Thursday, February 9, 2012

ANTHONY BEST - a book to teach autism awareness

Davene Fahy has written an enjoyable and instructional young children's book about a school boy named Anthony Best. Anthony Best is illustrated by Carol Inouye.  This attractively illustrated book describes Anthony’s behaviors, in class and in the community, and on the playground. Sometimes those behaviours are negative but the story is told without attaching labels to Anthony’s attributes.

Anthony has a young and supportive friend who remains loyal even when Anthony’s conduct is unusual and aggressive with other people. Anthony’s other classmates are upset by his disruptive behaviour. Then this friend experiences the astounding surprise of discovering that Anthony plays the piano. In fact, the friend believes Anthony is the very best piano player he has ever heard play the instrument. The other classmates don’t know about Anthony’s talent because he only plays the piano at home.  

Readers’ interest is maintained throughout the book because Anthony’s behaviours are recognizable, even familiar to many who work with children with autism or know an autistic child. Fahy has judiciously written about Anthony’s behaviour without associating those actions with a specific label. Nevertheless, the actions are consistent with children who have autism.

What makes Fahy’s book an exceptional teaching tool is this portrayal of a boy with a special gift to play the piano and yet who is unable to control his conduct. He has behavioural problems yet seamlessly moves into a pianist. Readers learn from the faithfulness of his friend. It is powerful story to teach about disabilities awareness, about understanding other people and doing so without applying labels. Such awareness can improve the human condition.      

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