Bookbug for All: Supporting Children on the Autism Spectrum
April was Autism Awareness Month, so we felt it was the perfect time to find out how some of our Bookbug resources were making a difference to parents, carers, and practitioners supporting children on the autism spectrum.
Our latest book for children with support needs, Off to the Park, was created by Child's Play in consultation with over 20 different groups and family units. Although primarily tailored to the needs of blind and partially sighted children, it has been successfully enjoyed by children with a range of support needs, including children on the autism spectrum.
Amanda Hay, an Early Years Practitioner for Early Years Scotland, delivers Bookbug Sessions as part of her Stay and Play sessions in eight different learning centres across North Lanarkshire. She had started to notice that some of her children were not engaging with the books at her Bookbug Sessions, and when she raised this with her colleagues, was told about Off to the Park. She knew straight away when she saw the book that it would encourage the children to 'interact and engage,' so she brought it along to the following session.
One family said it was the only book that their child engaged with
The description on each page of things you may see when walking to the park was great as it was short and direct and allowed the children to focus on the words and the interactive pictures. Most notably, one family with a child with global delay, and who is autistic, said it was the only book that their child engaged with, 'helping with communication and everyday life when going outside'.
Scottish Book Trust also works in partnership with CALL Scotland on the development of resources for children with communication difficulties. CALL Scotland have created a fantastic pack of resources to accompany the books in the Bookbug Explorer Bag, as well as resources to support the Bookbug P1 Family Bag. These can be used with children on the autism spectrum and include symbol sheets which the child points to when they're sharing a story.
According to Joanna Courtney at CALL Scotland, the symbolised resources are being used by autistic pupils in a number of ways. They can be used in a one-to-one shared reading situation with a physical copy of the book, or integrated into a small group activity where the symbol resources, Big Mack switches (a communication device that can be used for repetitive phrases in the story), and digital versions of the books are all used to create a truly inclusive learning activity. You can see these resources in action at Braidburn School in this video.
In addition to these resources, we have created a number of book lists on our website that children on the autism spectrum may enjoy. The books you choose to share will depend on a child's individual needs and interests; simple books with very bright, clear pictures may work best for some children, while touchy-feely books with lots of different textures may be the best choice for others. The most important thing is to make sure that everyone has fun reading together!
Find out more about our resources for children with additional needs on our Bookbug pages.