An illustrated children’s book that suggests coping mechanisms, through the use of “social stories,” for youngsters on the autism spectrum or who have sensory processing disorders.
In her work over the last 16 years, Parsakia, a child behavioral specialist, has found that “social stories,” first developed by consultant Carol Gray in 1991, are “incredibly helpful” in getting autistic children “to better understand the feelings and needs of others; while meeting their own specific needs, and developing ‘scripts’ that they can adopt and reproduce in similar social circumstances.” Social stories help improve social skills by presenting short scenarios of challenging situations. In her debut book, aimed at children ages 3 to 7 (or older, if appropriate), Parsakia focuses on the five senses, as sensory processing disorders are common problems among her clients. In simple language, she explains the senses and the purposes they serve, and through the perspective of a child, she points out that although senses can be painful, they “are good for me. They help me learn about things.” Each social story offers observations, outside perspectives, and possible positive responses to problems. In a story about the sense of hearing, for example, Parsakia’s child narrator, a small blond boy, notices that “When I go to the bathroom, the toilet flushing hurts my ears.” He also notices that other people don’t have the same reaction: “But, my friends don’t seem upset like me….If I scream, my friends might be confused.” Useful strategies to address the problem include “leave the bathroom quickly and not hear the horrible sound anymore” or “count quietly in my head without talking.” However, Parsakia leaves out some classic elements of the social story, including reassuring affirmative sentences, such as “That’s okay” or “This is important,” or cooperative sentences that show how adults or teachers can help. Also, the book lacks diversity in its storytelling and in Nacaytuna’s (Abolonia Twitt and the Toasted Cheese Sandwich, 2016, etc.) full-color illustrations; including both genders, other races, and more types from the autism spectrum might have allowed more children to see themselves in these stories. Also, the book’s punctuation could have used a cleanup.
This work, despite some flaws, offers kids with sensory difficulties useful strategies.