Did you know that in the year 2000 the rate of autism was 1 in 150 children? By 2016, that number jumped to 1 in 68. For boys, some reports find the number is as high as 1 in 28. Those statistics are staggering, but what’s even more staggering is that acceptance of special needs still has a gross stigma attached to it.
A new picture book tackles these stigmas and issues head-on. In Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Play-dates, Christine Borders Bronstein shows readers how children and families can embrace differences and gives parents the tools to help facilitate successful social interactions between children with ASD and their typical playmates.
As a special needs mom, I know the importance of kids feeling a connection with not only their peers but other adults in their lives there to make a difference. Kids with special needs require a higher level of support because, without it, families continue to suffer from isolation, unable to thrive.
This is the story of a little girl who discovers that at school nobody is the same when her teacher introduces a class activity with snowflakes and handprints to show how each of us different. The teacher asks the kids to play with someone new during a break. Penelope chooses Eric who is on the autism spectrum. They have a fabulous time playing together.
Eric comes over to Penelope’s house later to play. The family keeps their voices quiet since Eric doesn’t like loud noises. They also practice reading body language and being flexible while playing games. Eric and Penelope make a great team. During the playdate, they bake. Eric helps by measuring out the ingredients, something Penelope didn’t know how to do. They play on the trampoline in the yard. What happens next is a surprise.
The Stewie BOOM! series and Penelope books are incredible for kids. I loved Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes, and Play-Dates because of the way it helps children learn about kids with special needs. It helps children learn to respect one another, even when we are all a bit different.
My favorite aspect of the book is how the family tries to accommodate Eric while he’s having a play-date. I cannot tell you what a difference that makes to a child with special needs. My son is like Eric, hating loud noises or surprises. It sends him off the rails. But he has families who understand who he is and what he deals with on a day in and day out basis. This form of love and acceptance is so vastly important for a child, which is why I love the message Bronstein shares with this must-read for kids and parents.
“In my work in publishing I, have focused on voices that are too often left out of the world of books. If they were represented as a group, people with disabilities would be the largest minority and they are very underrepresented in the world of publishing. With autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on the rise, our hope with this book is to inform young people (and their families) about the many advantages of inclusion and finding points of connection with children with ASD. I also hope that kids with ASD find a character they can love and relate to in Eric, Princess Penelope’s wonderful friend with autism spectrum disorder,” said Bronstein.
- Start with short play-dates for kids to get used to each other. 30 minutes is good.
- Always put away special toys so kids don’t fight over something important getting broken
- Communicate with your kids on the differences people have, and ways in which we are all the same.
- Keep those conversations going after the play-date is over by asking your kids what could be done differently next time.
- Don’t pressure yourself to make play-date work. Some will and some won’t.
- Give your child the freedom and opportunity to build healthy and successful relationships with their friends.
- Help children learn how to communicate with one another without violence or acting out, but by using their voice.
Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Snowflakes, Handprints, and Play-Dates can be purchased at Barns & Noble, Amazon, and various other bookstores in your local area. Go find it, and buy it! You won’t be disappointed and can create a cherished moment for you and your child reading together. One that can last a lifetime.