IT’S ME, HENRY(Orca Book Publishers, 2022) by Stéphanie Deslauriers with illustrations by Geneviève Després, gently and respectfully shines a light on the challenges presented at school for a child with autism. The story follows Henry through a day at school where we learn about his somewhat unexpected behaviors, such as calling plants by their Latin names, not raising his hand, and sitting alone under a tree during recess.
Students were quick to identify Henry’s unexpected behaviors. The magic with this text is how the first person narration allows the children to get into the mind and emotions behind Henry’s actions allowing them to retrain their thinking a bit. Instead of thinking it was “weird” that Henry sat under a tree during recess, they now understood that the noise was overwhelming for him. They were able to see each of Henry’s actions in a different, more empathetic light. This led us to conversations about feeling misunderstood, accepted and safe. To extend on this topic students reflected on their own traits and experiences and recorded them in the below booklet.
I was very proud of my students for their willingness to be vulnerable and honest. My hope is that through recognizing their own characteristics and quirks that make them unique they will be better able to value and appreciate the traits of their peers.