Author and Illustrator: Jennifer Veenendall
Copyright Date: 2009
Genre: educational fiction
Theme: sensory overload, sensory processing disorder, disabilities, school
Grades: Kindergarten and up
Awards: Foreword Book of the Year (2009), International Book Award Finalist (2010) (source)
Our hero Izzy has recently started the first grade but hasn't been having the greatest time so far. You see, Izzy has a sensory processing disorder which makes her very sensitive to noise, touch, visual distractions, etc. With all of the bright lights, colorful art on the walls, kids talking and bumping into her, she sometimes gets so overwhelmed she can't take it anymore.
Can Izzy's teacher do anything to help her? Will Izzy ever enjoy the first grade? Read this book to find out.
Before reading this book, try to get the class to understand what it feels like to be overwhelmed. This could be as simple as asking for some students to share a time in their lives where they've felt overwhelmed and to describe how they felt.
If the students are old enough and you do it safely, you could also try creating an overwhelming experience for the students to feel that way themselves. Teachers should explain that they are going to be reading a book about a very special little girl, but first they are going to do an experiment. The teacher could hand out a timed math quiz to the class, but have far more questions than the students will not be able to finish (this will add some stress). Then while it is going on play a video that is distracting and have a loud conversation on the phone (adding visual and auditory distractions). After a very short period of time, stop the quiz and collect the papers. Discuss with the students what they thought about the quiz. do they think they did well? Why not? How did they feel? Explain that they just had an experience like someone who has a sensory processing disorder, and that you are going to be reading a book about a girl named Izzy who experiences feelings like this very often. Also make sure to let the class know you aren't going to be using the quiz for anything and to not worry about it.
In the story, the author describes many classroom changes that Izzy's teacher made to help her work better and to concentrate. Have a short discussion reviewing some of these changes, that not only benefited Izzy but the entire class. Then have them apply these types of changes to their on class. Have them write a paragraph about what they think are the distractions in their own classroom and what changes they would make if Izzy were to become a student in their class. It might also been good to take some of the students ideas and actually apply them to the room in order to help them concentrate.
Author and Illustrator
Jennifer Veenendall is an occupational therapist who works in schools in Minnesota. She is passionate about helping students with sensory processing needs by creating environments that meet their needs so that they can learn and enjoy school. In efforts to share knowledge about this group of special needs and tips for teachers on working with students with these needs, she has written two children's books about sensory processing disorder, including this book and Arnie and His School Tools: Simple Sensory Solutions that Build Success, both of which are International Book Award Finalists. She currently lives in Wisconsin. (Source)
I think this book is a great resource for teachers. It's plainly written so students of any grade can understand it if you read it to them, but still full of great tools and strategies for teachers to think about for their own rooms. Its informational page, bibliography, and resource list all provide teachers (and parents) with tons of information on this particular disorder and ways of finding more. This book would be a good one to share if there is confusion about a student in class who may have this disability or for just spreading awareness of others with disabilities in the community so misconceptions can corrected. I highly recommend this book.
If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.