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Book Review: 'The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism'

A review of an interactive kid's book for understanding autism, written by Debby Elley and Tori Houghton and illustrated by J.C. Perry.

Front Cover of 'The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism' by Debby Elly and Tori Houghton, Published 2020 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism (2020)

The Ice-Cream Sundae Guide to Autism is a colourful and creative book that cleverly uses the metaphor of an ice-cream sundae to demonstrate diversity within autistic people and the difficulties they face. Different flavours, colours, toppings and glasses go into making each autistic person unique, demonstrating with artistic flare the fact that no two people are the same.

This book is a child-friendly, interactive guide to some of the stickier concepts around autism, including speech and language difficulties, sensory differences and straight-line thinking. These sometimes difficult to unpack elements are broken down and given their respective ingredient in the sundae, making them easy to understand as individual components, but also importantly how they interact.

‘This picture-led book uses ice-cream sundae ingredients to represent various aspects of autism such as sensory differences, special interests or rigidity of thinking, explaining the different facets of autism in a neutral way.’

With activities throughout (and a space to create your own unique ice-cream sundae!) this book encourages young people to creatively engage with the information provided, and asks them to look at their own strengths and differences. This book facilitates positive discussions around difference, and is a helpful tool for children just beginning to understand what autism is.

‘For all children – not just those on the autism spectrum.’

There are helpful tips throughout for parents, teachers and supporters with things they can do to make the young person’s life less chaotic and stressful. In particular, there is an emphasis on how external and internal stressors can aggravate some of the ‘flavours’ of autism, and cause them to appear larger and less manageable. This is a good simple guide for starting to think about things that cause stress and how to counter-manage them, with talking points to encourage discussion around what helps that young person in particular to de-stress and stay calm. The discussion around avoiding ‘meltdowns’ (very in-keeping with the ice cream theme) concretely demonstrates the difficulties that can arise from trouble self-regulating, and explains the role of external factors such as sensory overload in contributing to high levels of arousal.

Overall, this is a helpful guide to work through with young people in a home or classroom setting that simply sets out some of the difficulties autistic people can struggle with on a day-to-day basis. This is a fun, interactive book that contains lots of important information, creative activities, and additional tools for teachers and families to use to facilitate meaningful discussions.

Reviewed by Rachel McDermott

Social Media and Information Co-ordinator, Studio 3

October 2020


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