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.

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.