by Nancy Carlson and Armond Isaak
Free Spirit Publishing, $9.99
The main character in this new picture book says, "Sometimes I feel like everyone is a branch on the same tree, and I'm the lonely stick in the yard." Author and illustrator Nancy Carlson and her young co-author, Armond Isaak, address the challenges that kids with special needs have in social interactions.
The book is based on the experiences of Armond Isaak, an elementary school student who has Asperger's, sometimes known as high-functioning autism. Although there are similarities and differences in his social challenges to those of kids with ADHD, all kids with special needs are sure to relate to Armond's plight, as he contemplates attending a friend's birthday party.
When Armond's mom says it's time to go to Felicia's party, Armond has a list of worries that he needs to talk through. A party is a radical change from his Saturday routine. He won't know what to talk about and he'll be overwhelmed by the chaos of the party.
Armond and his mother make a plan for coping, and, with Felicia and her mom enlisted to help, Armond agrees to attend. When the situations Armond predicted come to pass, and he starts to get cranky and nervous, he implements the plan. "I need a break!" Armond says to Felicia's mother. After some quiet time to read and play Legos, Armond rejoins the party. It wasn't easy, but he succeeded, and everyone is proud.
Kids with Asperger's, ADHD, and other special needs can see Armond as a role model for preparing to succeed in challenging social situations. If Armond can do it, they can, too.