Since We’re Friends – Celeste Shally
A children’s book, aimed at neurotypical children, about the friendship between a neurotypical child and his autistic friend, Matt. The story is about the activities that the boys like to do together like play basketball, go to the park, go swimming, and play tag. Within each activity they do together is something that Matt does differently to the other children because he is autistic:
If someone is on Matt’s favourite swing, he gets very upset and starts yelling. It makes him feel happy to play something the same way every time. Since we’re friends, I try and think of something to do while we’re waiting…like playing soccer or football.
The book doesn’t push too deep in exploring autism – mostly it just touches on the better known aspects of autism and how Matt’s friend comes up with ways to help Matt deal with various things that cause him difficulties in day-to-day life, which suggests that it is aimed at children younger than 10/11 years old. With official statistic hovering around 1 in 100 children being diagnosed autistic, there’s a good chance that most children will have an autistic child in their school if not in their class and children will no doubt have questions about their autistic classmate, but this is the first children’s book on autism that I’ve read so far that discusses friendship and not a sibling relationship. I’m sure there must be others out there but I just haven’t found them to review yet.
This is a nice enough book, excellently illustrated, which helps children understand that autistic children may behave differently but that it is for a reason and gives them ways to support their friend. My main gripe with the book is that there’s nothing about what Matt contributes to the friendship – it’s always “since we’re friends I do this…” etc. I think a better rounded approach with some contributions from fictional Matt to the friendship would have portrayed a more positive friendship for the story to be based on. As it stands, the book leans towards the friendship being Matt’s friends sorting out all the problems and having to regularly deal with Matt’s frustration and anger. Autistic children, like any other child, have strengths and positive attributes that they would bring to a friendship and an equal exploration of this would have made this book better.
Is it worth reading?
If you have a child with an autistic child in their class then they might enjoy reading this book, whilst it is one sided it’s not a bad book overall.