autism, nonfiction corner, social-emotional

Nonfiction Corner – Everybody Feels Fear/How to Build a Hug

Everybody Feels Fear (DK Children)
Written & Illustrated by Ashwin Chacko

For ages: 4-8
For a very long time, parents in America were taught to push their children despite signs that the child might have anxiety. The result was a society full of anxious people who were terrible at communicating their feelings. The solution to handling fear is different for every person. This book does an excellent job of talking to young children about how it is normal to feel fear and provides some strategies on what to do when you feel it. One of my favorite things about this text is that it emphasizes nothing wrong with feeling scared & that bravery has nothing to do with making fear disappear. Courage happens in spite of fear, and it can take time to build up enough of it.

I’m someone who used to struggle with intense anxiety. I still feel it, but I’ve learned some ways how to manage it. It would have been very beneficial for people like me to have had books like these when we were kids. Then, so much of our lives would not have been eaten up by being paralyzed with fear. This positively constructed book asks children to understand what they are afraid of and to think about why these things make them afraid. It encourages kids to look at the silliness of their fear and learn to laugh at it while still respecting the emotion. It might be a little sparse for the older kids, but this is great for an early elementary audience.

How To Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Written by Amy Guglielmo & Jacqueline Tourville
Illustrated by Giselle Potter

For ages: 4-8
Temple Grandin is one of the most famous autistic people in the world. I remember the first time I became aware of her was during an episode of 20/20 in the early 1990s. It was also the first time I heard the word “autism.” Today, I understand I am autistic, which makes sense when I reflect on my childhood. Grandin’s story is inspiring, and this book does a great job of telling her story for younger children. The text focuses on Grandin’s sensory struggles, not understanding fully how to communicate as a child how certain things made her feel bad. One of those was hugs, as it overstimulated the girl. 

Years later, Grandin would observe the cattle at her aunt’s ranch and start to see parallels between herself and how the animals responded to sensory input. Grandin would note the squeeze machine used to calm the cows during their medical examinations and see that as potentially pleasing for herself. Back home, she constructed a similar device out of wood and cushions. Grandin found that it gave her the comfort of a hug without the overstimulation that had made them unpleasant. Eventually, Grandin matured & changed enough to share hugs with people, which no longer created an unpleasant feeling. She would also parlay this knowledge into helping construct more human cattle slaughterhouses that provided the animals with no pain as they were killed. This is a fantastic book to introduce children to autism and provide representation for children on the spectrum.

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