Review: A personalised social skills book for kids with anxiety
I was asked recently if I would review a ‘social skills’ book from the range at www.inthebook.com. I’m an autism mum, and for a long time I wrote a blog about my experiences with my (darling but difficult) son. To be honest, we never formally used social skills training or resources, and I was a little doubtful about whether or not these books would be any good or not, but In The Book was polite and asked twice, so I finally agreed.
One of the nifty features about the In the Book range is that you can have your book personalised with your child’s name. I was told to pick the social skills book I wanted to review and tell the company what name I’d like in it. Of course, I had to think about this. My son with ASD is now nearly 16, and waaaay out of the age range for these books, which are aimed at 3 to 6 year olds. Reading a little kids’ book about social skills to him and expecting to come up with a useful review seemed like a pointless exercise. It would come down to me guessing whether or not he would have found it helpful when he was that age.
So I picked another name. I decided to choose a book that focused on anxious feelings and fears, and chose a child who I knew has reasonably regular meltdowns based on anxiety. He doesn’t have autism, but I’d call him anxious. So I typed in his name, pressed ‘order’ and waited.
Very quickly, my book arrived, and I presented it to the child’s mother. ‘Here’s a book about anxiety personalised for your anxious child.’ (Thankfully she’s a good friend of mine, and didn’t take offence.) She agreed to take it away, read it, and report back.
My friend read the Wibbly-Wobbly Dinosaur to her little boy. He liked it, she said, mostly because it had his name in it. Also, he likes dinosaurs, so that helped too. Now, if that had been as far as it went, it would still have been a reasonable purchase, because it’s fun to have a personalised book, amirite?
However, it’s what happened a few days later that was significant.
The children were eating dinner at the table, and they were up to dessert. My friend’s little boy somehow got it into his head that his little sister wanted his dessert. This was not the case, but he was protesting loudly. ‘You can’t have it! No!’
‘She doesn’t want your dessert,’ my friend told her son, but her reassurances didn’t do anything. He built himself up into a frenzy, thinking that his sister wanted his dessert, and finally, ran yelling and upset, from the table into his own room.
My friend, who is a good parent, decided she had better go see what she could do. In the quiet of the bedroom she reassured him again that of course his sister didn’t want his dessert, and then thought, ‘I’ll try tying this to the book.’
‘Hey, remember in the Wibbly-Wobbly dinosaur?’ she said. ‘When the dinosaur thinks a shadow is a big monster? He made up this whole thing in his mind about how terrible it all was, but it wasn’t terrible at all.’
Her little boy sat up and listened. He got it! He could relate his own behaviour to the irrational behaviour in the book, and he calmed down almost immediately. I think he even went out and finished his dinner.
Would I recommend it?
When I heard this story, I was impressed. Combined with good parenting, the personalised anxiety social skills book did its job and worked well. The only thing I would have to say is that I’m still not sure if it would have worked as effectively with my son who has ASD. My friend’s son is anxious, and fixated on negative thoughts, like my kid was, but he still has more of an ability to ‘shift gears’ and switch thought patterns. We had to do a lot more calming and regulation work with my child before he was able to do this sort of processing.
Having said that though, I’d definitely recommend giving the personalised social skills books from www.inthebook.com a go. For some budgets, the books might be a little bit on the expensive side, but that might be a good opportunity for a kind grandparent or aunty to contribute. The extra cost comes from the personalisation, but as that’s what made the difference for my friend’s son, you could argue it’s worth it. Either way, they present nicely, and they’re bright and attractive.
It might simply be fun as a story with your child’s name in it, but you might also find it provides a good hook for you to hang some great parenting and mindset-shifting on to.
Disclaimer: I was given a free personalised copy of The Wibbly-Wobbly Dinosaur to review, courtesy of the publisher, but the review and opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.