A couple of years ago I had an idea on how I could help children on the autism spectrum and their parents simultaneously. I wanted to write stories that would give children a voice and empower parents on how best they could help them.
I wanted the main character to have a shell so I could show the significance of the child coming in and out of his shell when his environment becomes too overwhelming. My Dad's name was Tony he passed away just after the first 3 books came out. I was so thrilled that he got to see them and to know he would be forever immortalised as a turtle. So that in a little shell is how Tony the Turtle was born.
Many children with autism have sensory processing delays which can result in the sensory signals not getting interpreted properly. This can be very uncomfortable for the child, clothes may physically hurt their skin, lights may cause headaches, smells may cause nausea or vomiting and sounds may be deafening. "going into your shell" can sometimes be the right option. It wont take too long to figure out what upsets or triggers your child so you can do things where possible to avoid your child getting too overwhelmed. For example, only wearing certain fabrics that don't irritate the skin or wearing earphones if you are out and your child is bothered by the noise. (I know there will always be new triggers so you cant get too complacent)
While I encourage parents to help their child out of his/her shell, there will be times it is necessary and helpful for the child to stay in. Going into your child's world instead of always getting them to come into yours is as important as coaxing them out.
Throughout the book series you will see recurring themes all of which are great learning tools for parents to help daily activities run smoother.
There are visual supports in all the books as I wanted to show the importance of daily schedules and First and Then charts. These visuals can increase independence and reduce anxiety. They really help children on the autism spectrum as they clearly indicate what has been completed and what must be done next. I know from my own experience that visual schedules can reduce the amount of stress, anxiety and behavioural meltdowns.
Visuals also help the child's communication skills, they can hold his/her attention and they can make abstract concepts more concrete.
Tony uses visuals in all the stories with his day plan, First and Then chart, feelings and learning to wait his turn. Once using visuals become part of your daily routine you will see a big difference.
There are a few things for you to think about when reading each of the Tony stories, As a parent you get to pick up some useful tips and your child has a wonderful character to identify with. I wanted to do something helpful and positive at a time that can be difficult and overwhelming. I hope everyone enjoys reading about Tony as much as I enjoyed writing about him.