We all know what it feels like to be overstimulated or feel overwhelmed. Most people have experienced overactive thoughts and a flood of emotions, but for some people with sensory processing disorder (SPD) or if they are affected by autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) any new experience or daily outing can be challenging. Did you know that there are seven senses, all of which can combine to make sensitive people feel overwhelmed: sight (vision), hearing (auditory) smell (olfactory), taste (gustatory), touch (tactile), vestibular (movement) and body awareness (proprioceptive)?
Late summer, early autumn can be an enjoyable time for a lot of people: longer days, good weather (most of the time), picnics, trips to the beach and lots and lots of outdoor adventures. Though for other people, especially extra sensitive young children or those with SPD or with ASD, it can be a tricky time with outings and daily activities causing stress when they would prefer to be at home: too hot, too loud, too many people, too many insects, and too many expectations to have ‘fun’. Instead of avoiding unfamiliar environments or new activities, we have a selection of books that will help children develop coping mechanisms and manage sensory needs to feel calmer and more in control.
We have a number of amazing picturebooks, stories and non-fiction books, with helpful tips including mindfulness practices, breathing techniques and other ways to deal with overwhelming feelings and thoughts. With relatable images and reassuring messages, anxious minds will feel reassured. These stories, characters and their themes can act as a useful tool to recognise the signs that a child is overcome with worries or overwhelmed by a situation, or to prompt conversations about dealing with transitions.
For 2+ there are lots of bright and expressive picturebooks to prompt chats about processing feelings, sensations and reactions as well as learning ways to handle them. The popular The Magic Moment and Take Five by Niall Breslin and Sheena Dempsey are ideal for stories to introduce young children to relaxation techniques. This Beach is Loud! is perfect for preparing for a day out in the sunshine and how to cope when things get too much. For readers three and up, most will find the story in Ravi’s Roar by Tom Percivalhighly relatable, especially as the young boy’s frustrations begin to mount.
4+ Mouse’s Big Day by Lydia Monks is the perfect story for anyone feeling a little anxious about starting school, returning to school or moving school. It deals with the various fears and worries that might arise before the Big Day. Lucy Rowland’s delightful Wanda’s Words Got Stuck with illustrations by Paula Bowles explains how sometimes you get so overwhelmed you can’t find your words.
Wulfie: Stage Fright by Lindsay J Sedgwick, with fantastic illustrations by Josephine Wolff, from award-winning publishers Little Island Books is the first book in a wonderful new series for emerging and independent readers. This story addresses many issues, including stage fright and finding ways to confront your fears.
7+ plus readers and nature lovers will find Diary of a Naturalist by Dara McAnulty completely captivating. As well as introducing readers to the healing and restorative power of nature, it also describes living with ASD.
For 9–11-year-olds My Mixed Emotions: Learn to Love Your Feelings by DK Books is ideal for curious young minds. It explains how we process our emotions and explains the science of how our brains and bodies work. Doctors Laura Meek and James Davies have joined forces to create Be Your Own Superhero, is wonderful resource with a series of fun activities to help readers understand their emotions and reactions.
These books show young readers that sometimes the things we fear aren’t so bad or scary after all. The overall message is one of accepting difference and individuality. At times everyone feels overwhelmed by something; awareness and kindness are crucial. These books remind parents, carers and guardians to be supportive, provide comfort and reassurance as well as allowing space for children to find their own way forward or come up with their own solutions to deal with their flood of feelings and overactive thoughts. For more, please visit our website: https://childrensbooksireland.ie/
Síne Quinn, M.Phil Children’s Literature,is the Managing Editor at Cubicle 7 Entertainment. A Children’s Books Ireland Book Doctor and creative writing teacher, Bookmarks Programme at TCD, she provides editorial and writing support to publishers.Holy Shocking Saints by Síne Quinn and Margaret Anne Suggs is due out in October 2020.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books ISBN 9781408892183
Ravi’s excited to go on an outing to the park with his family. But soon his excitement turns to disappointment when things don’t go as planned. He is the last on the train, then he has to share a seat with his dad and dog, Biscuits, who has digestive issues. He is out of luck when he gets to the park and things turn from bad to worse. As with all of Tom Percival’s picturebooks there are a number of hidden gems in the illustrations, with fantastic facial expressions and body language. The artwork reflects Ravi’s heightened emotions in hot bright oranges and vivid reds against black and white backgrounds. (Age 3–5)
Wulfie: Stage Fright
Lindsay J Sedgwick, illustrated by Josephine Wolff
Little Island Books, ISBN 97819121417452
All Libby wants is to be fearless, but that’s not easy when she notices everything and so many things overwhelm her, including her step-brother Rex, who just adds to her fear. She is tired of being scared, she longs to be in the school play, but is scared she’ll get stage fright. She decides to face her fears and explore the cellar, when she spots a pair of yellow eyes blink inside a trunk, Libby’s life changes forever. Can Wulfie, an incredible purple wolf-like creature, who can shrink and grow at will help her get a part? Can her new friend help Libby deal with her emotions and feelings of being overwhelmed? Can he help her overcome her stage fright? 6+
Diary of a Young Naturalist
Little Toller Books, ISBN 9781908213792 Writer, naturalist, conservationist and activist, Dara McAnulty’s distinct voice is remarkable. His writing is incredibly beautiful, highlighting his love of nature and its restorative powers. As well as describing the changing seasons in all their glory, his descriptions of what it’s like to be on the spectrum are enlightening. Dara, his siblings and their mother are all on the autistic spectrum. How he and his family cope when they feel overwhelmed will be immensely helpful to a lot of readers – mainly by getting out in the fresh air and observing and appreciating nature. This book is will make you want to spend more time outdoors, which is always good advice! 7+
This Beach is Loud!
Upside Down Books, ISBN 9781789561364
This Beach is Loud! captures a young boy’s excitement about going to the beach for the first time. It also highlights how young children can suddenly become overwhelmed and shows a simple, calm and supportive way to reassure them. Told in clear words and expressive pictures, everything from waking at the crack of dawn, getting dressed by himself, making his own breakfast, trying on new swimming togs, bringing Sharkie (his favourite toy), asking a million questions on the drive there to his reaction when he arrives. Suddenly everything is not what he expected. He feels overwhelmed: it’s too busy, too loud, there’s sand everywhere and it’s too hot. His father reassures him. This is a wonderful book, which will be reassuring for many readers, young and old. 3+