Autism is a spectrum disorder (ASD) that affects each individual in distinctive ways. Perhaps in ways as unique as handprints and snowflakes. Though there is a wide variation of obstacles a child with ASD may experience (such as language deficits, sensory hyper/hypo sensitivities, and interfering behaviors), social isolation is perhaps the most painful hurdle for these families and children. Planning an play date for classmates with autism is as valuable for neurotypical children as it is for those in the neurodiverse community.
* I received a fee and three copies of this paperback book. These books will be distributed to a special needs pre-school in Long Island, New York. The following review is my personal and professional opinion.
During April, which is World Autism Month, I typically share my family’s very personal experience with autism. You’ve heard the expression, “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” (Meet MY One Person With Autism) ASD affects each person’s neurological processes in … ways. Just as those snowflakes, no two are alike.
Plan a Play Date for Classmates with Autism
For my own son, who didn’t speak until he was four, interaction with other children was very difficult. Even after language, picking up nonverbal cues from others was an issue. Recognizing this, he was placed in a social skills workshop. There, social scripts and visual stories were employed. Planning for play dates, and rehearsing every aspect of that “event” was key to success; everything from eye contact to turn-taking was repeated over and over. Structure and elimination of the unknown has been shown to decrease anxiety in children with ASD. (Autism Speaks suggests guidelines for this preparation HERE.) Everything was accounted for- except for the playmate. And, of course, their preparation and expectations. Enter Stewie Boom! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Play-Dates
Stewie Boom! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Play Dates
In this fourth of the Stewie Boom! series, its brilliance is the prep work is does for the neurotypical family and classmate. The sensitivity with which the book addresses special needs and differences brought a tear to my eye. What I would have given for a primer such as this! In a matter-of-fact way, this book describes some of the behaviors (flapping, rocking, perseverating) that classmates may exhibit. It suggests role playing between parents and children prior to the play date. The book advises choosing a structured activity, such as a craft or baking project, so that there are established guidelines for interaction. Lastly, it delivers “Tips to welcome Special Needs families for a play-date.” How refreshing is that?! If only society at large thought like Stewie Boom!!
So, whether your child is part of an inclusionary class or school, reaching out to classmates with autism who may think or act differently is an invaluable life lesson for their future. I highly recommend Stewie Boom! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Play Dates for ALL young families. (Maybe grown ups should buy a copy too!)