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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Liam Knows what to do when Kids Act Snitty, by Jane Whelen Banks

This is a small, short book for children, with an important preface for the adults in their lives.

I have had this book in my possession for a considerable period of time. While it's unwise to over analyze, I've been in two minds about the Liam series, for a number of different reasons. Jane Whelan Banks attacks the main stumbling blocks for many of our children - the mystifying world of social skills. In fact, I would describe this as a social story, a entertaining teaching tool.

I know a great many children, on and off the spectrum, who think and behave very similarly to Liam. Jane captures the dichotomy - Liam values his performance talents, which others do not, while other people value different skills, which Liam doesn't value at all.

Some will interpret Liam's behavior as acting up or showing off - he deserves to be ignored. Other people may see a child trying very hard to 'engage' with other children but who is rebuffed, repeatedly.

Jane concentrates upon demonstrating coping skills for Liam and children like him, as well as developing a logical explanation for the other childrens' behavior.

A few points to ponder.

Some readers object vehemently to the illustrations, essentially stick figures with splashes of color. There are several sound reasons for this approach: any child can identify with Liam. A long time ago, my children had difficulty identifying with a character who looked very different from them. Additionally complex and elaborate illustrations can distract from the message - picture books proliferate, there are many to choose from. Some children cannot bear to look at faces or pictures of faces or photographs - anything more than a line drawing is unacceptable.

Some readers may suggest they can draw better illustrations and make better social stories themselves - in which case, good for you. However, some people cannot draw, even stick figures. Other people may find there own beautifully illustrated and poignant home-made social stories are ignored by their own children as they do not have the same legitimacy as a published book.

I look forward to future publications as Liam and his family grow.

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