Pages for parents and carers UPDATED March 2013

Inside Asperger’s Looking Out   *new
Kathy Hoopmann
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
I loved this quirky photographic take on Asperger’s. It is a simple yet very effective way to explain how it feels to be an ‘Aspie’, providing great insights into how people with Asperger’s perceive the world It is a pleasure to come across a book that really celebrates the condition with an honest approach and much humour. With high quality photos and clear, bold text this is a book to engage both young (and not so young!) readers.
Recommended for families and schools.
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The Panicosaurus   *new
K.I. Al-Ghani and Haitham Al-Ghani
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This is a book that deals very sensitively and practically with issues of anxiety in young children. It explains in a very accessible way how the brain functions and what happens to our bodies when we become anxious. The story of Mabel and the Panicosaurus explains beautifully how, with just a bit of thought and understanding, her very real fears can be managed. The simple, bold illustrations compliment the story well.
Anxiety can be a frequent condition for children with autism and Asperger’s; the Panicosaurus is a great tool to help others understand how it feels. The book also provides some helpful strategies for coping with ASD children and reducing stress.
Well worth investing in whether for individual, family or school use.
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Asperkids   *new
Jennifer Cook O’ Toole
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Subtitled ‘An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome’, this book is written by an American parent and teacher who was herself diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as an adult, is married to somebody on the spectrum and has three Aspie offspring. Consequently she is able to enter the minds of such children in a way the majority of us cannot. Talking of learning differences as opposed to difficulties – being on the spectrum is neither good nor bad, more a ‘subculture‘ rather than a problem, she offers Aspie children the possibility of feeling a sense of belonging and pride.
O’Toole talks in a straightforward, readable manner about theory of mind, stresses the necessity for using concrete forms of communication, the importance of breaking tasks down into very small steps, (she is an advocate of Montessori methods in this respect), of avoiding using the word ‘wrong’ when teaching, and offers ways to use sensory experiences to develop the imagination.
One hopes all teachers use children’s particular interests to engage them and further their learning be it academic, social or emotional, but it is absolutely vital to do so with Aspies as the author so passionately reveals and demonstrates. Of course, everything is not then going to be straightforward, there will undoubtedly be challenges to face, but readers should feel empowered by this affirming book to give her suggestions a go.
Her insightful methods will assuredly prove invaluable to parents, teachers and other professionals who live or work with ‘Asperkids’.
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Sandtray Play and Storymaking   *new
Sheila Dorothy Smith
Jessica Kingsley Publishing pbk.
Children playing in sand trays with small world figures and objects, and using the worlds they create as the basis for stories; that’s something teachers of early years children see every day in the UK. Such play is marvellous for developing a whole range of competencies be they social, emotional, language related or cognitive. Why then is it confined to the early years? That, in so many words, is what the author of this book asked herself. And so began her experiment with a group of disaffected children aged seven and eight in a school in Canada.
These children were put into a daily, ninety-minute, nurturing workshop environment and provided with sand trays, small world figures and other items. There was a clear structure to the sessions: each would begin with individual greetings and end with a farewell ritual, thus setting each episode apart from the rest of the day. Mozart was to be the only sound heard during the building phase and children were to stay within their own workspaces.. Photographic records of completed worlds were compiled and a number of these are provided in the book along with some of the children’s stories which resulted from the telling, listening and writing phases that followed the building.
Smith, who is a highly experienced teacher of children with special needs, goes on to document examples of how other settings have taken and adapted the approach for their particular children’s needs. She gives clear explanations for those inspired by her approach (and who could fail to be?) wanting to offer similar opportunities, as well as providing firm theoretical underpinnings for such practice.
I really hope this book is widely read and acted upon, not only by teachers working with children with special needs but those teaching over the fives, many of whom feel forced to push children into writing without their having first had appropriate scaffolding opportunities such as those provided by the author.
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Gardening for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Special Educational Needs   *new
Natasha Etherington
Jessica Kingsley Publishing pbk.
This inspiring and motivating book presents a thoughtful yet highly practical program that offers a wealth of opportunities to complement the indoor curriculum with outdoor gardening-based activities. In order that participants gain the maximum benefit from what is on offer, the author stresses the benefits of adopting the mindfulness approach with its focus on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ throughout. This ‘being in the present moment’ helps engender a feeling of connectedness with an activity, with others and with the environment.
The program begins with digging and this then sets the scene for all that follows, be it identifying parts of a plant, planting, seasonal cooking, a game, art activity or sensory exploration. There are chapter specifically relating to ASD learners, another on adaptations and considerations for wheelchair users, one that considers ADHD in particular, as well as one focusing on children within a wide range of developmental (dis)ability. There is also a chapter on gardens for children who suffer from allergies of various kinds. Throughout though, the focus is on the importance of considering the specific needs each individual child.
‘The garden,’ Etherington says ‘is everything… not only a sensory gym, but also a cerebral and physical gym.’
If teachers, and other who share in the education and care of the young take up the wealth of possibilities offered here, the children in their care (whether or not they have special needs)would indeed benefit enormously.
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Focusing and Calming Games for Children   *new
Deborah M. Plummer
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pbk.
Grounded in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, the author presents a model of interaction that she calls Mindfulness Play: a model that not only seeks to nurture children’s capacity to be fully present in the here and now, but also involves a heightened self awareness on behalf of the adult involved.
The book is divided into two parts. The first gives the background theory to Mindfulness Play in a very accessible form; this is based on a model of well-being and perceptual intelligence encompassing seven elements. It also sets the context within which the activities and games are set, stressing the importance of a nurturing environment. Here too are reflective questions for practitioners to ask themselves as their practice develops.
The second part provides a wide variety of over forty games and activities, aimed at children aged five to twelve, as examples of how to put Mindfulness Play into practice. These activities range from lively action games such as Duck duck goose to a guided meditation and peer massage. Each has detailed instructions, the time needed, adaptions and questions to ask participants to develop further thought.
This ability to focus inwards (as well as paying attention to the outer world) that the author talks about is, something that I have on numerous occasions, observed very young children doing naturally. Sadly though, with the present preoccupation on easily measurable outcomes in education, opportunities to foster this state of being are all too frequently lost as children move further up the education system. For this reason alone, Deborah Plummer’s book is a timely advocate for building in this vital part of education at all ages. Neglect it and that ability is all too easily lost: So too, for many children, is the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Presented in a spirit of openness, that same spirit underlies what the author seeks to foster both in those who read the book and the children with whom they work and play. Every teacher should have a copy: it is also a very valuable resource for youth-workers, therapists, nursery staff, parents and carers, anyone in fact, who seeks to foster and develop children’s emotional and social well-being.
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Understanding Stammering or Stuttering *new
Elaine Kelman and Alison Whyte
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pbk.
A book that explains stammering in a concise, accessible manner and uses the voices of children and young people to explain how it feels from their viewpoint, clears up the myths that surround it and offers a wealth of advice as to how parents, teachers and friends can help and support, is surely a real treasure. This book does all that and more. Feelings are a vital element in that support, both for those who stammer and their parents; we share these not only through their comments but there are also illuminatory diagrams of various kinds.
We learn what therapy entails, both getting help in the first instance and what to expect in speech therapy, its components and possible outcomes, as well as some other potentially helpful therapies. The final section provides an annotated list of other useful organisations and websites.
That it is the voices of children and young people who have a stammer that speak out loud and clear throughout is particularly apposite, for as the authors (both with considerable experience in the field– one a speech therapist, the other a health writer and parent whose son had therapy for his stammer) “the child who stammers is the only expert’. Michael Palin says in his foreword the two most important words in the treatment of stammering are understanding and listening. A third is individual.
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Can I tell you about Selective Mutism?    *new
Maggie Johnson and Alison Wintgens
Jessica Kingsley Publishers pbk
In this shortish, very readable fictional account subtitled ‘A guide for friends, family and professionals’ (written by two professional experts in the field) Hannah talks about selective mutism from her own viewpoint. Her invitation to readers offers an excellent opportunity to learn about what this means and what it feels like both emotionally and physically to have SM. Very importantly too, it offers ways in which they (people) can help and support be they friends, family, teachers, classroom assistants, classmates, lunch-time supervisors; in fact anybody who might come in contact with a child with SM.
Although written as continuous narrative, the book is helpfully divided into sections each being given a page number in the contents at the front. In addition there are  (is) an opening poem by Sir Paul McCartney, some particularly apposite pointers and suggestions for teachers, a section for parents and a final list recommending books (for both adults and children), DVDs, resources and organisations to consult for further information or help. As the book is aimed, in the first instance at younger readers, the text is interspersed with line drawings by Robyn Gallow. These convey a great deal about Hannah and her SM with a gentle empathetic humour.
I wish I’d had this book when I first started out in teaching and I definitely would want to put a copy into the hands of every member of the support staff in any school.
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Frog’s Breathtaking Speech   * new
Michael Chissick, illustrated by Sarah Peacock
Singing Dragon
Frog sits by the river feeling troubled. He has to give a speech at Frog School assembly next day, and the topic is breathing, about which he knows very little. However along come four of his friends in turn, wanting to know the reason for his sad face. Each then offers his own special way of breathing to help cope with calming oneself, relaxing the jaw, headaches and dissipating anger, respectively. Armed with notes on all four techniques, Frog goes home and prepares his speech.
Next morning in assembly, the sight of a hall full of faces causes anxious feelings in Frog but then he remembers what Crocodile, Lion, Bee and the woodcutter had told him about breathing and goes on to deliver an amazing ‘Breathtaking’ speech for which he receives a special certificate. But more important, he now has the knowledge that will help him deal with some of the problem situations he might find himself facing.
As somebody who works with young children and who has also been teaching yoga to some of them for over ten years using a story approach, I have come across many yoga books that offer story ideas. However, amusingly illustrated in watercolours, this is the first picture book proper that I have seen dealing with breathing techniques in particular. In addition to the main narrative, there is an introductory “Guidance for Teachers’ section pointing out how the book can be integrated into a school PSED curriculum (though it can also be used in a family setting) and a final section on the actual animal postures. Well worth seeking out.
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Speak, Move, Play and Learn with Children on the Autism Spectrum   *new
Lois Jean Brady, America X Gonzalez, Maciej Zawadzki & Corinda Presley
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Written by a team of two language experts and two occupational therapists, this is a great book to dip into for fresh ideas, or new possibilities for activities when working with children with Autism. It gives helpful and succinct explanations of what the book is about and how it can be used to support communication, co-ordination and sensory integration skills. It highlights why these skills are so important in order to promote independence and confidence to enable children with Autism to develop necessary and essential life skills.
It is a book that speaks with an enthusiastic voice and should motivate readers to try new ideas. There is something for everyone involved in caring for and teaching children with Autism. Practical ideas are offered that are fun and engaging including chapters on cooking, one focusing on sensory engagement, another with a musical focus Useful suggestions are given with each activity to match different needs and abilities. The resources recommended are easily available. The book provides a handy bank of ideas and activities with the purpose of each activity made clear with easy to follow directions.
Definitely a book to have at hand when planning activities in school or at home.
Pat Winson/Jill Bennett
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Stand Up for Autism: A boy, a dog and a prescription for laughter
Georgina J.Derbyshire
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This ‘laugh  out loud’ account of life with Bobby, a ten year old is a pleasure to read. Written by Bobby’s mother,  it will have instant appeal for those who are parents, carers or teachers of children who have autism. To be able to laugh and celebrate these amazing individuals is such a welcome change. There are plenty of books to inform, advise and describe and it is all too easy for parents in particular, to get lost amidst the jargon. So, there is most definitely a place on the bookshelf for Georgina Derbyshire’s offering in which we see the very humane side of autism and congratualtions to the author for finding the time to write it as well as caring for her son. ( review by Pat Winson)
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Working with Asperger Syndrome in the Classroom
Gill D.Ansell
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This book, subtitled ‘An Insider’s Guide‘ is written by someone with some fifteen years experience of supporting children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in a variety of settings. Essentially it is a down-to-earth, highly readable, jargon free guide, easily digested and an ideal book for anyone working with an Aspergers pupil. It would be particularly valuable for those hard working  teaching assistants doing one to one support, as they are all too frequently left to get on and cope with little or no real training or guidance. It is also a timely reminder to all those teachers, TAs and other professionals already working with AS pupils as to how best support them.
There are six sections : an explanation of AS, working with an AS pupil, Dealing with feelings, Ideas for Visual Learners, Assessment and a final, (slightly optimistic,)  ‘Everything Else You Need to Know’. Each section  is further divided into short chapters making for easy acess to specifics such as ‘Literal Thinking’ , Individual Work Stations, Behaviour Management Sessions, Anxieties, Visual Converstations, Record keeping, Bullying and Finding Solutions.  (review by Pat Winson)
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Natural Simple Land Art Through the Seasons
Marc Pouvet   Frances Lincoln
Essentially this is a series of colour photographs of natural objects – leaves, flowers, twigs, feathers,  pebbles and the like arranged to make artistic installations in a variety of natural environments. There are four sections, one for each season of the year and through each composition the creator provides a silent, meditative invitation for us all to explore the  rich colours, textures and shapes of the world around us.
This is a beautiful book to look at and an excellent source of ideas for educators in any situation – school, home or in the field.
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Hush, Baby, Hush!
Kathy Henderson illustrated by Pam Smy
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
This fascinating collection brings together twenty nine traditional lullabies from all around the world presenting them both in their original language and an accompanying English translation and interestingly, around a third concern themselves in some way or another with food. Pam Smy’s splendid illustrations help place the lullabies in their original cultural settings: the rice fields of the far east or a Jamaican market for instance, while the songs serve to keep alive that vital oral tradition.
With babies and young children it’s the sounds and flow of language rather than the specific words that are so often calming and soothing, and of course, sometimes this is so for the adult concerned as well. At then back of the book is music to go with many of the lullabies; this is great if the adult is musical but to make this book even better, I would have liked to have an accompanying CD with music and the songs in their original languages. Nevertheless this would be a worthwhile addition to a classroom collection and would make a lovely present for a new baby.
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