Written by: Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter
Illustrated by: Clarabelle van Niekerk
Published in 2006
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Picture Book
Grade Level: K-4
Summary: This book tells the story of Sam and his family, and how they found out he has Asperger’s syndrome. The story talks about Sam’s differences, and provides information and tips for children to use with a friend who has Asperger’s syndrome.
I want to start off by saying “Yay for person-first language!!” If you don’t know what that means, it refers to talking about people with disabilities and putting the person first. For example, you should say “the child with autism” rather than “the autistic child.” This simple change in a sentence shows that you are valuing the person above the disability. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, this book uses person-first language.
I thought this was an excellent book. The illustrations were good, but that is nothing compared to the great message of the book. While it was a bit wordy, the book really does a good job of explaining how children with Asperger’s syndrome are different. It reminds us that there is nothing wrong with these children: they’re just a bit different.
I think this book would be an excellent way to start a discussion with students about autism. I know from my own personal experiences that children sometimes don’t know how to react when they meet someone who is different. An example from my own life comes from when I was a teenager. I was working in my church’s nursery one night when a little boy with autism was brought in. I was the only nursery worker that night, and all I was told was “He is autistic.” I had no idea what that meant, so when he grabbed the tote of crayons and dumped them all over the ground to start organizing them I didn’t have a clue about what to do.
Not only does the book contain the story, but it also includes 10 tips and a letter for children from a speech language pathologist. I really think this book would be a valuable tool for any classroom, and I plan to use it in the future.
I give Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome five stars!