourself, and you can make your dreams come true too.” How adults can help a child make this so are listed in the final pages.

Forgiveness, as author Liz Gulliford states in her introduction, is a complex, frequently misunderstood concept. It’s one that she has researched for many years. Liz feels it’s important for children not to be made to apologise automatically after a dispute between classmates for instance, something that can happen in schools or between siblings at home

Here she uses Joseph as her narrator and together with his family offers a story designed to stimulate discussion on forgiveness at home and school.
Joseph talks about different scenarios – his best friend telling others something Joseph confided in him, thus breaking his trust in Billy.

He then goes on to talk of an instance when he took his sister’s ball without asking and lost it, which required not only Joelle’s forgiveness, but also self-forgiveness on his own part.

There’s also the important consideration of another of Joseph’s school friends, George who is being bullied. Perhaps forgiveness in this instance is not appropriate in case the perpetrator then goes on to bully another child. Could a degree of compassionate concern, at least from Joseph be better?

These are some of the ideas explored in this book that will certainly be a valuable resource in starting explorations of forgiveness in PSHE lessons at KS2. To this end the final pages are devoted to notes and key learning points.

Little Mole is a Whirlwind

Little Mole is a Whirlwind
Anna Llenas
Templar Books

I’ve had a Little Mole in some of the classes I’ve taught over the years: ADHD, whether or not it’s so labelled, is challenging for all involved but underneath the child who is at times making you feel deskilled is usually a youngster who is desperately trying to reach out for reassurance and help. It’s certainly the case in this new story from Anna Llenas.

With his bounding, bouncing and bellowing, Little Mole exhausts his parents.

At school he finds it almost impossible to concentrate and is constantly distracted, fiddling, fidgeting and forgetting so it’s no surprise that his classmates shun him. Sadly the little creature has all sorts of labels assigned to him.

His teacher is at the end of her tether; try as she might, she just can’t help Little Mole to focus.

A note goes home asking for a parental conference but almost simultaneously a newspaper is delivered advertising the services of ‘Serena the Forest Bunny’ offering ‘creative learning for wonderful children’. Could this be the answer?

Little Mole’s parents take him to meet Serena who thinks she might be able to help.

The following day Little Mole tells her about his worries regarding his end-of-year project, about his inability to stay focussed and his lack of friends.

In response Serena takes him to a room filled with creative materials and gives Little Mole free rein. At first he’s over-excited and soon chaos reigns.

Serena remains calm and supportive both then and on subsequent visits as they play, cook …

and even stargaze. Most importantly though, they talk, and gradually over the course of several months his concentration span increases.
Serena helps her pupil discover what he really likes to do and with her reassurance that he’s wonderful just the way he is, Little Mole is ready to work on that end-of-year project.

Come the last day of term his teacher has a wonderful surprise when it comes to project showing time. Little Mole has finally found his passion and his outlook on the world is completely changed.

Anna Llenas understands all this so well and her story, with her trademark collage style illustrations, portrays Little Mole as a thoroughly likeable character deserving of the tolerance and understanding shown by Serena.

Roxy the Raccoon / Carlos the Chameleon / Molly the Mole / Vincent the Vixen

Roxy the Racoon
Molly the Mole
Carlos the Chameleon
Vincent the Vixen

Alice Reeves and Phoebe Kirk
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Roxy the Racoon introduces a physically challenged racoon living in the forest along with her three friends. Needing a wheelchair means that she can’t always do the same things as her pals. Visiting Brad Beaver in his dam is impossible as is playing football with Sammy and the other squirrels. Climbing the tree to call on Cherry Chipmunk is also too much of a challenge.
However after some thought each of Roxy’s friends manages to make adaptions that allow the racoon to be included in all their activities. Beaver builds a ramp, Squirrel changes the game and then the animals work together to make a hoist so that the four animals can view the sunset from the top of the tree.
The story ends with Roxy and her friends deciding to collaborate in making the whole forest an all-inclusive environment.
Part of the ‘Truth & Tails’ series this little book will help young children understand the importance of working together to remove barriers so that the differently abled can always be included. It’s a good starting point for discussion whether at home or in a classroom. To that end the author has included circle time suggestions at the end of the story.

Lack of self-confidence and feeling the need to be the same as the peer group is something that troubles many children and so it is with Carlos the Chameleon.
Herein we discover that Carlos is in the habit of changing his colour from his own bright green to that of which ever of his animal friends he wants to fit in with at any particular time. One day however when the animals discover what he’s been doing, they assure him that looking different isn’t a barrier to being friends: it’s what he is on the inside that matters. At last Carlos is free to be himself – kind, caring and a beautiful shade of green.
Molly the Mole too suffers from low self-esteem and despite being a very helpful friend she is constantly comparing herself with the other animals rather than being happy and celebrating what she has to offer. Thankfully though her friends help her to come to understand that everyone is unique and that she should believe in herself.

Vincent the Vixen introduces the tricky and complex topic of gender identity.
As is the case with Roxy the Racoon, after each story, author Alice Reeves includes helpful circle discussion points, and follow-up resources.

A useful set of books to have in a teachers’ library available to all primary school staff.

I Don’t Like Reading

I Don’t Like Reading
Lisabeth Emlyn Clark
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Meet Harry: he likes lots of different things – drawing dinosaurs, playing football, climbing trees and playing with his friend, Tom; but if there’s one thing Harry doesn’t like, it’s reading. In fact he hates it. The words tend to make him feel dizzy; they might look so tiny he can barely see them, or huge and blurry.
Reading for Harry is total frustration and it’s worse because his little sister is always asking him to read to her.
Worst of all though, is having to read aloud at school. The mere thought of it gives him tummy ache so nervous is he.
One night though, he tells his mum how he feels.

She speaks to his teacher and from then on, with a team of helpers including the special needs coordinator and an educational psychologist, together with some aids such as coloured acetate, and Harry’s own willingness to try hard, he realises that he can read and keep on improving.
‘Harry is a very clever young boy with a dyslexic profile,’ explains the letter his mum receives a few weeks later.
And then, gradually, read he does, especially to his sister.
Written by someone who was diagnosed with dyslexia in her late teens, this illustrated story, with its strategic use of different fonts gives a taster of what reading is like for Harry and perhaps for others with dyslexia. Harry however was lucky in that his issues were dealt with relatively quickly: not everyone is that fortunate. Children who have reading problems, whether or not they have a dyslexia diagnosis shouldn’t beat themselves up about it; rather they need to treat themselves kindly and not be afraid of asking for help; this little book will, I hope, help them do just that.
All our brains are different: we all need to follow different paths to become readers.

It’s Raining and I’m Okay / Remembering Lucy

It’s Raining and I’m Okay
Adele Devine and Quentin Devine
Jessica Kingsley Publishing

Children with autism frequently show distress when unexpected changes are made to their routines. Now here’s a little book with bold, uncluttered illustrations to help such youngsters feel less anxious particularly when out and about.
The text takes the form of a little girl’s first person rhyming narrative wherein she tells how she uses focused breathing and other techniques to help her through such experiences as waiting in a long queue, going into a crowded café with challenges including spilling her drink and worrying about the consequences, an over-chatty adult and a noisy hand-dryer.

At the back of the book are details of additional resources that can be downloaded to further support emotional literacy.
Particularly useful with ASD children; but the focused breathing technique is helpful for all anxiety-prone youngsters.

Remembering Lucy
Sarah Helton and Anna Novy
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Coping with the death of a classmate is extremely difficult whether or not a child has special needs, but often children attending a SEND school find a bereavement can be confusing and sometimes, overwhelming.
In this story young Joe talks about his particular school and friends; and in particular the death of his friend Lucy: what it meant for him and his classmates and how he coped.
Remembering is his key, for Joe tells how photographs and talking help him bring to mind the good times especially; times shared in messy painting or dressing up for instance. ‘As time goes by’ he says, ‘you will be able to think of the fun and happy times … rather than just feeling sad they are no longer there. … remembering her makes me smile.

The final seven pages are a user’s guide aimed at adults and contain lots of helpful suggestions for what to do whilst reading the book and afterwards, not only immediately afterwards but in the longer term for as the authors remind us ‘… supporting children with loss and grief isn’t a one-off event… children will re-grieve at different points in their lives … Our support needs to be ongoing.’
A down-to-earth, sensitively written and illustrated book to have on the shelves of any school where there are SEND pupils.

A New Day / Robin and the White Rabbit

Here are two recently published books from Jessica Kingsley Publishers that will be of particular interest to those working with children or young adults who have additional needs:

A New Day
Fiona McDonald
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Talking about losing a loved one can be difficult: this little book offers a good starting point for opening up a discussion for young children and those with PMLD.
Following the death of Grey Mouse, Brown Mouse feels so sad she stays in bed. The other mice try to help, bringing tea and cake, a story …

and a comforting blanket but Brown Mouse says no to them all: she just wants to sleep – all day. Come evening though, she wakes up and joins the other mice in the kitchen.
There they all share their memories of their beloved Grey Mouse and thereafter, things begin to look just a little brighter.
Simply told and illustrated with line drawings, this could be a useful resource for adults looking for something to use with those needing help in coming to terms with the loss of a loved one.

Robin and the White Rabbit
Emma Lindström and Åse Brunnström
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Children with autism have powerful feelings but often can’t find a way to express how they feel. Now here’s a book that offers those who work with ASD youngsters a means of helping them.
Many of those who work with ASD children will be familiar with the use of pictorial symbols to facilitate communication but this picture book deals specifically with helping youngsters understand and express their feelings.
The story centres on young Robin, who acts as narrator, and a white rabbit. It’s playtime and Robin sits alone in the playground under a tree. Her head is buzzing with feelings but she has no way to express them. Her sadness is palpable.

Enter a white rabbit who sees the child, disappears and returns with a blue bag full of picture cards.
Using these, the animal offers the girl or boy (it matters not) a way to access her feelings: a means of self-discovery through visual communication via the pictures on the cards:

a way that ultimately allows the narrator to begin to feel part of the group.
Emma Lindström and Åse Brunnström offer a very useful and empowering tool that can be used in school or at home; there’s no judgement involved; and the final explanatory pages speak directly to the listener (via Robin) and the reader aloud (via the book’s creators, Emma and Åse).

Mouse’s Big Day / All Birds Have Anxiety / Mouse and the Storm

Mouse’s Big Day
Lydia Monks
Macmillan Children’s Books
Mouse is going to school for the very first time and even before leaving home, she’s decided it’s not for her. Her dawdling tactics don’t work, nor does her “I don’t want to” response to all Mummy mouse’s encouraging remarks; finally she’s left at Twit Twoo School in the safe hands of teacher, Miss Hoot.

She has an exciting project for her class: “… go out and find something. Something special. Maybe something only you can find.
Mouse reluctantly joins her classmates all of whom thoroughly enjoy rummaging, upturning rocks, digging and pond peering, although she’s too shy to be anything but an onlooker. While the others are busy contemplating their findings …

Mouse vanishes. Miss Hoot knows just where to look for her though, and eventually a kindly paw proffered by Mole encourages Mouse to emerge from her hiding place and follow the others back indoors.
There she makes a series of discoveries that ultimately lead her to a very important realisation. School is an exciting place after all and she cannot wait for tomorrow.
Populated by adorable animal characters, Mouse’s school is an inviting place and Lydia Monks’ heart-warming story of her first day gets right to the heart of how the less outgoing among 4 year olds are likely to feel on their ‘Big Day’. This is just right to share with a nursery and preschool groups, or individuals, in the lead up to starting school.
Further reassurance about coping with tricky situations comes in:

All Birds Have Anxiety
Kathy Hoopman
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Statistics show that more and more children have anxiety problems, often starting at a young age. I’ve talked about educational issues that I feel are to a large degree responsible in other reviews so will just say that here is a photographic picture book that will help children of all ages better understand the condition.
By populating it with birds of all kinds with appealing faces,

and in amusing poses,

the author gives a serious topic just the right degree of lightness and gentle humour.
Anxiety in all its forms is discussed including how stress can effect everyday activities – ‘Everyday jobs, like combing hair, changing clothes or making decisions are too much to think about ’; its possible causes – ‘it often runs in families’; how to deal with it: ‘Being with those who listen to us and accept us makes a world of difference.’ and ‘Exercise, plenty of sunshine and a healthy diet are all a huge help.’ for instance.
Unthreatening, fun and enormously helpful for children of all ages, whether they suffer from anxiety or just want to understand it better in others.
For educators and those they have dealings with, be that in school, at home or in another setting.
Anxiety prone youngsters will benefit from some therapeutic reflexology as in:

Mouse and the Storm
Susan Quayle, illustrated by Melissa Muldoon
Singing Dragon
Reflexologist, complementary therapist and developer of The Children’s Reflexology Programme follows The Mouse’s House with a third story intended, this time for reflexology on a child’s hands.
Using Mouse and the five other animal characters to represent reflex areas of the hand, Quayle weaves a charming rhyming story to accompany the sessions of hand reflexology. It’s especially designed for use with young children, in particular those who have anxieties be they associated with ASD, new experiences, or another condition where calming treatments are required.
With hand instructions at the top of each left hand page and a charmingly quirky illustration on the right, adults can read the story of what happens when the animals awake to discover a storm scattered them far from the comfort of their own homes

while applying the gentle movements to the young recipient’s hands.
Since no prior reflexology experience is needed, this is a book for any parent of an anxious young child to add to the family bookshelf.

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Secret, Secret & Mouse’s Best Day Ever


Secret, Secret
Daisy Law
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
In this rhyming contemplation of secrets of all kinds, the child narrator takes readers and listeners through many different kinds of situations and secrets that children may experience. Having worked in various roles in education for over thirty years (and had children disclose to me) I know and appreciate just how difficult it may be for some children, in certain situations to have the confidence to open up and talk about certain things that are troubling them.
Subtle in its approach, this little book explores – with child and floppy bunny creature friends –


a variety of secrets be they sad, happy, crazy, new, old …


quiet, loud, the really scary, make your insides stone-cold kind, or these …


To keep or tell, that is the question when it comes to secrets.
All children need to develop emotional intelligence: this book is a very helpful tool to use to this end; it deserves a place in primary classrooms, children’s centres, in fact anywhere that children are cared for and their well-being of vital importance.
One splendid way to help a stressed child is through reflexology and here is a picture book that embodies some basic techniques in the pursuit of well-being:


Mouse’s Best Day Ever
Susan Quayle and Melissa Muldoon
Singing Dragon
The book features half a dozen characters: main protagonist Mouse (representing the solar plexus reflex point),


together with Hare, (representing lungs and chest reflexes), Otter (representing the lymphatic system), Squirrel (head, sinus, teeth, eyes and ear reflexes), Mole (reflexes of the digestive system) and Snake who represents the nervous system, back and spine reflexes. Told through a gentle rhyming text, and pen and ink illustrations,


the story is designed to accompany a sequence of reflexology moves aimed at calming a child’s peevish mind and thus helping to improve general health. At the same time it facilitates the cementing of a bond between child and adult, soothing a youngster at bedtime, when stressed or unwell. Additionally it might be used to re-inforce names of parts of the feet and legs; and to help children begin to understand the interconnectedness of various parts of their bodies. (The latter is something mentioned in the foreword by Spiros Dimitrakoulas, Chair of Reflexology in Europe Network.)
Instructions are given on how to use the book at the beginning, and instructions for each reflexology move is given at the top of each verso page throughout the story.

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Not Today, Celeste!


Not Today, Celeste!
Liza Stevens
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This story, told through a dog narrator, Celeste, explores in a very accessible manner, the subject of depression and its effects on the depressed person and others. Herein it’s Celeste’s owner Rupert who is suddenly overcome by depression. Here’s how Rupert and Celeste used to be …


One day however, when out walking together, Celeste notices a change in her owner: is it Celeste’s imagination or has Rupert really undergone a change? It looks like the latter …


Despite the fact that Rupert tries to convince himself, and Celeste, that everything is fine, they both know it isn’t. A worried Celeste does her level best to cheer up Rupert but to no avail and soon, she becomes very sad and scared. Fortunately, neighbours Lily and Henry notice the change in Celeste and the narrator tries to tell all. After that Lily helps both Celeste and Rupert to come to terms with ‘His poorly feelings’: Celeste spends some time playing next door while Lily talks to Rupert and then Lily gives some helpful coping advice to Celeste.
Eventually, Rupert does start to feel better; and safe in the knowledge that it’s not her fault, Celeste is prepared for moving on with his funny and ‘very, very brave’ human.


In itself this is a moving story; but it also presents the tricky topic of depression and how it affects others in a way (with dog as storyteller) that allows children to think about the subject matter through a narrative distancing device. The final spread is ‘A Guide for Parents, Carers and Professionals’ written by a specialist in child and adolescent mental health and emotional wellbeing outlining the important issues when talking to children who may be dealing with depression in someone they know: essentially these are that talking about it is fine; that the child or children are still loved unconditionally and not to blame; that it is OK to seek help; that there is nothing to be afraid of; that it can and will get better with treatment. All in all, a thoroughly useful book, delightfully illustrated and subtly conveyed in both words and pictures. (Don’t suffer in silence: ask for help…)

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Mr Particular & Super-Powered Ollie


Mr Particular
Jason Kirschner
Superhero he may be, but the particular superhero of Jason Kirschner’s debut picture book hasn’t been given his name without reason. Yes, he’s able to perform all manner of amazing feats such as car lifting (toy cars that is), and outrun trains – the kind you see at the zoo – and keeps strictly to his 7.30pm bedtime every single evening. (Parents, take note). He has however, a somewhat self-limiting issue: the little guy ‘liked things the way he liked them – and only the way he liked them.’ There’s an element of that in all of us but his weakness – so we’re told – is that of specifics: ketchup with all non-dessert foods, positively no humming, shirts must always be untucked, nothing with even a slight whiff of coconut about it, no squishy mud or oatmeal and anything green is a total no-no.
All these quirks do have a tendency to hinder him and his pals in their keeping the universe safe from Bad Guys mission …

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Eventually those long-suffering friends, Atomic Bear, Daring Duck and co. call an emergency meeting, the outcome of which is that Mr Particular is a group member no more; instead Dr Slimyhands -recently defected to the good guys side – takes his place.
Poor Mr Particular is devastated: surely his fate isn’t to be left at home playing with nappy-filling SUPERPOOPER.


Change is needed … and boy does our hero try, but to no avail – old habits definitely die hard. You’ve gotta hand it to the guy though, he keeps on trying over and over …


Then suddenly an opportunity presents itself: – those very Super-Duper Group members who have just ousted him – seem rooted to the spot …

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while Atomic Bear dangles by the seat of his pants from a tree branch. He is however, suspended right above an exceedingly muddy, mega- slimy patch and there just happens to be rather a lot of small insects creating something of a buzz right alongside. Can Mr P. finally overcome those pet aversions of his and save the day, whether or not Atomic Bear is faking the whole thing?


Highly entertaining, this is told in action-packed comic-book format and is a wonderful take on sensory defensiveness and aversions. And with a few pooey touches thrown in to keep young listeners super-attentive, this one is bound to appeal especially to superhero addicts – and that’s an awful lot of youngsters – who will at the same time be absorbing messages about drawing on one’s inner strength, never saying never and only holding on to what, ultimately is of use to us. Let those super-powers shine through. And for those determined to do so and one hopes that’s everyone, then the inside covers have a show of everything for the job in hand …


Ollie and his Super Powers
Alison Knowles, illustrated by Sophie Wiltshire
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Language has tremendous power in the way it affects those around us; that we all know from recent events in the UK.
In this slim, illustrated book we meet seven year old Ollie who no longer has his brand new trainers: he’s been bullied into giving them over to two much bigger boys. Ollie’s mum is furious and he’s only told her that he’s left them at school. “You did what? … They cost a fortune, Ollie. You know I can’t afford to get you another pair. Oh Ollie, how thoughtless.” is what she says and off they both go in the car to visit the old people’s home where she works.
It’s there that one of the inmates, Mr Wilcox listens to Ollie and the whole sorry tale of how not only his trainers but other things have been taken from the lad, and about the name calling too. Mr Wilcox then suggests Ollie uses his superpowers to sort out the bullies. And thus begins the unleashing of Ollie’s amazing superpowers: Courage, Bravery, Strength and Calm among others; and with Mr Wilcox as his friend and guide, it’s not too long before Ollie


(and his team of superpowers) is ready to begin Operation Positivity …
What a good example of the importance of using positive language to encourage, and/or reinforce, positive behaviours.
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Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers!

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Isaac and his Amazing Asperger Superpowers!
Melanie Walsh
Walker Books
Isaac is one cool character – a superhero no less. However, on account of his superpowers he’s not quite like his brother or fellow pupils, some of whom call him names from time to time. Isaac has ASD sometimes called Asperger’s Syndrome. Isaac’s brain is truly awesome – it’s able to remember fascinating facts and he loves to share these with others though not everyone is eager to hear them.

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He’s full of energy but prefers solo indoor activities rather than outdoor, muddy ones. Social interaction isn’t one of Isaac’s strongest points though he loves to spend time with his pets.

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In class, Isaac has his special toy to help him stay calm and focused. He takes what people say literally; he just doesn’t get figurative language but his ears are hypersensitive and this can upset him.

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So can looking into people’s eyes but his dad has taught him a special coping strategy for face to face encounters.
Isaac’s straightforward first person narrative allows him to tell young readers just how it is for him in a way that is accessible to young children, many of whom are likely to encounter someone with an ASD in their own school. His upbeat voice keeps the tone light and the focus is on the positive aspects of his condition though it doesn’t avoid its challenges. Melanie Walsh beautifully portrays the various aspects of Asperger’s that Isaac talks about in her bold, uncluttered illustrations.
This book is a must for all early years settings and younger primary classes and all power to Walker Books for publishing it on their picture book list.

Girls with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to present the condition very differently from boys and can often slip through the net when it comes to an ASD diagnosis. However, they too have unique strengths and their differences should also be discussed and celebrated. Here’s a very useful little book that does just that:

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I am an Aspie Girl
Danuta Bulhak-Paterson and Teresa Ferguson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Here we meet Lizzie. In a first person narrative, she explains ASD from her own perspective and talks about how Aspie girls are different from boys with AS and are good at blending in with other girls though this is tiring to keep up all day at school. “It’s like being an actress, I guess where school is the stage,” she says.
Lizzie also discusses her special creative interests, her worries about making mistakes, her acute sensitivity to her own feelings. Sensory sensitivities are another challenge be they to tastes, sounds, things that touch such as particular scratchy clothes or as in Lizzie’s case, smells.

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Lizzie has a special animal friend, her dog, with whom she finds sharing her feelings easy. (This is something she has in common with many boy Aspies, as are reading people’s facial expressions and playing in a group and encountering changes.)
In addition to Lizzie’s straightforward account, sympathetically illustrated by Teresa Ferguson,  there are several very helpful pages aimed at adults who might be sharing the book with an Aspie girl. Let’s end with Lizzie’s own very positive parting words though: ‘My teacher tells me that I have a great future ahead of me, with many wonderful talents to show the world!’

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Alex and the Scary Things

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Alex and the Scary Things
Melissa Moses and Alison MacEachern
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Young Alex has experienced traumatic times in his life but he does his best not to think about them. Sometimes however, he feels overwhelmed by memories and this has an effect on his emotions. He might feel frightened but then he becomes ‘Spacey’ and, protected by his space suit, Alex mind travels far into the sky leaving his fears behind. He has another strategy too, which he calls the 5-4-3-2-1 game. This involves naming five things he can see in his classroom, four things he can feel, three he can hear, two he can smell and finally, one good thing about himself.
At other times Alex might feel anger and it’s fortunate that he’s learned a breathing technique that restores him to his more relaxed self again …

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and his teacher has also taught his class some calming yoga poses.

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When sadness overwhelms him, Alex cannot help but cry; he calls himself Puddles on such occasions and takes himself off to sit in his super-secret safe place surrounded by soft snuggly blankets.

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There are even times at school when our narrator says that for him it feels as though scary things are happening even when they aren’t: his tummy feels ‘a little tumbly’ and his brain ‘a little bumbly’. That’s the time when his Jumbles persona takes over Alex and he needs to use his wiggly dance to untumble and unbumble himself.
Scribbles – another part of Alex – takes over when he doesn’t want to talk. Instead he uses art activities to help him cope on such occasions. Most of the time though, Alex is calm, capable, curious, creative and kind; that’s when he feels truly himself, in control of all his parts but safe in the knowledge that all his different parts are there to be called upon whenever he needs them.
Alison MacEachern’s offbeat illustrations orchestrate Melissa Moses’ first person narrative keeping the overall mood light despite the serious nature of the topic.
This little book is, the publishers tell us’ ‘A Story to Help Children Who Have Experienced Something Scary’ and most of us who work with children will have dealings with some of those, sometimes perhaps unknowingly in the first instance. Indeed several of the techniques such as the breathing and yoga are appropriate for all youngsters and in fact, all children are likely to need coping strategies to draw on at one time or another; so I’d suggest all schools and children’s centres would do well to invest in a copy.

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Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap/Artistic Autistic Colouring Book

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Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap
Clay Morton, Gail Morton and Alex Merry
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
A young male narrator with autism discusses the behaviour of his friend Johnny who can at times act strangely and unpredictably. “Mom says it is because he is NT, or neurotypical. He doesn’t have autism, so his brain works differently from mine.” he explains.
Johnny also looks his pal straight in the eye, which our narrator finds unsettling, he’s not really interested in knowing everything about WW2, dinosaurs or forklift trucks. Johnny understands   the school rules, never has a meltdown and, in the school playground he’s keen to play with the other children. And all of that’s OK. His use of language is sometimes way off –

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he never seems to understand that he should say what he means; describing a maths test as “a piece of cake” well really. Despite all this our young narrator ends positively with these affirming words: “I like Johnny. I think being NT is OK.“
This cleverly constructed role reversing text is effective and it’s always good to try to see things from another person’s viewpoint. The watercolour illustrations are I suspect kept dispassionate for the benefit of those readers who have autism

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(even in the meltdown scene there doesn’t really look to be much emotion on the narrator’s face, nor in his stance) .
The final ‘Note for Parents’ endorses the call for understanding and acceptance whether their own child/children be on the autism spectrum or NT …… ‘ if your child does not have an NT kid in their life, they almost certainly will at some point. … Children with autism often find it very difficult to interact with NTs … But it is important for autistic people to understand that NTs are people too, and the fact they are different doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with them.’

One characteristic of many people on the autism spectrum is an obsessive interest in a particular topic or activity; here – created by someone who himself has Asperger’s syndrome – is just the thing for those with a creative obsession.

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Artistic Autistic Colouring Book
Peter Myers
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Amazingly these finely detailed illustrations are hand drawn in pen and ink.

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In many instances their complexity is astounding: some of that minute detail is truly awesome in its precision and beauty.

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Seahorse’s Magical Sun Sequences

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Seahorse’s Magical Sun Sequences
Michael Chissick and Sarah Peacock
Singing Dragon (JKP)
Using a variety of sea creature characters, yoga teacher Michael Chissick weaves a narrative through which the ‘Sun Salutation’ sequence is introduced, thus making it highly accessible to all primary aged children.
The Sun Salutation is a sequence of linked postures that should help children to feel confident and positive about themselves. To this end he offers four sequences, three of which have been specially modified to suit the particular needs of wheelchair users; those with autism or sensory problems; those who for one reason or anther – cerebral palsy or a temporary problem that makes it hard for them to stand up and the first, for children whose bodies are not yet sufficiently supple for the full sequence (here called the Challenging Sun Sequence).
Chissick has carefully selected sea animals to represent the various challenges children may be faced with: Toddler and Junior the Starfish Brothers, have very stiff backs so Seahorse teaches them the first “Sun Sequence” breaking it down into a cyclical sequence and reassuringly telling the brothers to go only as far as they can with the bending and stretching. This one involves some twisting the author calls “curly whirly 1’ and ‘curly whirly 2’.
Eel is a wheelchair user …

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and Starfish has a specially adapted sequence for her, which helps to make her feel included.

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Then comes Crab; he likes things to be done in a strict order but doesn’t like being with others. Seahorse knows just how to help him and allows Crab to do a version of the sequence sitting in a chair; and soon Crab too feels much happier.
Octopus, a highly competitive creature, has been badly injured (six broken legs) in a pole vaulting competition so Seahorse teaches him a Sitting Sun Salutation

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that allows even a creature in such a bad physical state to do a sequence of postures: a liberating experience for the injured character.
Finally, after several months, Seahorse encounters the Starfish Brothers again and decides they are ready for another challenge and proceeds to teach them the ‘Challenging Sun Sequence”,

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the one most adult yogis are likely to be familiar with.
Throughout the story, Seahorse is gently encouraging, explaining the benefits of what he’s teaching and in true yoga teacher fashion, never making any of the learners feel inadequate: “Do you bestYou’ll soon get the hand of it,” he tells each one in turn.
There is a straightforward ‘Guidance for teachers, Professionals and Parents’ introduction to the book. This explains Surya Namaskar simply and clearly, as well as explaining how the book can be used and the final pages give more details about the various sequences and offers a case study. And, from my viewpoint as an experienced teacher of yoga and early years teacher it’s good to see this message stated loudly and clearly: ‘children’s yoga is not about perfection in the posture’. Amen to that!
From personal experience I know that using stories when teaching yoga to young children is very effective and this beautifully illustrated book is likely to be welcomed by all of us who work to bring yoga and children together no matter what the setting.
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Blue Bottle Mystery

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Blue Bottle Mystery
Kathy Hoopmann, Rachael Smith & Mike Medaglia
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Subtitled ‘An Asperger Adventure’ this is essentially a graphic novel for primary/younger secondary age children adapted from the original fantasy story published some fifteen years ago. Herein we meet Ben who has Asperger’s syndrome and his pal Andy who doesn’t. Their discovery of a blue flask (they dig it up in the school yard) and the uncorking of same with the traditional three wishes they make, unleashes all kinds of surprising events in their lives. Ben then passes the bottle on to his teacher, Miss Browning-Lever who seems to be suffering from mood swings, in the hope it cheers her up.

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Not long after, Ben and his dad who is a widower, win a fortune on the lottery (thanks to Ben’s new pattern) – wish number one. Then Andy announces that he’s had a sudden growth spurt – school basketball team, here he comes – that’s wish number two taken care of. And number three? The boys are unable to recall what that was: surely not the blowing up of their arch enemies – or was it? Could it have been the destruction of their school perhaps?

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Suffice it to say that all ends happily albeit somewhat surprisingly but to tell would make me a story-spoiler so … let’s just say Ben gets his Asperger’s diagnosis and there’s something new for Ben’s dad too.
Assuredly this is a book that offers an explanation of aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome in a fun way making it accessible to a wide range of readers, especially those (on the spectrum or not) who have a particular passion for visuals. I have to say I was somewhat troubled by Ben’s dad having a go at him about his ‘flapping’ …

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and some of his other behaviours – thank goodness for his more understanding Gran. But I guess that is part of life for some youngsters on the spectrum.
All in all though, this is a perceptive, optimistic story that artfully weaves information relating to the condition throughout. It should find a place on the classroom shelves of all primary schools and in lower secondary libraries: those who read it will one hopes come away with a greater understanding of what it is to be ‘an aspie’. Let’s hear it for individuality and difference, and the way such characteristics can enrich the lives of us all.
You can order directly from the publishers JKP

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Tomas Loves …

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Tomas Loves …
Jude Welton and Jane Telford
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Herein we meet Tomas and his canine companion Flynn (ever present to provide support and comfort). Tomas lives with his loving parents who understand his likes and disilikes and help him cope with his autism. Mum provides him with a daily visual diary

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and ensures that as far as possible, he is forewarned of any changes in routine early in the day;  and Dad is always there to read him a goodnight story. Thus they create a calm environment wherein Tomas is able to enjoy books with repeating words …

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He loves strange-sounding names like ‘thingamybob’ or ‘flipertyjane’ and will repeat them over and over, he also loves to play with his toy trains on the track and also with tiny toys, bouncing on a trampoline, riding a horse and feeding it; and he has a special diet ‘that won’t hurt his tummy’. Sudden loud noises are one thing Tomas hates …

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and sometimes if he is feeling very stressed he might start flapping his hands
Although we are told of all the things about Tomas in particular, things that are fairly common in children who have autism, the overall impression is that he is not so different for:
Tomas loves Flynn, and his Flynn loves him too.
Tomas loves fun and friendship – just like you.
Warmly illustrated and affirming with a gentle rhyming text, this is a book for all early years and primary settings and one that offers a good way to introduce the idea of autism to young readers who haven’t come across the behaviours Tomas exhibits.
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For a slightly older audience is

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Can I Tell You about Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome?
Ruth Fidler and Phil Christie, illustrated by Jonathon Powell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This informative little handbook is narrated by Issy, an 11 year old girl with PDA (an autism spectrum condition). She shares with readers what it is like to have this condition – one that relatively little is written about in comparison with other ASDs. (Although I have taught a fair few children on the spectrum I’ve never known one with a PDA diagnosis although retrospectively I can think of at least one child who perhaps should have had one.)
We learn from Issy what makes her feel particularly anxious – “loud noises, new shoes and sitting on the smelly floor at school” and being asked to do something someone else wants them to. The latter can make her come up with rather outlandish excuses and if pushed, a long-lasting tantrum or meltdown can result. On particularly sensitive days, Issy and those like her need special consideration and help.
The last part of the book is written from an adult perspective and takes up this topic in the section ‘How other people can help’. Careful prioritisation of the issues to address, making requests in an oblique manner (‘I’d like someone to help me with this task’, rather than ‘do this’, flexibility of approach, anxiety reduction and support with friendship making/maintaining are some of the topics discussed.
For me, what is particularly good about this useful resource is its positive approach to the topic.

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Asanas for Autism and Special Needs

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Asanas for Autism and Special Needs
Shawnee Thornton Hardy
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This excellent handbook, subtitled ‘Yoga to help Children with their Emotions, Self-Regulation and Body Awareness’ is written by a teacher in special education who is also a yoga practitioner and teacher.
The author states clearly the case for, and benefits of, using yoga with children who have special/additional needs. However what she says in her clear, accessible manner and with helpful photographs, could equally be of great benefit to all children. As a primary school teacher and yoga teacher myself, I know how beneficial yoga and pranayama are for the young. Indeed I include it in my day-to-day activities and believe all schools should include yoga as part of the curriculum.
Pranayama (breathing and breath awareness) supports children by releasing both their frustrations and difficult emotions, as well as their bodily stress and nervous tension. The author includes a number of breathing strategies including balloon (or belly) breathing, wave breath (Ujjayi), alternate nostril breathing, bee breath, lion’s breath (young children particularly enjoy these two) and many others, giving clear instructions for each.
This is followed by a longer section on the asanas or physical poses. Step-by-step instructions are given for at least 30 poses and a modified sun salutation sequence, along with the benefits of each, the type of breathing to use, the parts of the body to be aware of, what to visualize and possible modifications.
There are also some games, a chapter on chair yoga (this can be used for children in wheelchairs, as well as others in a confined space or those with poor muscle tone).
All in all, any child who learns what the author offers herein will develop greater concentration and focus, increased strength and flexibility of body and mind and become a calmer, happier person: life-long benefits any adult would wish to bestow on those in their care, whether or not they have special needs.
Highly recommended for use at home or school and in particular, for those with special needs.

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Tackling Selective Mutism

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Tackling Selective Mutism
edited by Benita Rae Smith and Alice Sluckin
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Subtitled A Guide for Professionals and Parents this book is edited by two experts who have brought together research and practice in a manner that can be useful to anyone who has dealings with a child who in certain situations (often at school) is persistently mute but uses spoken language in other situations – at home or with friends in the playground or perhaps when that individual thinks they’re not being watched by say, their teacher. Such children are said to be selectively mute (SM).
My very first teaching job was with a vertically-grouped class of 5 to 7 year olds. There was one little girl I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday. C. joined the class aged 5 and for over two years spoke to nobody in school – child or adult. Then one day in her 3rd year in the class we were having a storytime session and she suddenly burst into tears. Instinctively I asked ‘What’s wrong, C?’ “I’ve wet myself,” she said, sobbing: her first words to me. ”C. can talk,” said one of her classmates. And, from then on she began talking, not confidently always, but gradually over the rest of that year she became, not just a silent participant but, a talker in almost all classroom activities. If only I’d had the knowledge and understanding this book contains, I might have been able to support her better than I did at that time. She’s not the only girl with SM I’ve taught; there have been several, but that case was the most severe and protracted. Fortunately, since then things have moved forward:help and advice have become more readily available over the last twenty years.
Even so, there seems to have been relatively little attention paid to SM in comparison with other conditions such as autism spectrum disorders. This is certainly the most approachable and useful I have come across in that it speaks both to parents and professionals and covers a great deal that is both informative and helpful.
Many voices – those of children and young people, their families and professionals (speech and language therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, music therapists)– are included and offer a variety of perspectives. There are also, in the concluding part of the book, some powerful, touching stories from ‘Families no longer affected by SM’.
The first section deals with Current Understandings of SM; the second with related and co-morbid conditions. Herein a speech and language therapist looks at the relationship between SM and ASD; and another speech and language therapist discusses the similarities between SM and stammering.
In the third section we learn of some of the successful strategies and treatments that have been used (I particularly enjoyed the account of music therapy intervention with a 4 year old who was also learning English as an additional language in his nursery school). And there are some detailed case studies that are absorbing and particularly helpful.
The book also includes an extensive list of references and a useful resource list.
All in all, this is an important book that brings together much that is of interest to anyone who works with children and young people with SM.
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Can I Tell about Eczema/Peanut Allergy?

Can I Tell You About Eczema?
Julie Collier, illustrated by Apsley
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Can I Tell You About Peanut Allergy?
Sharon Dempsey, illustrated by Alice Blackstock
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
These two paperbacks, both told from the viewpoint of children who live with the conditions, will be a boon to anyone working with, or caring for such children and are very good staring points for discussion at home or school.
In the first, Helen (like many children I’ve taught, some of whom have really suffered badly) has Eczema. I’m alarmed to discover from the book’s foreword, that one in five children in the UK now develop the condition and this little boon of a book is written by a girl and her mother, both of whom are challenged by living with Eczema.
Helen tells readers how her skin often feels to her, red hot and terribly itchy, and how scratching temporarily relieves the itching but only causes her skin to get sorer and bleed.

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We hear of the sleepless nights, sometimes relieved by the application of cream or cool, wet bandages and how eventually, she’s learned to deal with encompassing Eczema easing routines in her daily life and even at times, how ‘life has had to be put on hold for a while whilst the severe flare-ups have been brought under control.’ Such flare-ups, we are told can cause the skin to become infected by bacteria and might need special treatment. As well as more about what can make things worse or better in the main narrative, there are additional pages about special treatments towards the end of the book.; and also information about related conditions, suggestions for further reading and some supportive organisations.
What comes across loud and clear from this excellent little book is that resilience and determination are key. Not only that of Helen herself, but also of her entire family, particularly her parents who have even made it possible for their daughter to have a dog as part of the home environment.

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The second title has Danny as narrator. He has an allergy to peanuts – another, now common condition that many of us in schools have to know about, make provision for, and deal with on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, it is one that sometimes occurs in children with Eczema. Most schools now routinely have a total ban on any products that might possibly contain peanuts (or any nuts), certainly those with known sufferers on role and would also insist on staff training on what to do in an emergency.
The foreword, written by a father of a peanut allergy sufferer, says the essence of living well with the condition is ‘awareness and understanding, vigilance about what a child eats and total avoidance of nuts.’ The latter as Danny explains, is easy enough at home (although it necessitates careful reading of food labels), but eating out and going on holiday can be more tricky: He always carries his Epipen – or adrenaline pen – with him in case of anaphylaxis (information about this is given in the narrative).

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Emergencies are rare but preparation is key.
Again, this book contains a wealth of helpful information – for parents, friends, those in schools; and like the companion title, should be read and discussed in all primary schools and nurseries.
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Shiny Things with Jasper, Smiling Hearts with Lisa & Ted

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Jasper and the Magpie
Dan Mayfield, illustrated by Alex Merry
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Like many on the autism spectrum, young Jasper has a special passion, a passion for shiny metals in his case. He reads up about them and collects all manner of shiny things, sometimes going to great lengths to get his hands on something that’s caught his eye. His parents worry about the safety of their son but even more about the fact that his passion stops him making friends and even try to curb his collecting ‘obsession’. Jasper’s response causes them to have a rethink

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and so when his birthday arrives, Jasper is in for a surprise; maybe more than one surprise. First he learns from his grans that everyone, parents included, want him to be happy. Second, he receives a wonderful present wrapped in shiny paper containing all manner of shiny items and other interesting objects, showing that his mum and dad have come to accept his unconventional collecting habit and offering a novel way to share his souvenirs – a shiny magpie collage.

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Smiles all round, the biggest belonging to Jasper, collector and collage creator extraordinaire.
Essentially, this story about accepting and celebrating all individuals for their unique qualities is aimed at primary age children. Despite its, in places rather creaky, rhyming text, it’s a book that should be shared in all schools whether or not there are pupils with autism. Alex Merry’s slightly offbeat watercolour illustrations reflect Jasper’s feeling sensitively and with gentle humour.
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Smiling Heart Meditations with Lisa & Ted (and Bingo)
Lisa Spillane
Singing Dragon
Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates breathing techniques, physical postures and focused intention. The practice of Qigong typically involves moving meditation, coordinating slow flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing, and a meditative state of mind. The aim is to restore calm to both the body and the mind.
In her first book Six Healing Sounds with Lisa and Ted, the author who practices Qigong herself, showed young children how simple breathing exercises combined with sounds can help them to turn their negative feelings into positive ones.
Also with that aim, in this amusingly illustrated follow-up book, the same child characters and their canine pal, Bingo head off for a day on the beach. The children find that even there they can feel annoyed, upset or impatient.

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Narrator, Bingo steps in explaining simply to readers how both brother and sister use meditation techniques to help restore their equilibrium. He also has a special trick of his own to demonstrate.
Story is an effective and enjoyable means of introducing the techniques to young children and although not familiar with the practices herein, I use a similar narrative method when teaching yoga to young children and know it works very well.
There is a helpful introductory spread aimed at adults in which Lisa Spillane provides a succinct explanation of Smiling Heart Meditations and why they work.
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Sensory Stories

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Sensory Stories
Joanna Grace
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
That the author, Joanna Grace is passionate about sensory stories and their life enhancing power comes through loud and clear in her book aimed at those who work with children, young people  and adults who have special educational needs. Subtitled a practical guide, it is exactly that and more.
Beginning with a brief, straightforward explanation of what sensory stories actually are, she goes on to provide a five part book, the contents of which, I suggest, could become the heart of a curriculum for those with a wide range of special needs including individuals with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), those with SPD (sensory processing disorder) those who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication difficulties, memory difficulties and individuals with mental health challenges and the physically challenged.
The first section gives an overview of the two key elements in the enterprise – the importance of sensory stimulation, which is central to cognitive development and the power of narrative and the storytelling space it can create for those who share a story.
The second section gives a straightforward account of how to share a sensory story and embraces practicalities and the importance of being consistent when sharing a particular story.
As well as using sensory stories with individuals, they can also be shared in a group context and the third section centres on using one context rich story with a range of learners with differing abilities. Herein Joanna looks at ways to do this effectively.
Assessment and most importantly, its use to celebrate achievement is the focus of part four –some whys and some how tos, the latter offered as suggestions, starting with questions based on the P(erformance) level descriptors.
The last part of the book presents five sensory stories and associated cross-curricular activities created with the classroom in mind; but they can equally be used at home or in other settings. The range of stories is wide: there is a traditional tale, The Selkie Wife, a cooking story Seasoned with Spice, Two People Made Me a story told in the first person from conception to birth, a science fiction adventure, To the Centre of the Earth! and finally, a wonderful reworking of the Sleeping Beauty tale entitled The Forest of Thorns which has a splendidly realistic ending: ‘He wasn’t sure he could give the sleeping princess happily ever after, but he could start by giving her a rose.’
Of course, the telling of sensory stories is not for the faint hearted; it needs a certain amount of imagination and creativity on the part of the teller; a teller who is, ideally, convinced about the power and centrality of story in human experience. With those elements in place, (if they aren’t already, this book must surely go a long way in fostering their development), and this excellent ‘resource-guide’ to hand, what further is needed? Only the story stimuli of course – the ‘props’ that evoke the essence of the story – but as readers are told, these are not difficult to obtain. Practitioners/carers and parents aware of the particular needs of their group/individuals would be able to choose other stories appropriate to those needs and the sensory stimuli to go with them.
Just do it!

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Talk to Me, Play with Me


Talk to Me
Heather Jones
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Talking to a person or people rather than at them is something that comes naturally to the majority of us. Not so, those who have Asperger syndrome. They need help to learn the art of conversation and how this might be done is what the author of this book demonstrates. Jessica Jones writes from a wealth of practical experience: she has a son, now a young adult, who has Asperger syndrome and language impairment. Her outline of what she calls ‘conversational therapy’, the approach she has used as described here, to enable her son to learn the give and take of talk, is both inspirational and uplifting.
Essentially, the book is divided into two sections. The first entitled ‘Working on Conversation’ states that it is never too late to start the process and that once a child is aware of his/her condition it should be talked about in a straightforward manner. We learn about the point system she used, the effectiveness of a diary as conversation catalyst and the importance of using ‘why, who, what, when, where and how questions to keep conversations going.
She stresses the importance of asking open questions to develop meaningful conversations and reminds readers that the skill of conversational turn taking has to be taught to aspies, again providing personal examples. Here she suggests something that is now commonplace in most primary schools during circle times, the use of a particular object, referred to here as a ‘talking bauble’, that signifies the speaker.
A variety of conversation starters are suggested as well as the use of games and puzzles and the importance of allowing silence during a conversation. Using mind maps as conversation enhancers is also discussed and I’m pleased to see the importance of stories as another focus for talk.
The second part of the book deals with the development of social and life skills and becoming independent. There are useful chapters on making friends, coping with social situations such as parties and youth groups and how to cope with authority figures. The use of mind maps is revisited,


this time as facilitators when embracing practical life skills such as shopping, feeding yourself etc., as well as a means for the development of abstract skills – maturity, independence, sociability and resilience.
Learning through pet care, cooking, taking on responsibility, organizing ones life, money management, preparing for job interviews, learning to drive and starting work are all discussed in succinct chapters and as with all the other themes, the author gives a set of very helpful tips in conclusion.
Heather Jones includes in an appendix, a chart through which those who want to document the change in their own child/ren can do so, thus maintaining a record of growth and a mark of the achievement of milestones. Jamie, the author’s son clearly made tremendous progress and she feels it is important that others have a way to see progression too.
All in all, a very helpful, empowering and affirming book for parents and others working with children who need help in communicating.
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The Asperkid’s Game Plan
Jennifer Cook O’Toole
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This is a companion volume to the author’s excellent The Asperkid’s Launch Plan and is another veritable treasure trove of ideas, this time over one hundred engaging, purposeful play activities to use with young aspies, all of them designed to make learning fun.
There are activities for team building – something aspies have to work hard at, activities to develop listening skills, activities to help in the development of relationships and emotional awareness, others to encourage flexible thinking and problem solving. All are written by a mother and educationalist who herself has aspergers; they are so enjoyable they can also be used with neuro-typical children.
Understanding the minds of young aspie learners and knowing what motivates them is what we need to try to do. This insightful book goes a considerable way into facilitating this.
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Inclusivity with Champion Max



Sport-mad Daniel enjoying the story

Max the Champion
Sean Stockdale, Alexandra Strick and Ros Asquith
Frances Lincoln pbk
Sports mad, Max dreams day and night of sporting triumphs. When he dashes downstairs for his breakfast he’s running a race in his mind; when he dives into his cereal,


it’s a swimming pool in is imagination; even his handwriting practice becomes an imaginary javelin event. Sport is always uppermost in his head and he always wins.
When his school participates in a sports tournament, Max’s dream of winning comes true: it’s the Champions Cup for his team. Max is a star!
It is only gradually that one becomes aware of just how many of Max’s class have special needs of one kind or another. Max himself wears glasses and uses an asthma inhaler and a hearing aid; his best pal is a wheelchair user, another child uses a leg brace, to name just some. And, on the classroom wall is a visual time-table.

Outside in the street too we see people going about their daily life –a pair are signing, somebody has a guide dog and there’s tactile paving at the crossing.
None of this is mentioned and at first glance you could miss much of what is going on, so subtle is the presentation. Throughout, the emphasis is on what the children (and others) are able to do; they look as though they are enjoying themselves wholeheartedly. Max himself couldn’t be a better advocate for inclusivity; his passion is all – look at his still life in the art display.


The authors have considerable expertise in special needs and are clearly passionate about inclusivity as their text demonstrates; not one word is spoken about any of the additional needs of the children (and adults) in the story. It’s left to Ros Asquith to show these in her humorous, detailed illustrations wherein Max’s flights of fancy are hilariously presented in thinks bubbles opposite the real events. Assuredly it’s a case of the more you look, the more you see: I love the visual word plays.
At least one copy of this fantastic book should be in every primary classroom.


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Dyspraxia and Autism


Can I tell you about Dyspraxia?
Maureen Boon
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Marco talks frankly about what it’s like to have dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), a condition more common in boys. He has difficulty with handwriting, preferring to write on a computer where he is able to express his ideas confidently. Marco also finds a number of things from sitting still to tying knots challenging, his clothes tend to get untidy and he uses a checklist to help him remember things. Tactile sensitivity is another issue Marco has to deal with – wool makes him itch for instance. Navigating new places is another challenge, so when Marco moved to secondary school he needed special help.
In contrast, Clara his friend has verbal dyspraxia; she has trouble finding the right word, reading is tricky and people need to speak slowly or she may not understand.
We are told about the early signs of dyspraxia: sound sensitivity, lateness in getting to one’s feet and restless nights are possible indicators, as is difficulty sitting in one place.


At his first school Marco found many things more challenging than his peers; things like painting, model making, sporting activities requiring balance or coordination, the physical act of writing and using cutlery. (He got round the latter by having a packed lunch.)
Of particular help to Marco are his physiotherapist and occupational therapist. They encouraged him to join a group at a special centre where he worked with other children on activities requiring fine motor skills such as cutting and writing. He also took part in games and balancing skills that helped him at school; Marco was surprised to be encouraged to do more sport and developed a particular liking for swimming.
In addition to Marco’s narrative there are several lists outlining how parents, teachers, and other children can help those like him, as well as a bibliography and list of supportive organisations.
Written by an ex headteacher of a school for physically challenged children, this little book provides a straightforward, reassuring outline of DCD and ways in which others can be supportive.
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Can I tell you about Autism?
Jude Welton illustrated by Jane Telford
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Young Tom has autism; in this book we discover what this means for him. – how it makes him feel and what helps him. Tom, like every other child is unique although there are things that he has in common with other children with autism. He has difficulties making sense of the world around him and how others behave, so communication and play with others are very challenging and he may invade other people’s personal space. Change too is hard to cope with and can cause major upsets.
For Tom, social awareness is problematic: He is unable to tune in with how others are feeling, what they are thinking or what their tone of voice or facial expressions indicate and he understands what people say in a literal way causing him all kinds of worries. Echolalia is another factor in autism and Tom has been taught to point to indicate things he wants.
Rather than playing with other children, Tom tends to play with things, though he does sometimes engage in parallel play. Ordering objects is a favourite activity and he likes to repeat things over and over.
Routines are greatly reassuring and Tom needs to know what is coming next; changes have to be prepared for, otherwise he finds coping almost impossible. This is where visual timetables are a big help; so too are social stories.
Tom is over-sensitive to smells, sounds and lights although, he explains, others with autism may be tactile defensive. He has issues with some particular motor skills such as cutting; other children find different tasks problematic. There are also issues around food


and sleeping that Tom has to cope with although in both instances, his differences are accommodated as far as possible.
Those of us who have taught or worked with children like Tom will already know about what is discussed here; however, the author has, in this little book, presented autism concisely so it is understandable for everyone be they parent, teacher, support worker, other children or merely interested adult. With its additional how to help sections, ‘jargon busting’ explanations, and resource listings, this is an excellent introductory book recommended for use at home or school; indeed older primary pupils can usefully read it for themselves. (There is an illustration by Jane Telford at every turn of the page in the main text.)
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For an ‘inside the head’ account of one boy’s autism, those interested should try the beautifully written
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida written when he was thirteen years old.

Can I Tell You … ?

A pair of insightful new additions to the Can I Tell You About series are:

Can I Tell You About Diabetes (Type 1)?
Julie Edge
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Debbie has had type 1 diabetes since she was six years old and is the only member of her family with the condition. She is able to do everything others can including sports but in addition has to devote time to extra things.
However, despite leading a pretty active life, Debbie’s diabetes is always with her; she cannot forget it – the testing, monitoring of blood sugar, injecting,


Debbie uses an insulin ‘pen’ for injecting herself

eating, the results of changes such as a cold or dose of flu can bring to her body and what this means for her. Despite her general up-beat tone, Debbie can at times feel a bit fed up, she says. Occasionally this is because of lack of understanding on behalf of other people, sometimes, it is because of her general mood or because her blood sugar levels are too high or too low.
We are also told about the benefits of activity weekends when the young narrator meets up with other children with diabetes. In addition, there is biological information about the role of the pancreas and how its malfunctioning causes diabetes type 1.


The final part contains information on how to help, aimed at friends, teachers, parents. There is also a list of recommended reading, websites and organisations.
The author, a doctor has been a consultant in Paediatric Diabetes for nearly twenty years and there are numerous drawings by Julia MacConville, further illuminating the written information.
This is an extremely informative, concise explanation and a testament to all those children who like Debbie, manage the complexities of life with type 1 diabetes each and every day of their lives.
I would want to see a copy in every primary school and, at least one copy in any classroom where there is a child with this form of diabetes.
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Can I Tell You About Cerebral Palsy?
Marion Stanton
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Herein we meet bright, thirteen year old Sophie, who uses a wheelchair, and a talking computer or VOCA for short that she operates with the aid of her personal assistant, to communicate with friends and teachers.
Sophie talks in a matter of fact voice about the reason for her own cerebral palsy and how this affects her; she stresses that her mind is not slow, rather it takes a longer time for her to say something that her friends can say in seconds.
We learn how different parts of the body can be affected by cerebral palsy


and what this means for people differently affected, sometimes behaviourally or emotionally and sometimes there are hearing or visual challenges.
It’s good to be treated less ‘like a little girl’ by her PA who assists with choice of clothes on shopping expeditions and also to be taken to sporting events by her parents.
Sophie’s physio. is a great help to her as are the occupational therapist and her speech and language therapist; and she has her own communication passport, which acts as a quick, handy way for people to get to know basic things about her.


At the end is a section with suggestions for how teachers, teaching assistants, family members, PAs, community members and other professionals can be supportive. There is also a list of recommended organisations and websites.
All this and much more is packed into this short book written by a special needs teacher and mother of a child with cerebral palsy and illustrated with line drawings by Katie Stanton. I came away from it feeling I had learned a great deal, not only about CP but also about how young people such as Sophie have an amazing power to transcend their particular experiencing of cerebral palsy, no matter what.
Highly recommended for teachers, and for students in the fields of social care, health and education as well as young readers in primary schools. In fact it is an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to know more about working with individuals living with cerebral palsy.
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Talking about Tourettes


Can I tell you about Tourette Syndrome?
Mal Leicester
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pkb
In this straightforward account from the perspective of Max who has Tourette syndrome, we are made aware of what the syndrome is and how it impacts on his life and those around him. Max explains that he has involuntary tics and talks about how these tics affect his learning (things he likes to do such as drumming and karting concentrate his brain and it forgets to make him tic, whereas his TS makes it much more difficult to concentrate on those things he is not particularly interested in.)
Max also talks about how his energy levels fluctuate: his energy and concentration wane when he is jerking and his voice making noises sometimes causing a build up of frustration and ultimately anger in him.
We learn how teachers and others in the education system help Max, things his parents do, and he provides a self-help list for others with the syndrome and a dos and don’ts  list for those who wish to help.
The last part of the book switches from Max’s voice to more general information.
There is a ‘Facts about Tourette Syndrome’ section, a list of dos and don’ts for teachers, a list of ways schools can be supportive, information for parents and professionals and finally, a list of recommended reading, organisations and resources.
As an adult who knows comparatively little about Tourette syndrome and has never taught a child with a diagnosis of TS, I found this book extremely useful and informative. I have no hesitation in recommending it. A copy should be in every staffroom library and another in every primary school library for children to read.
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