Sunday, September 16, 2012

Craig Meets Dave (And learns about Autism, Bullying and Friendship)

Title: Craig Meets Dave (and learns about Autism, Bullying and Friendship)
Author: Susanne Breckwoldt, Phd
Author's (ie: Craig's) website: Craig Winston and Friends
Available on Amazon etc

My views:
Kids always wonder why some one in their class is behaving so differently from them. Out of sheer fear, they stay away from this classmate or join others in making fun of him or her.

Using lovable bears as characters the author shows how Craig the lovable green bear and his community learn the importance of tolerance and empathy. Craig and his friend Ben also learn learns how to deal with and understand a bully.

In this book, Dave suffers from autism, but he does have two understanding Bear classmates and friends, Craig and Ben. "Craig and Ben, thought of Dave as a friend, even though he didn't always act the same as everyone else. Dave always wanted to talk about birds, birds and more birds. And if you even get him to play, he would always want to play the same thing over and over again....."

Dave, like any other kid, suffering from autism lives largely in his own world, he loves to draw birds and draws them all the time, including during class. He likes routine and doesn't like sudden disruptions or sounds.

Craig and his friend Ben, accept him for what he is and recognize that he has certain special talents and abilities. They also know that just like any other Bear, Dave has his own strengths and weakness.

Ed, the bully and baseball player ensures that Craig and Ben are ridiculed for befriending Dave. But this doesn't deter them. Ed's bullying tactics take a turn for a worse, he sends intimidating messages to Craig and he doesn't like Craig's sister Emily and his own sister Star being playmates. Unfortunately, Craig does not show this message to his parents or teachers.

The bully that he is, Ed with the help of two of his own friends, locks Emily and Star in the basement of a neighbor's house. The girls are rescued and appear shaken, but recover quickly.

The author has sensitively portrayed, that bullies behave the way they do, because of their own issues, such as lack of self esteem or a difficult home life.

The book ends with all the Bears and their families attending a fund-raising fair. The money collected would enable Craig's school to bring in a team of experts that would help the children and community to understand each young bear's special abilities and gifts and more importantly how to work out differences and conflicts with empathy.

I am sure this book will help parents and teachers to discuss the difficult but important issues such as inclusion and bullying. A great book.

Susanne Breckwoldt, Phd, says:

"There are many subjects that children want to talk about with their friends, parents and teachers," says Dr Susanne, "but they just can't find the words. Perhaps they can't even recognise the emotions that they are feeling. I hope my books open a door for discussion. Craig Winston is a very friendly bear."

Here is a detailed note from Dr. Susanne Breckwoldt which will be of added help.

Thank you so much for the lovely review and for inviting me to elaborate on the Craig Winston and Friends series of books. I am so glad that you enjoyed the story of Craig Meets Dave. The Craig Winston books are intended to stimulate discussion between children and parents, guardians, librarians, educators or counselors about important mental health and social issues with the hope of encouraging understanding, acceptance and inclusiveness among elementary school age children.

I have received some great feedback from parents who have read the book to or together with their child(ren,). Mostly they valued Craig Meets Dave for providing a vehicle for raising important current issues with their children that would not ordinarily come up for discussion.

The sweet autistic bear who is the center of quite a bit of attention in the Craig Meets Dave book and the accidental perpetrator of a chain of unfortunate, sometimes scary events is a bear who is high functioning on the autistic spectrum. Dave's parents were able to provide early intervention for Dave and began mainstreaming Dave when it was time for him to begin elementary school.

As a very young bear Dave had a whole team of specialists working with him and his parents to teach him about feelings and social skills, improve his speech and language skills and assist him in learning how to process information more accurately. Dave also worked with a physical therapist to help with fine and gross motor coordination. Dave still benefits from continuing to work with a few specialists outside of school.

Dave has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that is drawn up by his educators and school psychologist and discussed with his parents. The school evaluates Dave annually based in his strengths and weaknesses academically and socially to determine the best possible plan for his continued education.Fortunately Dave has been able to make progress from year to year by participating in a mixed or mainstream focused class.

Dave's team continues to provide all the love, support and guidance that will enable Dave to stay on track. Dave has put in a lot of hard work himself!

There is a little self help book called The Bully Proof Vest that I have recently self published. The book encourages parents to be vigilant of even small changes in their child's behavior such as losing interest in participating in activities he had previously enjoyed, appearing to be more worried about things than usual, being more aggressive when playing with a sibling or family pet, etc..

Parents are encouraged to open the lines of communication immediately to explore the possibility that the child may be a targeted by a bully. Since children are often afraid or ashamed to go to their parents of their own accord it is up to the parent(s) to ask their child some sensitive questions in a very caring and supportive way. The parent will want to know if their son or daughter has had any negative experiences with classmates or schoolmates, who the child plays with at recess, sits next to in the cafeteria, etc.

Parents will often have to supply words for the child who fears opening up by suggesting some possible scenarios e.g. "Mary hasn't been coming over so much for playdates lately. Did the two of you have a disagreement?" Most importantly they will need to communicate to the child that she is loved and supported, under all circumstances, and that the parents will put an immediate plan in place to assure her safety. The parents will describe their plan of action and seek the support of the school in enforcing their plan.

Children also need to know that being bullied is nothing to be ashamed of but mostly a reflection on the bully who has learned to boost his confidence by trying to dominate, threaten or intimidate. The right approach and education by the parents and school can help to build ego strength by teaching effective coping skills to the target and holding the bullly accountable for his/her behavior through psychosocial intervention that fosters empathy, offers social skills training, anger management and family intervention along with the school's enforcement of a zero tolerance stance toward bullying.

Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss Craig Meets Dave and
Learns About Autism, Bullying and Friendship.

Susanne Breckwoldt

Authors' bio:
Dr. Susanne Breckwoldt is a clinical psychologist who is in private practice in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States of America. She works with individuals, couples and families. Dr. Susanne holds a B.A. in Psychology from Carnegie-Mellon University, her M.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University and completed her doctoral training at The Florida Institute of Technology. She founded the publishing company, Craig Winston and Friends, LLC to publish books that will help educate children about important mental health issues.


on the ball parent coach said...

I hope this wonderful book review will entice parents to realize how important empathy is in raising a child. In my belief, it is a top skill under the umbrella of emotional intelligence and will help children to lead far more fulfilling lives than kids who are not taught empathy. Parents, however must realize that reading a book once or twice is not enough. They must work actively with their children over the months and years to help children act on the empathy in noble, positive, win win types of ways.

Lubna said...

@Keyuri (On the ball parent coach) - you've said it so perfectly.

A.K.Andrew said...

Sound like a great book for learning about autism. Autistic children are very sensitive in their own different ways and it's important for both parents and children alike to recognize and nurture interactions in an appropriate way.
I enjoyed the review .Thank you.

Susan Cooper said...

These are such important subjects for children, their parent and teachers to understand. I love the way this book presents it. The use of Teddy bears to teach these important life lessons make it approachable and understandable for who ever engages with the book.

I have a friend who has an autistic child who would love this book. I am forwarding this review to her now.

Again a great review. Thank you. :-)

Jeri said...

What a great topic for a children's book. If I was still teaching, I could easily use this as an example of an assignment that could become part of a creatvie writing unit on children's literature.

Dilip said...

Thanks Lubna for selecting this beautiful book. It brings out an important virtue of caring for others.

I remember the word UBUNTU which in the African Xhosa culture means: “I am because we are.”

Thanks again & regards.

Bethany Lee said...

What a great book to bring up the discussion of bullying among young children. I think the doctor has accomplished what she wanted to do in writing this book, as it sounds like a sensitively written story--and who can resist cute bears? I hope other children who are the bullies can see themselves in Craig too, and maybe want to make a change for the better. Thanks for reviewing this book.

Leora said...

What a nice review of an important book. I'm glad to read that Dave has friends who can understand him.

Bullying is a difficult topic, and one that certainly needs addressing at all different levels. A well-written children's book is a good place to start a conversation on the topic.

Lubna said...

@AK - Very true, I choose to review this book because it dealt with autism.
@Susan C - Perhaps your friend can share this book with friends of her child. It really is a well written and well illustrated book
@Jeri - yes, this author does write about sensitive issues, like these.
@Dilip Sir: UBUNTU is a profound word. Thanks for sharing.
@Beth and Leora - What I liked best about this book when it dealt with bully, was that the author managed to show why bullies behave the way they do and she did so, in a sensitive manner.
Thank you all for visiting my blog and for your wonderful comments.

Destination Infinity said...

It's important for kids to understand and deal with bully's because these are the people whom they will meet in abundance in their work places, if not become one themselves. In that context, a book like this could even be made into an English lesson in school so that kids can learn such important things right at a young age.

Destination Infinity

Tash said...

It sounds like a great book and I intend looking for it, both to read with my children (who are already fairly tolerant anyway as their aunt has brain damage) and my cub pack.

Reading a book once or twice isn't enough, but it is a start an dbetter than not reading such a book to/with them.

Relyn Lawson said...

An interesting review. Thanks.

Jeannette Paladino said...

Bullying is a terrible thing. My grandson was bullied in grade school -- he's a creative kid and not much interested in sports which set him apart. Luckily he grew to 6 feet 3 inches in high school and that stopped the bullies. He also had very supportive parents. He's a terrific young man now with no scars from the bullying.

Lubna said...

Thanks for your visit, Tash, Relyn and Jeannette.

Jules said...

I have belatedly added your site to my favorites list so I can find you when I want!
I really do enjoy your book reviews and while my friends differently-abled sons have now grown into men - I think this is a book that belongs in every public school (every school) system that includes these special needs people.

I'm going to pass this review and book on to some folks who I think would like this. And hopefully use it too.

Lubna said...

It is a useful book Jules, hope your friends find it useful.