What a difference 16 years makes! After the Social Skills Picture Book (written in 2001) fiasco I approached The ASD and Me Picture Book (2017) with trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised and while not perfect, in contrast to Social Skills it is worth your time. A friend actually found it at the library for me; I did not buy it. I have not yet decided if I will or not, though if the other books in the series are not in my library system I may buy one despite the average $20/book price.
The purpose of this book it to help kids self assess strengths and weakness and to assess growth in those areas. It comes with built in tools and 20 pages to photocopy, which I think is a valuable addition. The book has a nice, neutral color scheme; they don’t use red for struggles but rather yellow which I think is very positive and friendly. The book is to the assumed child reader, but I think it would set a good example to take the strengths and weaknesses assessments with your child for yourself, too. An interesting note mentioned in the introduction to adults part is that the word “autism” is never mentioned in the book so that it can be used with unofficially diagnosed kids who could use the tools or if the child has not been told they are on the spectrum.
The book starts with talking about how everyone is different and everyone has both strengths and struggles. They give examples of each and have the kid pick out what they think their strengths are, and then where on a scale of 1-10 their strength is, and then do the same with possible struggles. Pro: eye contact is never mentioned, not once. YAY! Con: I’m not a fan of some of their choices of struggles.
- Both “Talking too little” and “Talking too much” are listed as possible challenges, with no reference for what the right amount is. Also, as someone who personally deals with social anxiety, stuff like that makes my anxiety 10 times worse because then I’m constantly on alert watching myself and trying to be “right” and it’s emotionally destructive and physically exhausting. I don’t want that for my kids. When doing the self assessments with the boys I explained that I did not agree with the “talking to little” and that “talking too much” meant doing all of the talking and not letting anyone else say anything.
- “Talking to yourself when other people are around.” Um, so what if they’re doing that? I don’t believe in forcing introverts to act like an extrovert. If Lady Bug is talking to herself, I’m just thrilled to be hearing words come out of her mouth! This is straying into the “you don’t want to look weird” zone. We embrace the Weird Zone so, not cool. I had them cross that one out.
- “Wanting too much alone time” okay, no, don’t guilt trip the introverts! If they need it there is no such thing as too much alone time! Another one crossed out.
- “Not knowing how to fit in.” Why are we telling neurotypical kids that it’s okay to stand out and being different is cool, but telling spectrum kids “yeah, you need to fit in.” Sorry Mr. Author, but I still score “badly” on this as a 31 year old adult and I’m okay with that.
- “Worried feelings,” “Sad feelings,” “Angry feelings” So, only happy feelings are okay? In a post Inside Out world, that doesn’t make sense. (Side note, I made an awesome Inside Out Emotions Tool Kit on my old blog. Check it out!) Yes, having your feelings be primarily negative is something that needs to be addressed. But that’s not specifically worded that way and for a kid not struggling with a predominance of negative emotions, this could come across as “any,” not “too many.” I tried to make it clear to the boys that what it was supposed to mean was feeling one of those emotions more than anything else, and having a lack of balance. I hope I got through to them, especially Early Bird who is very sensitive about things like this.
- “Body too restless” with an icon that looks suspiciously like flapping hands. Flapping and stimming is usually beneficial and necessary (Here is just one of many writings about that.) We’re a flapping accepting family and I don’t like what this icon seems to be implying.
There is also a page that tells the child to “avoid thinking that you don’t really have problems” and that “I like the way I talk and act. So, no problems” is an example of things they should not think. I take issue with self acceptance words being taught as wrong. Another page directs children to listen to other people to tell the child about their strengths and challenges with no guide as to who is appropriate to listen to (parents) and who is not (bullies and jerks.) It also makes the assumptions that these other people will know the child better than the child knows themselves, which doesn’t allow for prejudices or give kids any credit to know themselves. While the intent may be innocent, the potential abuse of this makes me uneasy.
Now I realize I have listed more negatives than positives in this review, but I would like to point out that in 100 pages these are the only problems I have with this book. Over all I think it is a positive and helpful book. In my Social Skills review I talked about how much of a book is worth amending before the book itself is not worth it. I feel that this book is below that threshold and so recommend it as a helpful and worthwhile book to check out of the library with the caveat that you should read it first and possibly use sticky notes for the areas you think could do your individual child more harm than good.
When going through the self assessment activities with the boys, the “struggles” assessment brought out a lot of things that Early Bird, my kid with anxiety, has been thinking and feeling that he’s never shared before. It was heartbreaking, especially as I’m not sure how to help him with these things that I still struggle with at 31. But it was a very important and necessary conversation that we needed to have and I don’t know if it would have come out if we hadn’t found this book. So for that, I am grateful for it.