Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
In one of my email newsletters from Autism Aspergers Publishing Company I learned of a book that was just released in March 2006 entitled, Sundays With Matthew: A Young Boy with Autism and an Artist Share Their Sketchbooks.
I have perused this book as well as my 11-year old son Nicholas. Nicholas is also high functioning on the Spectrum with a 9 year-old brother named Matthew who has severe autism. I bought the book because Nicholas is quite the artist. In fact we have at last count 55 sketchbooks used up with several notebooks being utilized for his drawings.
Nicholas has also created his own books, does drawings during free time at school and penned a comic book in thirty minutes the other day. Between reading some Goosebump Books he did his own stories.
I always wanted to get a book published for Nicholas and his stories, to share with others to see what a child on the Autism Spectrum could accomplish, but we have not pursued that yet. Therefore I was really interested in reading Sundays With Matthew, in part to compare the drawings and talent of another child on the Spectrum who is also the same age.
The foreword is two pages discussing art therapy and autism by Elisa Gagnon, the author of Power Cards. We learn that Matthew loves sea creatures and monsters so the art therapist Jeanette incorporates this interest into their art therapy time to teach him emotions and appropriate social interactions. These drawings spark the conversation. The back of the book lists some Sketchbook tips for others to emulate these endeavors for their own child.
There are 36 pages with another page about the authors. Both Jeanette Lesada and Matthew Lancelle are listed as authors. It is mentioned that Matthew likes photography, chess and swimming. His motto is, " Making stories is fun!".
Jeannete Lesada met Mathew through the Wisconsin Early Autism Program back in 2001. She has her own photography business and volunteers her time each Sunday to spend with Matthew.
The tips for sketchbook ideas starts off by encouraging finding a sketchbook buddy to share stories with. The list goes on to encourage drawing feelings or emotions and solutions to real-life problems or fears.
Sundays with Matthew begins by meeting Jeanette and Matthew, learning a bit about Matthew's personality - there is a box with ten slots of drawings like fun-loving, caring and autistic. A stick figure of Matthew taking a photo of himself with the text stating he isn't afraid to be himself!
A nice drawing of the layout of the room they visit in each Sunday, known as Matthew's playroom. This shows a trampoline in a corner, bookcases, table and chairs, and a window to outside. They are hanging out on the floor playing a board game.
Matthew and Jeanette have their own sketchbooks and sometimes they swap them to look through the drawings and tell stories about them. There is a unique drawing of Matthew filled with lots of interesting thoughts inside his head.
Nicholas likes the drawings of the six-headed monster, the scary/friendly drawing, the upset monster, the tree and the gorilla vs. leopard picture. Nick stated that the book was good, but it talked about autism and had goofy questions about the pictures. The words of the 11-year old critic.
A comical page I liked stated, " I wonder, what would it be like to be in a room full of YOURSELF? Are YOU a nice person to be around?" The drawing shows many of the same person in groups in a blue outfit holding a plate or a drink. Some of the faces are not too happy. It looks like someone's impression of working a room at a dinner party.
The pages that were beneficial to readers indicated to be a good listener, be nice, share what you have, respect others and help other people. There were accompanying drawings and text to go along with each good person trait. Another two pages covers tone with images to portray a harsh or soft tone. There is the question of, " Who would you want to sit with?" One other page tackles how silence is another type of tone.
One of the monster drawings Nicholas was not keen on, probably because it showed a girl hugging the monster - this said that maybe the person acting like a monster really needed a hug.
Changing your mind and thoughts and imagination are also explored within the pages of Sundays with Matthew. The text poses questions to the readers that parents and teachers can go over with the child to get them to express themselves in the same manner. It is a good way to start and open circles of communication with a child on the Autism Spectrum.
Now I just need to find a sketchbook buddy for my son Nicholas. It would be great if I could get my son in contact with Matthew from the story so they could share about their dreams and their drawings.
I recommend Sundays with Matthew for families of children on the spectrum, therapists and teachers. This would make a nice gift for Mother's Day and Father's Day. A year-end gift to the teacher or aide so they can gain insight into others on the Spectrum. This would be a good book for a social skills group and a church group to share with other children and to work on interacting with one another.