(Giveaway) Book Review: In His Shoes by Joanna L. Keating-Valasco

Note:  I was contacted by the author Joanna L. Keating-Velasco with a request to consider this book for review.  After accepting, she sent me a free copy for review.  This is the copy that I will be giving away to a lucky reader.  Gently used, I promise.  I received no other incentive or promise of blog promotion for my review.

Because of the staggering numbers of autistic kids who are being bullied in school, In His Shoes: A Short Journey Through Autism appealed to me.  And, while this is not a book about bullying, it is a book that could help prevent or alleviate bullying of ASD kids.

In His Shoes:  A Short Journey Through Autism is written for a middle school audience.  The book is arranged in chapters containing vignettes of daily experiences of a 13 year-old autistic boy named Nicholas.  Nicholas speaks, but is not conversational.  He suffers from sensory integration issues and is often quite frustrated at his inability to communicate his thoughts and needs.  Nicholas is enrolled in a self-contained classroom, but attends inclusion classes to learn and socialize with typical kids.

Through the vignettes, we observe Nicholas as he experiences many things common to autistic kids.  We also see the experiences of the typical kids who interact with him.  Which is important.  It can be hard, when worrying and hurting for your bullied child, to remember that kids are kids and usually do not have the knowledge or life experience to understand our children’s eccentricities which do seem weird to typical kids.  He (and they) experience such things as:  transitioning to middle school, meeting new people, meltdowns, food aversions, being taken advantage of, bullying, birthday parties, being talked about, sibling relationships, sensory overload, adapted curriculum, going to the dentist, and more.  Following each vignette, is a “Points to Ponder” section of thought-provoking discussion questions.

I particularly like the design of this book.  Having worked with thousands of middle schoolers, I can tell you firsthand that middle schoolers do not care about autism.  Middle schoolers care about middle schoolers.  They are still very self-centered at this age.  It isn’t that they don’t care when faced with another person’s difficulties.  It is that they are mostly oblivious to them.

When you want to reach the hearts of a group of 11-13 year-olds, you have to first put them in the other person’s shoes.  This is what Keating-Velasco does with the aptly named In His Shoes.  Each of the “Points to Ponder” questions asks students how they would feel if faced with the same situation.  The questions are excellent, and I can tell you from experience that they would start a wonderful classroom discussion about tolerance, compassion, and bullying.  Middle schoolers actually love to discuss these issues – especially when given an opportunity to share their opinions!

I see In His Shoes best being utilized in a group setting.  It would be an ideal book to use in 15-20 minute segments.  I could see youth groups, peer counseling groups (student led school guidance activities), or classroom teachers using it.  It is quite the thing these days to have built into the school schedule advisor-advisee periods – usually once a week or during a short homeroom period – when teachers or guidance counselors lead discussions about topics such as this.

If you are a parent whose ASD child is transitioning to middle school or having problems in his/her school, I would take a copy of this to the guidance counselor or principal and ask if they might be willing to use this with the students.  I would go that route first rather than the classroom teacher, as approval would no doubt be needed first.   This book might also be useful to put in the hands of siblings of ASD kids (or their friends) who are having difficulty understanding a brother or sister’s needs.

Joanna L. Keating-Valasco also has a similar book geared toward elementary students.  As my teaching experience has been only middle school for the past 14 years, I decided I would best be able to evaluate this book.  But it might be an option if your child is in elementary school.

In His Shoes: A Short Journey Through Autism is a book written with a specific purpose – opening the hearts and minds of middle schoolers to the experience of kids with autism.  Based upon my professional experience, I think it would do an admirable job of doing just that.  Highly recommended.

The author’s website and information for ordering:  http://aisforautism.net/.

If you would like to enter to receive a free copy of In His Shoes, please leave a comment below.  Must be received by February 9, 2012.  (Planning to simply draw a name out of a hat!)  Question:  Have you (or would you consider) visiting your child’s classmates (or having guidance assistance) to explain his or her ASD condition?  Why or why not?  And, if you did, how did it go?  

25 thoughts on “(Giveaway) Book Review: In His Shoes by Joanna L. Keating-Valasco

  1. Fatima

    Yes, I would absolutely consider visiting my child’s classroom, or whole school to explain ASD. I feel like it is a disservice to the entire school to not be educated on this.

  2. momwhoprays05

    If my asd son were being bulkied at school I would definately want to set up a meeting with the classmates and maybe even an informational one with the parents. so they can see what is going on and also be more educated themselves about my sons asd and about asd in general. I see itbs a way to advocate for my child and a way to spread awareness about Autism.

  3. Karen

    Absolutely! Taking the time to educate other children (and their parents) is something that needs to be done. it helps for them to understand some of the behaviors that they may see as “bad” are in fact something that my child may not be able to control. This is not something to be ashamed of but it is something that needs to be understood. Autism is not a processing error, it’s just a different operating system! P:)

    1. paula

      I love “Autism is not a processing error, it’s just a different operating system!” I’m going to steal & share that quote – hope you don’t mind :)

  4. Tracy

    we insisted on it but because they would not acknowledge his diagnosis of aspergers they made it a general presentation about children with disabilities.

  5. Yolanda

    My son was bullied at his elementary school and assaulted by his “buddies” who he was teamed up with by his SCORES instructor. We went through so much heartache and legal issues and it took alot for my son to feel comfortable going back to school. He actually starting liking school when he left his elementary school and entered into middle school. Right before the holidays, my son started having some issues and they couldn’t figure out what was happening so the school contributed them to be my son having behavioral issues. I visited every one of my son’s classes, some on more than one occasion. On one observation, my son was sitting in his wheelchair during “break” reading a book he brought from home. Another student got up, went to my son and grabbed the book off of my son’s lap and laughed. This was done with three teaching staff and me, the parent, in the classroom. I was furious. If the student had no fear of doing this in the classroom with four adults, what will he do to my son when there isn’t any adults? Another incident happened in the recent weeks and I immediately filed a stay away agreement with the principal.

    My thought was I NEED TO DO SOMETHING MORE TO HELP MY SON. My son loves school and he wants to make friends. I don’t want bullies or insensitive students to keep him from enjoying school. I need to inform the community – give them the opportunity to read or to ask someone what my son might be going through. I’ve been searching for books to donate to the school and found two this morning I was interested in, one of them being “In His Shoes: A Short Journey Through Autism” .

    Thank you.

  6. Robin

    Absolutely! There are a few children (high school on down) in our district diagnosed ASD, it would definately benefit everybody.

  7. Mark Wheeler

    As one of what seems a rare breed of middle-schooler-devotees (they are my favorite age group, by far), and as a youth Pastor, and a husband of a woman who works with ASD kids every day (and hears her heart break when she tells stories of these kids’ difficulties), Keating-Velasco’s book sounds perfect! Thank you Mrs. K-V for putting your wise thoughts into words that we can all use to become better human beings! I, obviously, have not read this book; but this review sure sold me on it.

    1. FlappinessIs

      I’m awfully fond of them myself, Mark. People tend to look at you like you’re a saint when you say you teach middle school. But these guys are the funniest thing on the planet. One day they are awkwardly trying to hold hands with their “boyfriend” and the next they are drawing a picture for you. Awfully charming.

  8. Pam O'Connor

    My son is currently in 4th grade, and I for sure see myself working with the resource team at his future middle school to try and implement a program. My son is mainstreamed, and it can be a double-edged sword. While of course we want him to achieve and push himself both academically and socially, as he has gotten older, the teasing and bullying issues have escalated. While there are very valid reasons for self-contained classroom settings for a variety of children with special needs, I personally see this as an issue of educating the school, teachers and students about it so as many of our kiddos as possible are included in the regular classroom setting.

  9. Ashley Hughes

    I am definately going to have to add this book to my reading list. 1. my nephew is on the spectrum and his middle school aged brother and sister, tend to tease him and not understand. 2. my son has autism, he is only 3 but the teasing and the bullying in the future worry me. It will be a good book to read now and later.

  10. Tina

    I have a 3rd grade boy with Autism, and a 7th grade boy with Aspergers. Last year, my oldest son was part of a Autism Documentary that his class filmed and showed the district. I in turn brought that to church and had the Youth Group watch it to better understand what Nicholas goes through. Everyone loved it. I heard many positive comments about how well he did in the video, and I’m hoping the bullying will be reduced thanks to the teachers and students that set time aside to make the video.

  11. Kelly

    Wow what a great book!

    The teacher from day one, when we introduced Tyler at 8 years old to his community school, talked to the class and explained that Tyler was different and he was just like them but had different needs. The teacher was awesome and all the kids love him and protect him. They are more like little aides rather than his peers, but I know he is safe at school. One girl last year said Tyler was the most popular kid in the school. I think informing the kids is the way to go.

  12. Brandi

    Sounds like a wonderful book. I will defiantly add it to my reading list. My son is now 12 and in 6th grade in a large school system. Things like bullying seem to happen more each day and my heart aches that my son can NOT communicate if he is being bullied at school. Raising awareness is the only way to try to get through to these kids before they become the next generation of people insensitive to the needs of all special needs individuals.

  13. Storm Dweller

    I am dreading middle and high school for my daughter. She’s had the good fortune of being with and progressing with a small class of students that are aware of her challenges, and are pretty forgiving. Something tells me this is going to be a tough transition for her.

  14. Lynette Wait Casey

    I have visited the school and talked with the councelors and my son’s teachers (I have 2 boys on the spectrum). We have also been dealing with bullying issues already and my guys are only 6 and 7! Breaks my heart every time. I’m hoping that with even more education and information our school district will really enforce their “no bullying” policy.

  15. Julie

    Thanks for the review of this book! I definitely will pick this book up. Skylar is in 7th grade & my youngest will be in middle school next year. Middle school has by far been the most difficult transition for us. I’m currently working with the school counselor on how best to educate other students & teachers about Sky’s differences. We live in a small community & our district has only had 1 other girl on the spectrum (she was very high functioning) so we are running into all kinds of issues with teachers as well.

    I’m hoping that having 2 of them in middle school next year won’t push me over the edge. 😉

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Middle schoolers of any neuron arrangement will send you over the edge. That’s why I’m a little nutty now. 14 years of teaching them! Lol. Good luck. I hope you get some help from the book. :)

  16. Lisa Beskin

    I’m very interested in the A is for Autism, F is for friend book for my six year old. We could use all the support that is out there .. glad to have found your site!

  17. Amy J

    As a teacher, I would love to have a copy of this book! And I would most certainly welcome any parent who would like to come in and visit my classroom to speak about their child, regardless of what the situation is! I very much enjoy reading your blog!

  18. karen

    Please include us in your random drawing. We have a 12 year old daughter with autism and also almost-13-year old NT twin boys, and a 9 year old NT daughter. We are trying to assist each of them with their individual struggles as well as teach our youth group at church and the others at school about living and associating with a child on the spectrum who just wants to fit in with others but does it in such a different manner. Congrats to whoever wins and to the rest of us who will run out and purchase the book if we do not win. In the end we will ALL be winners.

  19. Cathy

    I have offered to talk with students when my son enrolled at a new school. The principal chose to have the teacher of his substantially -separate classroom talk with the other students. I was told they enjoyed the presentation, but I would have loved to hear their questions!

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