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.

The Nervous Knight

The Nervous Knight
Anthony Lloyd Jones
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Here’s a story that looks at the disabling effects of anxiety on youngsters and in particular one knight in training who lives in a peaceful kingdom.

Said knight wears his full armour all the time, never taking it off even in bed, because one always needs to be prepared for the worst eventualities. However armour notwithstanding, this particular trainee who is totally lacking in self confidence remains an onlooker while classmates joust or even go out to eat ice creams. All those ‘what if … ‘ worries just keep on getting in the way of participation.

Such things as breathing become difficult and nervousness tends to make you need to use the loo.

Then one day an older girl in class notices the knight’s lack of action and asks, “What aren’t you joining in?”A series of “what ifs” is the response so the girl decides to take things in hand, gently encouraging the nervous knight onto horseback.

Inevitably with new learning an easy ride is not what follows, but neither do any of those much dreaded giggles from fellow students. Instead, some admit to feeling scared on occasion, while others offer encouragement and coping strategies and gradually our nervous knight begins to shed some armour, show their true self, gain some self confidence and open up to friendship and the pleasures life offers.

Quirkily illustrated in a child-like manner, this is a story many youngsters will identify with and offers a good starting point for discussion, particularly with the growing numbers of children with anxiety issues that have surfaced during the pandemic. The book concludes with a guide for parents/carers by a consultant trainer in children’s and young people’s mental health issues, Ian Macdonald.

All Cats are on the Autism Spectrum

All Cats are on the Autism Spectrum
Kathy Hoopmann
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This book is an updated version of the author’s 2006 All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome and since then what is considered acceptable terminology has changed and the author says in her note for this edition that people’s views are not all the same and that she hopes ‘readers will see past the finer details of disagreement and join me in celebrating, and deepening our understanding of, the richness and diversity of the autistic community.’ You can’t say fairer than that.

Essentially the book shows a sequence of photographs of cats/kittens in various situations accompanied by a sentence relating the visual to an element of being on the autism spectrum or as I prefer to say, neurodiversity. Thus the book opens with a shot of a kitty wrapped in a scarf and wearing a woolly hat introduced by ‘The first signs of autism are usually picked up very young.’ Now I could from my own experience challenge that for several reasons, but will say no more other than it’s generally truer for boys than girls, and remember the author’s words on her introductory page.
What I think Kathy Hoopmann is intending to present to readers how a child with autism might view the world: thus we have ‘Autistic people often have exceptionally good hearing, and loud sounds and sudden movements may scare them.’ 

and ‘Daily rituals comfort them, and they get worried if their schedules or surroundings are changed.’ 

as well as ‘When they are spoken to, they may refuse to make eye contact. When they talk, they go on and on about the same topic or ask the same questions over and over again …’

It’s great to read the acknowledgement that ‘with their unique perspective on life, their eye for details that others often miss and their passion for researching something they love, many will reach the top of their chosen fields … those on the spectrum are just like everyone else. They need love, encouragement and a purpose for life … and then everyone can sit back and enjoy the unique individuals they become.’

Poignant at times, funny at others, this book is a useful resource for teachers, parents, siblings, therapists; indeed everyone could benefit from reading it.

Ask First, Monkey!

Ask First, Monkey!
Juliet Clare Bell and Abigail Tompkins
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Mischievous Monkey considers himself Tickletastic – the world’s best tickler – but in so becoming he’s most definitely been invading the personal space of others.
Goat was decidedly unhappy about being tickled; he certainly didn’t give consent and, to Monkey’s surprise, quite rightly tells him to stop.

Paying little heed however, the tickler continues to be a disrespecter of boundaries, demonstrating various other tickling styles and causing his fellow animals to show him their ‘frowny faces’

and to say how much they disliked his actions.

Eventually the message gets through; Monkey apologies to all his friends – goat, giraffe, panda, rabbit, dog, lion cub and goose, frog …

and cow.

Then comes the light bulb moment, ‘Ask first!’ And that applies to hugging or any other form of touching: No need for reasons why, no coercion; consent is crucial.

Written by Juliet Clare Bell, the story is simply and succinctly told with gentle humour yet without being overtly didactic, and illustrated with Abigail Tompkins’ vibrant, colourful portrayal of actions and reactions.

A book for sharing, discussing and acting upon that definitely should be in all nurseries, child and parent groups, early years classrooms and families with young children.

The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism

The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism
Debby Elley & Tori Houghton, illustrated by J.C. Perry
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Everyone is an individual be they neuro-typical or neuro-diverse, so there are as many ways of experiencing autism as there are people on the autism spectrum. However there are three things that all those with autism have in common, albeit in different degrees – difficulties with speech and language, difficulties with social skills and rigidity of thought.

Here’s a handy little book to help youngsters, understand the complexities of the condition.

Its authors (both with a wealth of experience relating to neurodiversity) use the ice-cream sundae simile and its ingredients to explain autism in a non-threatening, non-judgemental way to young people, both those with autism and neuro-typicals.

They first did so as editors of AuKids magazine when they published an article called The Autism Sundae Dessert with an aim to show autism, not as a disability but a difference – a dynamically evolving condition.

Such was the response that their article evolved into posters, demonstrations and now, this book, The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism with its three different flavoured scoops (chocolate ice-cream for speech and language, vanilla for social skills, and strawberry for rigidity of thought; plus extras – chocolate sauce (sensory processing disorder) and a wafer (self-regulation).

Parents, teachers, and others working with youngsters can use the book with its clear, unambiguous illustrations and puzzles

to solve, either with an individual, or a class or group, depending on their personal circumstances. It might act as a starting point for a practical ice-cream sundae making session, or as something to refer to over and over, to help build understanding of the advantages and challenges of autism.

The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide

The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide
Siena Castellon, illustrated by Rebecca Burgess
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Sienna Castellon, the seventeen-year-old author is an award winning anti-bullying campaigner and autism advocate; she is on the autism spectrum, and is also dyspraxic and dyslexic, and has ADHD. She is also gifted in physics and maths.

As we learn, her journey thus far has been anything but easy, so who better to write this book subtitled ‘How to grow up Awesome and Autistic’ than she, especially, as she writes in the first chapter, ‘I view my autism as a strength and as an advantage, a modern day superpower.”

Essentially Siena has compiled a comprehensive and detailed manual for readers of twelve plus about living the best life a young female with autism possibly can in a predominantly neurotypical world.

She covers such diverse topics as embracing who you are then deciding with whom to share your autism and how, to clothes and fashion ,

dating, sex and sexuality.

Other sections focus on bullying: face to face

and cyberbullying are covered in separate chapters and strategies for coping with both are discussed.

Self-esteem is key throughout: people with autism do not need pitying, they need understanding is another key message. The neurotypical brain is wired to socialise; in contrast most autistic brains need a fair amount of time alone for the mind to settle and the senses to be soothed.

On the topic of senses, Siena devotes a whole chapter to ‘Managing your sensory sensitivities and sensory overload.’  Siena mentions the relatively simple steps that some supermarkets, cinemas, airports and the like have taken to create a more inclusive environment for people with autism.

Throughout the authorial voice remains both earnest and compassionate; and in between her narrative are some comic style pages drawn by Rebecca Burgess that encapsulate what has been said in a particular section.

Yes, this book has a specific target audience in mind; however the insights it offers need to be shared with everyone. I’m a primary/foundation stage teacher and over the years have taught dozens of children with autism (mainly boys) and have some degree of understanding of neurodiversity. Nonetheless I welcomed the insights I gained from this guide and thoroughly recommend that all educators, parents, indeed anyone who hopes to ensure that all females on the autism spectrum have the very best possible chance to flourish, should read it and carefully consider this enormously wise young woman’s words. Surely that is every one of us, isn’t it?

Can I Tell You About Nystagmus?

Can I Tell You About Nystagmus?
Nadine Neckles, illustrated by Vikas Upadhyay
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

I’ve only ever taught one child who had Nystagamus (due to his albinism). Now having read this excellent little book – the latest in the ‘Can I Tell You About series’, I feel ashamed about how little I really understood of the condition.

Herein a girl named Amber talks in a user-friendly manner about nystagamus -her ‘dancing eyes’, what this means for her in particular and about how she and other children with the condition will experience it differently, although they may share certain similarities such as taking longer to learn things. (This doesn’t mean they are any less clever than others however.)

We hear about Amber’s diagnosis (her eyes jiggle from side-to-side);

how she has to have regular eye check-ups; how she has to carefully adjust the way she sits to watch TV, preferably sitting right close to the screen; the need for her to wear glasses to prevent her ‘seeing double’ as she also has a mild squint.

Starting school presented a challenge for Amber especially the frenetic-seeming playtimes. Amber’s school has made accommodations for her condition such as adding yellow tape to the stair edges, doorframes and potential places of danger; and her mum explained nystagmus to Amber’s classmates.

When in the classroom she has a special place to sit, is never asked to share a book or computer screen and has work printed on coloured paper.

Reading itself brings its own set of challenges but again there are aids to make things less tricky for her. Depth perception is a particular challenge, so ball games, (and other things requiring rapid hand-eye co-ordination), gymnastics and running are ‘tricky’.

Of course frustrations occur but Amber’s friends are understanding and Amber herself is bold, intelligent and resilient, refusing to let nystagamus define her.

The book concludes with some information for adults, an outline of associated conditions, an important checklist for professionals, a glossary and a list of recommended resources.

Easy to understand, this book, (written by a special needs life coach and mother of a child like Amber, with nystagmus and Chromosome 18q) encompasses all the important aspects of nystagmus making it an ideal introduction for anyone wanting to learn more about the condition be they children, parents, carers, teachers, and other professionals. Line drawings by Vikas Upadhyay show Amber as the sparky individual the author presented.

He’s Not Naughty!

He’s Not Naughty!
Deborah Brownson, illustrated by Ben Mason
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Taryn and Jake are best friends, they’re almost inseparable, similar in lots of ways but also rather different for Jake has autism, and Taryn has taken it upon herself to explain for young readers (as well as teachers and other educators, carers, parents and family) what this means.

It most definitely does not mean, despite some of his behaviour, that he’s naughty. Far from it; rather his sensory processing disorder might result in him feeling explosive inside so that he flaps his hands and screams rather than participating in a supposedly fun activity.

Or, his tactile sensitivity might make him cast off his uncomfortable-feeling clothes or shoes and run around without the offending article(s).

Perhaps he might be so engrossed in his own world that it appears he’s ignoring another person; although there are ways to get around this, as there are ways of coping with other ‘mistakes’. After all, everyone– neuro diverse or not -, learns through their mistakes. For example, many grown-ups expect a child to look directly into their eyes when being spoken to; for children such as Jake, listening to and looking at a person at the same time, asks them to use one sense too many and as a consequence, to listen well he looks down at the floor. This is not being rude (a mistake many unknowing adults make); it’s merely coping with being different.

Taste and how food looks, reactions to strangers, taking things literally, feelings, speech (including communicating with sign language and by means of PECS);

making friends, choosing an appropriate school and routines, as well as famous people who have or may have autism are also covered.

This excellent little book is a real gem, written from first-hand knowledge and from the heart – its author is the mother of two children on the autism spectrum – and ought to be shared in all classrooms and by every family bringing up a child with autism.
Moreover, the artist Ben Mason has Asperger’s and his illustrations too are heart-felt and insightful.

Gilly the Giraffe Self-Esteem Activity Book

Gilly the Giraffe Self-Esteem Activity Book
Dr Karen Treisman, illustrated by Sarah Peacock
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This large format paperback is both a therapeutic story and a creative activity book for primary aged children, developed by specialist clinical psychologist, Dr Karen Treisman.

It begins with a story about Gilly the Giraffe to be shared with children. Gilly has much in her world to be happy about but she struggles with self-confidence on account of her height, her long black tongue and her colourful mosaic patches; and worse, some of the other animals make unkind remarks about these aspects of her appearance.

However, thanks to kindly Loren the lioness pointing out that being different makes Gilly exciting, beautiful and cool;

it’s all a matter of how you look at something. “We’re all precious and deserve to be appreciated.” So says Loren and thereafter not only Gilly but her classmates start to become more appreciative about one another.

A great confidence-boosting tale after which might come discussions on some of the story’s key themes.

Thereafter the book offers a wealth of creative ideas through which these themes can be further explored. These are divided into two parts, the first being ‘fun activities and crafts with Gilly’ and comprises such things as mindful colouring, a word search, a quiz, questions to consider, a ‘make your own Gilly the Giraffe, a wonderful positivity wordlist, a positivity acronym using a person’s name(s) and more.

Part 2 contains over 25 further suggestions (that can be used in school or at home) for boosting self-esteem, confidence, positive thinking and self-belief,

each of which is clearly explained and where appropriate, space is provided in the book for writing, drawing or whatever is apt by way of a response.

With its integrated approach, this book is ideal for using in PSHE sessions and concludes with an excellent explanatory guide for adults; much of what is said herein, especially in the ‘practical strategies, tips and ways of being for building self-esteem’ should be read and acted upon by all who have dealings with children in whatever context.

Wearing my teacher/consultant hat, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Teaching Social Skills to Children with Autism Using Minecraft®

Teaching Social Skills to Children with Autism Using Minecraft®
Raelene Dundon, illustrated by Chloe-Amber Scott
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

I know from my teaching experience that children on the autism spectrum often become obsessively passionate about and often developing an enormous competence in a particular thing such as  Lego building, drumming, a certain cartoon series or drawing specific items.

The strength of the motivation towards their chosen passion tends to result in a lack of social skills: participating in Minecraft® (which is frequently called digital Lego) offers a wonderful setting to enable neurodiverse children to develop both social and communication skills. Clearly the author of this large format book, Raelene Dundon appreciates this and to that end, has created a superb resource.

Having outlined in the opening chapters the importance of social skills and how these are impaired in children with ASD, she puts the case for using group programmes, in particular Minecraft® to develop those crucial social skills.

The second part of the book comprises information on how to set up a social Minecraft® group; how to use the game for supporting such skills as holding a conversation, being interested in other people and understanding the viewpoint of another person.
Each skill, for instance problem solving,

‘being creative’ or co-operation

is succinctly presented and related to what has just happened during the specific session – this is a great tool for developing awareness in the learner.

In all there are thirty sessions (around 150 pages of photocopiable material) with smashing illustrations by Chloe-Amber Scott, making this an absolutely invaluable and comprehensive resource – a veritable goldmine – for any professional working with primary children or older students, who have ASD.

Yoga for Children and Young People with Autism

Yoga for Children and Young People with Autism
Michael Chissick, illustrated by Sarah Peacock
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Highly experienced yoga teacher, Michael Chissick has created another absolutely smashing book, for those who teach yoga to youngsters, specifically those with autism, although much of what is included here would work well with neurotypical children too.

At the outset Michael states his case explaining that perfection is not on the agenda, so an adult-style class approach is inappropriate as is chanting.

A plan is vital; intuitive teaching won’t work with children on the autism spectrum: I know from experience they need a structure and that is what the book provides, whether the teaching is done in a mainstream school that includes children with autism or a special school where everyone being taught is on the autism spectrum. If the latter is the case, Chissick suggests three groups(his are named after trees) which can be fluid but are based on the degree of challenge both students and the teacher of the class face.

He then goes on to offer four different lesson plans – one being suitable for all students (universal) and three others – and each of the latter is progressive.

Much of the remainder of the book contains the differentiated tried and tested games, thirteen in all, some of which require additional resources that are flagged up at the outset. There are also sequences such as the Sun Salutation and some sequence games, followed by the postures themselves including ‘good sitting’

(illustrated by Sarah Peacock whose work will be familiar to those who know Michael’s other books such as Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation and Sitting on a Chicken .)

And of course, there are ideas for the vital ‘calming stage’ and final relaxation.

There’s a chapter on teaching yoga to children who have ASD in a mainstream classroom, followed by some case studies and extremely useful visual resources.

A wealth of experience has gone into this book: it’s a veritable treasure trove for anyone who teaches yoga to children, whatever the setting, but especially children with ASD.

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.

Thera-Build with LEGO® / Art Therapy Cards for Children

Thera-Build with LEGO®
Alyson Thomsen
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Alyson Thomsen was a senior teacher and since creating and developing the Thera-Build methodology, runs a business consultancy for schools, families and others interested in using LEGO® bricks with children therapeutically.

Purposeful play with these bricks aims to develop social competence, reduce stress, boost self-esteem and confidence.

As a teacher I have used LEGO® bricks across the curriculum, but never as a therapeutic tool. However I was pleased to discover that I share with Alyson some basic underlying educational principles, most notably vital the importance of play in children’s development be that social, emotional or academic; and the crucial role of adult as facilitator – flexible and enthusiastic – in the learning process.

Drawing on her wealth of experience, Alyson provides in this book a veritable treasure trove of ideas for using LEGO®, a resource loved by so many children, in a therapeutic way, as well as giving readers an introduction to the brain science behind her methods, a wealth of advice that includes both the strategies for, and practicalities of, using the materials. and much more.

Not only will this inspiring book be a great resource for those working in schools and for parents, even more importantly, it has the potential to result in extremely positive outcomes for children.

Art Therapy Cards for Children
Elitsa Velikova
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This resource comprises a box containing 22 stimulus cards (105x 150cm) and an accompanying explanatory book, and could be used for anyone (art therapists, social workers, psychologists, teachers and counsellors) who works with children and perhaps parents. The author, Elitsa Velikova, is an art therapist and psychologist with extensive experience, and is also Director of the Arts and Therapy Institute in Sofia (Bulgaria)

The cards offer creative art therapy opportunities for primary school age children and encompass four themes: feelings and emotions, relationships with family and friends, the body and imagination.
There are opportunities for exploring in both two and three dimensions and all the materials required are listed in the booklet.

Each card provides a different prompt, for instance, ‘Draw a person in the rain using pastels or pencils’ (feelings); ‘Create a nest and a bird with clay’ (relationships); or ‘draw or create a happiness machine (imagination). All are illustrated in bright collage style.
The booklet explains each prompt and its aim(s), the materials needed and how a child might benefit from experiencing the activity.

A useful resource but it could I think, have been even more so, especially for teachers and other non-specialists in art therapy, to have at least the materials needed listed on the reverse of each card.

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.

My Book about Brains, Change and Dementia

My Book about Brains, Change and Dementia
Lynda Moore and George Haddon
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

In picture book form, author Lynda Moore (a family counsellor who works with children impacted by dementia in Australia) and illustrator/cartoonist George Haddon, deliver an explanation in straightforward terms that will help young children understand something of the sensitive subject of dementia.

Starting generally, there’s an explanation of brain function; how it is a vital organ involved in everything we do.

The author then moves on to say that like other parts of the body, a person’s brain can also get sick and we generally call the disease dementia.

Youngsters are reassured that the changes that may happen to someone with dementia, (a relative perhaps)

are not their fault or indeed that of anybody else.
The importance of care and kindness are stated, as is the fact that dementia is incurable.

Readers/listeners are then given the option to skip the next few pages, which explain that ultimately, dementia can end in death.

Finally and also reassuringly, the book concludes by saying that if you know someone with dementia it is acceptable to feel happy, sad, scared or angry (mad) but it’s important and helpful to share your feelings.

Concise, compassionate and young-child friendly, with amusing illustrations, this is an excellent book that should be in  all early years settings, every school, nursing home and when appropriate, a family library.

Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years

Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years
Mary Medlicott
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

That Mary Medicott, herself a professional storyteller and trainer, is passionate about the power of story is evident in this her latest book.
Like myself she believes that story time is for young children THE most important learning experience we offer them and should be part and parcel of their everyday experience. For one little girl I saw last Sunday it certainly was. I sat listening to a dad sharing a picture book (Percy the Park Keeper -The Treasure Hunt) with his young daughter outside a cafe. The experience was magical, not only for the two of them but also for the early years teacher part of me as I watched her slip from his lap saying “I’m going to ask that big rabbit if he knows where my bead is.” She walked over to talk to a huge decorated hare statue at the doorway, whispered something and went back to her dad who then continued with the story.

Drawing on her thirty plus years of experience she offers advice and support for anyone who wants to help youngsters from 2 to 5 further their imaginative development, enhance their language growth, listening skills, emergent literacy and reading achievement, and encourage them to create mental pictures, all of which are furthered by the sharing of stories either from a book or through a telling.

Having stated her case for the importance of story, she discusses the vast variety of stories available including personal stories, both children’s and adults’, picture book stories, nursery rhymes and chants, and traditional tales from a wide range of cultures.

For those who are less confident about themselves as storytellers, Mary talks in detail about various aspects of preparation for a story session, all of which help to make the whole experience enjoyable for both audience and story sharer whether they choose to tell the story or read a picture book. The importance of treating children as collaborators or even co-creators in the story process is discussed: ‘Children like being asked to think,’ says the author – yes they most certainly do.

There is a chapter on ‘props’ and their use; these can help enhance audience involvement both during the story and after in discussion.

Teamwork and involving all staff to their mutual benefit is another aspect covered, as is what staff members other than the storyteller are doing during the story sharing session; all adults should be involved and sitting among the children.

Children’s responses is the subject of another chapter be that through discussion, artistic interpretation and/ or their own scribed words.

Some of my favourite writers on young children and story, including Eileen Colwell, Betty Rosen, Vivian Gussin Paley and Tricia Lee, are referenced and key elements of their practice discussed, the latter two in the final ‘Consolidating’ chapter.

There are also two appendices, the first providing versions of stories, rhymes and action chants referred to in the main narrative; these can be used directly or in the case of the stories, adapted by the particular teller. The second offers a selection of tried and tested picture books and traditional tales – a good starting point for those new to the whole business of story sharing.

I’d strongly recommend this book (love Rosamund Bird’s cover images) for all early years educators and those who train them; in fact anyone who wants to draw all young children into those magical worlds of ‘Once upon a time’, worlds that offer as yet unimagined experiences that have the power to enthral, transport and inspire.

Stewart’s Tree

Stewart’s Tree
Cathy Campbell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Subtitled ‘A book for Brothers and Sisters When a Baby Dies Shortly after Birth’, this little picture book is intended to help explain sibling loss to young children.

Ellen has been waiting for a new baby – ‘something special’ but her new brother Stewart is very weak and never makes it back home. He’s been ‘lost’ is how her Granny puts it.

Ellen searches all over the house for Stewart even in the washing machine,

wondering perhaps, if he’s gone to the moon in his spaceship.

Her parents then help her to understand the new baby has died and isn’t going to come back.

Together they plant a cherry tree for Stewart, so they will always have a special place to remember him.

The book concludes with a guide to bereavement aimed at adults, written by qualified clinicians; this includes some suggested activities.

Sensitively told and illustrated, with gentle touches of humour, this is a book that one hopes few people will have need of, but it could prove invaluable to those families unfortunate enough to suffer such a bereavement. Schools, nurseries and children’s centres should certainly keep a copy on their shelves.

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.

Minnie & Max are OK! / Florence Frizzball

Minnie & Max are OK!
Chris Calland, Nicky Hutchinson and Emmi Smid
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Minnie has had a bad day at school having been teased and shunned by two girls, and now she wishes she looked more like them.
When her grandma meets her at the end of the day, she notices than Minnie is upset and decides that a trip to the park might help. On the way both Minnie and her dog Max peer at their reflections in a shop window and soon both of them are full of doubts about their appearance.
As they sit together in the café, Minnie tells her gran how she feels and Gran’ responds calmly, lovingly and reassuringly. “I love you just the way you are!” she says, “I think it’s wonderful that we all look so different … Just look around us.” And Minnie does …

Max sees a great variety of dogs too and before long both child and dog are playing happily with friends.

With its gentle humour, and Emmi Smid’s captivating ilustrations, this is a good book to read with any young child struggling with self-esteem be it related to body image or any other perceived ‘difference’. Equally if shared with a class or group, it should make potential negative commenters stop and think about how much better our world is for its rich diversity.
There is a final spread aimed at adults wherein the authors, both education consultants, offer ideas for discussion on the themes of teasing, self-image and diversity.
All in all, a valuable tool in the fight for embracing and celebrating difference and diversity.

Florence Frizzball
Claire Freedman and Jane Massey
Simon & Schuster Children’s Books

Florence the small girl narrator of this story has hair issues; her curly frizz is thick and unruly. Her little brother’s sleek, flat hair is altogether more preferable, so she thinks. It doesn’t tickle or prickle …

or obscure anyone’s view on windy days, nor when watching television; and no one else in the family is similarly troubled other than the dog, Scuff.
Can a visit to the hairdressers be the answer perhaps?

It certainly results in a transformation; but is straight hair really so desirable …
With its cute characters, this sweet rhyming tale presents themes of individuality, self-image and self-acceptance in an accessible story for the very young.

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).

Big Tree is Sick

Big Tree is Sick
Nathalie Slosse and Rocio Del Moral
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Meet close friends, Snibbles and Big Tree; they’re accustomed to spending a lot of time together and Snibbles loves Big Tree very much.
One day though, Big Tree is sick: the doctor diagnoses woodworm; and Snibbles is devastated. Feelings of frustration and anger start to overwhelm him …

and he feels very scared.

Other creatures offer support: Bessie the Sheep brings a lovely, warm woollen scarf to wrap around the sick tree which gives him some comfort; not so Snibbles though. But then, having made himself a crown from Big Tree’s fallen leaves, he starts to feel a bit more upbeat. Thereafter, the focus is on helping Big Tree get through his treatment and happily for all, he does eventually make a good recovery.
With delightful illustrations and some extremely useful suggestions for activities and strategies at the end of the story, this book portrays the powerful feelings and emotions that children are likely to exhibit when a family member or a close friend is diagnosed with a serious, debilitating illness, cancer for instance.
There is also a link to the website of a Belgian non-profit organisation that adult users of the book might find useful.

I’ve signed the charter

The Snugglewump / Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day

The Snugglewump
Lou Treleaven and Kate Chappell
Maverick Arts Publishing
Molly has a host of toys and sitting side-by side awaiting her arrival one day, each claims to have pride of place in her affections. There’s Ted, an antique doll, Alien, Robot and Action Andy …

all strutting their stuff so to speak. It’s no wonder that Snugglewump lies forgotten on the floor feeling less than confident about his lot. But then, having seen and heard the others showing off, it ups and snugglewumps away through the catflap and off down the road.
Thanks to a free ride on a postman’s shoe, it ends up spending the night, damp and virtually shapeless contemplating the possibilities offered by having limbs and a countenance, or batteries, and generally rueing its lot.
Is it Snugglewump’s fate to be cast so it thinks, into the dump or could there perhaps be an alternative ending for this brightly coloured, albeit amorphous thing which, thanks to a couple of pigeons is, as the sun rises, hanging across the branch of a tree in the park?

Told through Lou Treleaven’s jaunty rhyming text with its fun descriptive phrases, and Kate Chappell’s beautifully expressive, quirky illustrations (she even manages to imbue that Snugglewump with a personality) this is great fun to share with young listeners either at home or in an early years setting.

Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day
Rochel Lieberman and Lloyd Jones
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Ten year old Pearla likes nothing better on Sundays than to help her father in his bakery. She’s something of an expert herself, cooking up perfect cupcakes and cookies that people come from far and wide to buy.
One Sunday however, having so she thinks whisked up the usual perfect mix for her cookies and cupcakes, and put them into the oven to bake, she realises that she’s left out a vital ingredient. Disaster for one used to a perfect baking outcome.

But then as she paces up and down, Pearla starts out on what is to be a huge learning curve: “I’m a person, People are not perfect. I did my best. I know I will be helped with the rest,” she tells herself.
Out come the far from perfect confections some time later and rather than throwing the whole lot in the bin, Pearla decides to sell them at half-price.
What happens thereafter is a big surprise for the girl and after the odd sales setback, every single item is sold. Thank goodness Pearla managed to stay calm and turn her mistake into something positive. Even more important she learned the crucial life-lesson: that mistakes are a vital part of the learning process; something all teachers worth their salt would agree with, and that all youngsters need to take on board early on in their education. That way lies success.
Full of important and empowering lessons. Written by a speech and language specialist, this is a book to share with all young learners, especially those who, for whatever reason, are averse to risk-taking. Lloyd Jones’ illustrations add gentle humour to Pearla’s plight.

I’ve signed the charter  

Rafi’s Red Racing Car


Rafi’s Red Racing Car
Louise Moir
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Subtitled ‘Explaining Suicide and Grief to Young Children’, the author/illustrator of this book, art psychotherapist Louise Moir, lost her own husband to suicide a few years ago.
Rafi’s daddy had been suffering from depression, so much so that he’d stopped playing Rafi’s favourite racing car game with him. Desperate to put an end to ‘all the muddle and all the worry and sadness in his head’ there seemed only one thing to do: Rafi’s daddy took his own life.


Inevitably this leaves young Rafi confused and scared; what if his mummy became similarly ill too? Rafi deals with his grief in his own way by showing anger towards his toys and his friends which, inevitably, make things worse.
Enter a therapist who works with Rafi, gradually helping him to start coming to terms with what has happened and slowly, slowly Rafi begins to heal. Of course, his mummy plays a very important role in his healing process too.


Aimed at adults, the ‘Helping Children Heal’ final pages of the book offer a supportive guide to parents and professionals.
With its expressive watercolour illustrations …,


this little book takes a disturbing experience and its aftermath, showing that ultimately, transcendence can happen. In addition it should help young sufferers develop the all-important emotional language to cope with their experience.
A very useful resource for families and those who work with bereaved youngsters.


Thank Goodness for Bob / The Healthy Coping Colouring Book & Journal


Thank Goodness for Bob
Matthew Morgan and Gabriel Alborozo
Egmont Publishing
‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ goes the well-known adage. The trouble is, Max an inveterate worrier doesn’t share any of his with family or friends for fear of troubling already busy people or looking foolish: he just stores them all up inside and it leaves him feeling overwhelmed …


Despite this, everyone knows about this and seemingly, his worries are infectious.


Thank goodness then for Bob. Bob the dog offers a listening ear and Max talks and talks; gradually his worries come bubbling out and drift around the room and then the two of them find the perfect way of dealing with them.


Gabriel Alborozo’s gently humorous illustrations are perfect for this sensitively told, empowering story that will help children deal with their anxieties.

Also aimed at helping children – albeit slightly older ones than the previous book – and subtitledCreative Activities to Help Manage Stress, Anxiety and Other Big Feelings’ is


The Healthy Coping Colouring Book and Journal
Pooky Knightsmith and Emily Hamilton
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Mental health ambassador, Pooky Knightsmith, has joined forces with illustrator, Emily Hamilton, to produce a book full of activities to help develop and enhance the well-being of children between eight and fourteen. It might well be equally used by adults. The aim is not only to help in reduction of stress but is also a tool for managing feelings and could be used at any time, whether one is feeling bad or good.
There are plenty of pages to colour, spaces for reflection and writing as well as a plethora of wise words to guide, inspire and motivate.


There are lots of diary format pages for recording ones personal experiences, preoccupations and feelings.
Buy to use or buy to give.

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Scruffle Bear, Ellie, Cyril Squirrel and Love


There’s Only One Scruffle
Robert Dunn
Almost all children have a favourite soft toy and so it is with Ellie: she and her bear Scruffle are inseparable. Her parents cannot understand this Scruffle obsession – after all he’s patched, has an eye missing and is more than a little stinky! That reminds me of  ‘Bobby’ a bear I’ve kept ever since I was a very young child in Pakistan many, many years ago.
He must be replaced decides Ellie’s mum and presents her with this … Now you don’t need me to tell you how Ellie feels about this, nor will you be surprised at what she does next …


Mum remains upbeat, trying to cajole Ellie and persuade her to give the newcomer a try. Ellie decides a walk might help her think and off she goes with new bear on her mind. He’s also on her mind as she assists Grandad with the gardening …


and while she paints Scruffle a picture. By now, new bear is looking a little less like new and smelling well – disgusting! Not fit to be played with Ellie declares handing Scruffle to Mum who’s still wondering what her daughter sees in him. Could it perhaps be that two smelly bears could be accommodated in Ellie’s household? What do you think? I think a wash is definitely the order of the day …
Young children will immediately empathise with Ellie, giggle over her treatment of new bear and have plenty to say about the ending. The story’s a good one to prompt discussion about favourite toys, as well as coping with change and showing love.


Cyril Squirrel Finds Out About Love
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Cyril is a lively creature and also very inquisitive; the thing he spends most time pondering on is love: What is it? “Can I find it and keep it? Do I need it?” he wonders. He decides to write a list of questions on the subject to ask his friends Carrie Crow, Dan Deer, Ramon Rat and Dafiya Dormouse, but none can supply answers. Instead, Dafiya suggests Cyril goes to look for love and having left an explanatory note and taken a few supplies, off he goes next day.
On his journey he encounters a bird that is amused to hear what Cyril is searching for and offers a demonstration of its version of love – ‘being held by a warm wing’.


Other creatures provide different love suggestions: rabbit demonstrates with a warm smile, and with a “Buzzzzzzzzzz,” bee provides a ‘soft, soothing sound’. All these expand Cyril’s understanding of love and on his notepad he writes ‘Some of us have different maps to find love.’
Other animals he comes across further add to his list of ideas – that of Poppa Hedgehog demonstrating how sometimes love can be a bit puzzling …


until eventually Cyril heads home where his friends are waiting, eager to find out about his quest. It’s in their reception of him that Cyril finally comes to know a crucial fact about that all-important word: that seemingly small acts of love can have a huge impact;


and not only for those on the receiving end, I suggest.
There are many beautiful picture books on the market with love as an inherent theme. This one, with its cartoon-style illustrations and in-built questions is likely to promote lots of discussion among youngsters and will, I hope help to enlarge their understanding of such a vital concept. To that end there are some suggested activities and a guide for adults on the last two pages. Written by an expert on trauma, parenting and related topics, this is definitely one for the early years shelf in nurseries and for children’s centres.

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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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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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Connor the Conker & Little Meerkat


Connor the Conker and the Breezy Day
Rachel Lloyd
Singing Dragon
Connor is a conker residing with his family – mum, dad and two siblings – in Horse Chestnut Town. It’s a particularly breezy day when we meet him and he’s eager to demonstrate his balancing on one leg, (without any wibble wobbles, is the aim). The wind is very playful though and that makes Connor get the sneezes unbalancing him; but that’s no problem because Connor knows how to roll and land safely without spilling himself: in fact it’s rather fun so he does a whole lot more rolling …


right into a friend and on through the town and oops! Straight in the river so it’s fortunate that he also knows how to swim, though he’s always up for a bit more learning, so he tries backstroke too as the fish suggests.
While on his back, Connor decides it’s time he went home so off he goes; but first he has a last lovely stretch – in all directions …


I’m a yoga teacher rather than a teacher of pilates about which I know comparatively little. I do know however, that story is a fantastic medium for working with young children and that the author Rachel Lloyd has a dance background and is a Pilates Master Trainer who is clearly passionate about its practice. Her positivity and what she says in the helpful notes at the back resonate with me completely. There are also photographic sequences and instructions for teaching each of Connor’s Pilates activities – equally helpful and empowering: and unsurprisingly, very similar to yoga asanas and sequences.

In similar format, and also recommended for early years and KS1 classes, as well as home use, is:


Little Meerkat’s Big Panic
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This one’s subtitled ‘A Story About Learning New Ways to Feel Calm’ and don’t we all need those right now.
When we meet Little Meerkat he’s faced with the prospect of ‘a very important job’ and today’s the day: his vital role is to act as ‘Lookout Meerkat’ and keep watch over the whole Meerkat gang. Simple eh?


Well, not really because it means he has to stay wide awake and alert so that in the event of unwelcome potential harm in the form of snakes, large birds and other predators, he can sound the “Danger, danger, danger!’ alert. So how do you think he feels about that? It’s a question asked of listeners to the story.
Now most of us are familiar with that wobbly legs, heart thumping, hyper breathing that kicks in all too easily on such occasions, making it hard to focus on the task in hand and that is exactly how Little Meerkat feels on this important, right of passage day.
Off go his fellow Meerkats for some fun and games safe in the knowledge that there’s a watchful Meerkat at the ready just in case …


Soon though our little watcher begins to feel drowsy on account of the heat and he dozes off – just for a very short while – but he awakes to discover all the other Meerkats have vanished. Little Meerkat’s in such a panic he can’t get his words out properly and Small Elephant gets a very convoluted message when the two come face to face. Fortunately the elephant has a good imagination and is able to understand and empathise with how his friend might feel right then; and soon both are frantically searching high and low – to no avail.
Along swings Mini Monkey and providentially he has some breathing techniques to pass on: Just what the others need to make them feel nice and calm.


(And yes, they definitely work – I know from experience.)
And do the friends manage to discover the whereabouts of the missing Meerkats? Certainly they do; but first Little Meerkat has to tell the story from his viewpoint: then a plan is suggested, put into action and …


There are his fellow Meerkats safe and sound in the ‘safe place’ just where they should be, if only the one on lookout had been able to stay calm and remember …
The final pages of this enjoyable, but very vital book explain simply some ways of keeping calm, as well as discussing the triune brain (not using this word however, other than in the adults’ information section.) And, I’m pleased to say, the author points out that everyone is different: what one brain likes may not suit another person (or meerkat) when it comes to relaxation techniques.

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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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A Sky of Diamonds

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A Sky of Diamonds
Camille Gibbs
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
When Mia hears that her mother has died (in an accident at work), the colour drains right out of her world. She tells readers just how it was for her: some days she was unable to get out of bed, on others she couldn’t sleep. “There were days when my heart hurt so much it was hard to eat, hard to breathe and sometimes it felt hard even to be me anymore.” she says. Her dad explains that Mia is grieving and there will be up days and very down days, rather like being on a roller-coaster. She feels a volcanic kind of anger deep inside ready to explode at any time; perhaps she’d done something to cause the death; what if her dad died too?
After the anger comes sadness and it’s then that Mia’s dad suggests a memory box …

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wherein they can both put things connected with special memories and at the same time, have a time together when they could talk about Mia’s mum and she could ask questions.
Slowly there come times – her birthday is coming up – when Mia is able to feel a little more positive about life  That’s what her mum would want, Dad tells her. Eventually Mia finds her own way of coping: she looks at the stars and talks to the brightest one.
Written by a social worker who has much experience with children who have suffered the loss of family members, this is an extremely helpful resource for children having to cope with the loss of a loved one and those adults having to support them through their grieving; it’s strength is most definitely the first person narrative and the activities embedded within the text.

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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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Exploring Feelings


Made by Raffi
Craig Pomranz and Margaret Chamberlain
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Raffi feels different from the other children at school and asks himself why. He knows he shies away from rough and noisy play, preferring instead to spent time in quiet, peaceful places. One day he notices a teacher sitting knitting and she offers to teach him how to do it.


Soon Raffi is knitting and loving it, so much so that when he gets home he persuades his parents to let him buy some wool.
Having done so, he decides to knit a multi-coloured scarf for his dad’s birthday. However, so enthusiastic is Raffi, knitting at every opportunity, that he is laughed at by schoolmates on the bus, as the rainbow scarf trails everywhere.
That evening at home, Raffi talks to his mother about feeling different. “Do you think I’m … girly?” he asks. His mother’s sensible words reassure Raffi and then the following day at school, an announcement about the school play inspires him to use his creative talents to design and make a wonderful cloak for Barry, the lead actor in the school play, to wear for his performance.


Raffi gains the respect of all his classmates and self esteem boosted, thinks about becoming a designer in the future. In the meantime, there’s that scarf to finish and all manner of other projects to work on –
Best of all perhaps though is Barry’s comment on seeing Raffi knitting some weeks later … “Cool,” he said.
This story is a great advocate for creativity, demonstrating that differences should be celebrated as well as promoting the idea that everyone should have the confidence to be true to him or herself without fear of being made to feel inferior or being laughed at.
There is at least one Raffi in every class so I truly hope this book goes some way to deterring potential bullies: there must be no room for bullying in any shape or form.
Margaret Chamberlain’s illustrations too celebrate diversity and sympathetically portray Raffi’s changing emotions as he embarks on his journey of self-discovery.
Definitely a book to share and discuss with children in primary classes everywhere.
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My Big Brother Boris
Liz Pichon
Scholastic pbk
Boris has a birthday party but it seems to Little Croc that his big brother has started acting in a very odd manner telling the small narrator that he’s grown out of childish games, and wanting to spend all his time with his friends or sleeping. Mum is understanding and reminds Little Croc that there are preparations to finish before the party can start, even though the chief guest has yet to get up. When he does finally make an appearance, horror of horrors: Boris is sporting a shiny snout ring.


Parental ranting follows and Boris storms off to his room. His guests arrive and then it’s down to Granny and Grandpa Croc and their younger grandson to save the day with a special party game of ‘guess who’s in the photos’.



Harmony restored, Boris has, so he announces to all, “the best party EVER.” and reassumes his place as best big brother.
Young children with teenage siblings will recognize Boris and his behaviour; this funny story (a reissue) offers the opportunity to explore the feelings around the topic through a reassuring and amusing scenario. Liz Pichon’s pictures are a hoot and crammed with delicious details both visual and verbal.
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How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear?
Jane Evans and Laurence Jackson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The author, Jane Evans has worked with families and children affected by domestic violence for many years and as a result of numerous requests from parents, carers and support workers she created this book to help adults trying to enable young children to make sense of the feelings they experienced when they were frightened and confused.
The story revolves around Baby Bear and his feelings


(sensitively portrayed in the illustrations) as the Big Bears shout and rant at each other
until one leaves the family home.


Using a family of bears rather than human characters perhaps helps create some distance -a space within which children feel safe to discuss and explore those feelings and emotions.
On some pages there are prompts for adults that can be used to start conversations with young children and at the back of the book are some activities and games to facilitate the understanding and expression of difficult emotions. Wearing my children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher’s hat, I particularly like the ‘tummy sunshine’ and the ‘grey rainy’ sad feelings. (Incidentally these can be useful with all young children).
I recommend this little book to all working with children affected by domestic violence whatever the setting.
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Worries Go Away!
Kes Gray and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books
The little girl narrator of this rhyming story shares with readers what happens when she is feeling sad: she goes off to her own world inside her head.


There she feels free and at first everything is perfect but then once again, those worries begin to take hold, growing monstrous. Under a now blackened sky,


the monsters give chase as, tripping and stumbling, the little girl makes for safety. She discovers a door in the darkness but where is the key? Through the keyhole, on the other side she discovers people waiting, waiting for her to open the door –


the door of her heart and let them in. That’s when all those worries dissipate as she feels engulfed by love and not only that, she knows that next time there will be somebody waiting to share her troubles with.
The tension is palpable as the tentacles of the blotchy orange amorphous monsters seek to entangle the narrator’s thoughts in Lee Wildish’s powerful pictures: it’s almost as if the swirls are transformed into her curly tresses as she breaks free through the door.
Children do become engulfed by worries, letting those, to adults seemingly small troubles, become enormous and overwhelming. Kes Gray’s pacing of the rhyming text somehow helps to keep under control, the rising panic of the little girl and gives space for her to realize the way through.
Not a story for an everyday story session, rather it’s one to share and discuss as part of a PSE (personal, social and emotional development) programme for young children.
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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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You can also order this book direct form the publishers at 


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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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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Special Books for Special Children

Can I Tell You About Stammering?
Sue Cottrell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pbk
Eleven-year-old Harry has a stammer. He tells us in a straightforward, matter of fact manner how this makes him feel, how his stammer manifests itself and in what situations, and talks about ways that people can be helpful and supportive when he starts to stammer. We hear about his visits to a speech therapist and also about his older brother, who also stammers and how his case differs from Harry’s. The author of this helpful little book is an education consultant and mother of a son with a stammer. She has researched the subject in depth and offers her expert advice via her character, Harry. In her advocate’s words, “Living with a stammer takes bravery and courage.” Sue Cottrell provides all of us, be we teachers, parents, friends or other professionals, with a sensitive and insightful introductory read. The book’s layout and the numerous line drawings by Sophie Khan make it suitable for young readers from around seven or eight; adults could learn from it too.
Buy from Amazon DSCN1566 From the same excellent series is:

Can I Tell You About Adoption?
Anne Braff Brodzinsky
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pbk
Herein Chelsea, a young girl who has been adopted as a baby, gives readers a frank account of the process of her own adoption as well as introducing two of her friends, Adilu from Ethopia and Kira from China who were also adopted. In contrast to Chelsea, they spent time in orphanages and their adoptions were transracial. There is a short section wherein the three children talk of the unanswered questions in all of their lives, there is information about foster homes and discussions on how teachers and parents can help adopted children or those undergoing the process of being adopted. The overall tenor of this book is upbeat and I can envisage it being a great help both to adopted children and those with whom they have regular contact – teachers and children – at school.
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DSCN1567 Babies Are Noisy
Anne-Marie Harrison
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The time around the arrival of a new baby in the family can be one of anxiety and uncertainty for any young child; for children on the autism spectrum that time with all the changes a new baby entails, is likely to be particularly challenging. Subtitled ‘A book for big brothers and sisters including those on the autism spectrum’ this has a boy narrator, Andre who relates his story about having a noisy new baby. “My Baby” he calls the developing infant and we hear how he watched his mother’s stomach growing larger, about visits to the clinic, see a scan and learn how Andre was able to feel the baby kicking when he sat on his mum’s lap.


Then after the birth come more challenges – presents for the baby, nappy smells, noise – lots of it – and general busyness at home. Being a big brother though can also be rewarding and Andre starts to help with the caring and he anticipates being able to play with his little brother one day. Such is the sensitivity with which the book is written, there is a real sense of it being a child with autism’s voice in this account. The illustrations too have a child-like style. All in all, this unassuming book will be of great benefit to families and professionals working with children particularly those on the spectrum, as part of the preparation for the arrival of a new baby.
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