Being Friends with Bodie Finch
Written and illustrated by Candy Lawrence.
Welcome to our guest post by Dani Netherclift. Dani is a writer and blogger who is passionate about children’s books and autism acceptance. She is also the mother of a neurotypical child and a child on the spectrum.
Please check out her blog: sandhasnohome.com
In my posts about ASD I have explored the idea that it can be incredibly difficult to explain autism to an adult, because all children on the spectrum are so different, and my child’s autism is not the same as other children that I know, though they may share some traits. Trying to explain this to small children is considerably more difficult.
You can’t say “Boodi does that because he is autistic”, when the child has no frame of reference to contextualise it from. Parents also have to be careful when trying to explain to their children, that they don’t diminish children with autism. My first experience of a young child explaining autism to another child broke my heart, as he told them that Boodi’s brain “didn’t work”. Teaching children about ASD is a tricky thing, and this is where quality picture books are such great tools. We are only just beginning to explore this avenue, as Boodi’s sister and peers are getting to the ages that they are asking questions. It is easy to believe that an autistic child is being naughty, if you don’t know what is behind the way that they can sometimes behave.
My favourite book so far (by far) is a beautiful new Australian book that has only just been published (through the wonderful contributions of crowd funders). It is called Being Friends with Bodie Finch, written by early childcare veteran, Candy Lawrence. I have reviewed it here.
The story begins from the point of view of a little girl named Zara, who pipes up on page one,
“I don’t like Bodie Finch!”
before going on to explain the things that Bodie Finch does, that scare her or upset her, like knocking over her blocks or chasing her, or not being able to talk properly. Zara and Bodie’s teacher is both sad and at her wits end about what to do, and then a special teacher, Mrs Tinker, comes in to help Bodie Finch, and with her arrival come amazing transformations and illuminations.
Bodie’s special teacher tells the class why Bodie Finch does the things that he does, and asks them to put themselves in his shoes, to see how overwhelming and distressing the world can be to a small child with autism, and how very difficult it can be to navigate the world if you are unable to express your wants and needs in conventional ways.
Slowly the class, and Zara come to recognise Bodie as the sweet little boy that he is, and to realise that he is not a naughty child, though he may sometimes be disruptive, and that a little understanding goes such a very long way.
I won’t lie, I cried happy tears when I got to the end of this book, and when I passed it onto mums of other children with autism, they did too. It’s such a beautiful, positive message, told from the point of view of a child. That message is simple, and powerful, and truly, I would love to see this book in classrooms. Let’s begin at the beginning.
This book is looking for a much larger audience and a place in mainstream book shops, which it undeniably deserves. It is also beautifully illustrated and presented.
At this stage, you can buy the book here, and you can find out some more about it in this clip