Jennie Harding, Author
David Padgett, Illustrator
Sensory World, Imprint of Future Horizons, 2011, Fiction
Suitable for: Ages 4 and up
Theme: Processing sensory messages, neurological disability, teamwork with the family, therapist and school
Opening/Synopsis: “With her unevenly cut brown hair, bare feet, and loud, munchkin-like singing voice, Ellie Bean spun wildly in circles in her backyard. As the wind blew harder against her face, Elli Bean laughed and sang longer…and louder…and louder. Her spinning became faster…and faster!” Ellie’s mother yells for her to slow down. When she suddenly stops spinning very fast, she doesn’t seem wobbly. She takes off running after a butterfly. She spots a bee and runs screaming into the house sobbing. Her mother quietly asks her what is wrong. But, Ellie is not able “to put her fear into words.” Many things upset Ellie like the smell and taste of toothpaste, the flushing the toilet, getting a hair cut. For Ellie, everything is “too loud, too scratchy, too painful, too tight, too smelly, too ouchy and too squishy,” all of which send her into a meltdown. Some people think she’s drama queen.
Ellie and her parents visit a specialist and learn that she has a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). An occupational therapist works with Ellie and her parents to discover what things make her feel better and calm her down, like swinging, spinning, jumping on a trampoline, brushing her arms and legs with a soft brush and wrapping her tightly in a blanket. After her parents start using these exercises with her, Ellie begins to use words to tell her mom what is bothering her.
Why I like this book: Jennie Harding uses drama and a lot of action to show how SPD affects the quality of life for children. She is the parent of a child with sensory-processing difficulties and a special educator. SPD is a term used to cover a variety of neurological disabilities, not just one. Some children with autism have SPD. David Padgett has created a very colorful and lively illustrations that beautifully compliment the story. Harding says it is important the parents educate themselves and seek help. An Occupational Therapist will know what tools can be used to ease the discomfort for a child, who has difficulty processing information that is received in the brain. It is also important to train the child to listen to his/her own body. Please read the Author Information about SPD at the back of the book. She gives an overview and provides important resources and web sites for parents.
Resources: Visit the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation , which is establishing an on-line SPD University, The Sensory and Motor Integration Website of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Sensory Integration Global Network for more information. This is a book that could be used in the classroom to discuss sensory issues with students. A lot of kids find things that are too ouchy, too itchy, too noisy, and too smelly. This would help children better understand kids with SPD. You could also have children draw pictures about what bothers them most. This could lead to a lively discussion about similarities.
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