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Mini-Review: Social Emotional Learning: Can I Play Too?

by Sally J. Pla

I've always had kind of a toy-train thing. When my three boys were all little, I went a little nuts buying wooden Brio train system components -- because (of course!) I was actually buying for ME, not for them! (Mwahaha, cue my evil laugh and grabby hands!) I spent many happy hours crawling around on our carpet, creating these complex interweaving train systems, for them, right? I was totally absorbed and neurodivergently obsessed with it, while my three little guys were like, "Uh, hey, Mommy, can we maybe get a snack over here?"

Anyhow, that's why Samantha Cotterill's third book in the "Little Senses" series first caught my eye.

In Can I Play Too?, "two boys' fun train-track-building project takes a turn when one of the boys obliviously insists on only doing things his way. Their disagreement spells disaster for the train and the friendship, until a kind teacher steps in and explains how to tell when a friend is feeling happy, frustrated, or angry... and how to ask for a do-over."

A lot of autistic kids do have trouble reading reactions and expectations in social situations. And a lot of autistic kids do get absorbed into laser-focus on an activity they love. (So do autistic adults, for that matter. This laser-focus can be both a super-power, and a liability. The challenge lies in harnessing this ability for the Power of Good!)

For neurodivergent kids, and all kids, this story is an excellent reminder to look up, look around, and stay aware that others exist. Others, in fact, are all around us. Others have feelings, too. :-)

With all of us spending more time cooped up together these days, tiny social 'derailments' like this are inevitable, even in the most harmonious families. This cute picture book, and its new user guides, might help kids understand a bit better how to get social interaction back on the right track.


Sally J. Pla is cofounder and chief editor of A Novel Mind, and the award-winning author of The Someday Birds, Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, and Benji, The Bad Day & Me.


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