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—Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2001, *STAR
Posted August 19, 2011
Peter Reynolds wrote I'm Here to reach out, embrace, and appreciate children on the autism spectrum.
I shared I'm Here with Dr. Paul Mullen. Dr. Paul, as he is known to his clients, is a licensed clinical psychologist who focuses on the wellness and health of young people. I asked Dr. Paul a few questions about I'm Here.
Mr. Schu: Can you please share your reaction to I'm Here? What is its message?
Dr. Paul: Well isn't this the cutest book ever? And would you believe that I've had more than a few clients over the years who communicated in ways not unlike this little guy? Well, the thing that strikes me about this book is that it's message might not be apparent to children when they first encounter the book. Instead, it is one that will surely grow out of the conversations between them and the adult who has read it with them. The message that I hope is conveyed, one that was conveyed to me in a number of psychotherapeutic technique courses over the years, is that each person has their own style and method of communication. We are prone to miss non-traditional communication if we don't watch for it. I suppose a child psychologist is especially aware of this - kids are not likely to share themselves "grown-up style." If I am to understand them, then, I had better be open to meeting them where they are rather than expecting them to come to me. Peers and adults in the lives of special needs children would do well to do the same. In doing so, let there be no question that the child is "here," being heard. So if a child communicates through basketball, hit the courts. If through Pokemon, "gotta catch 'em all." And if through paper airplanes, bust out the paper and get to it.
Mr. Schu: Is there another example of allowing a child to communicate in his or her own special way?
Dr. Paul: Years ago I worked with a child who was an expert in elevators. I took to calling him "Otis." He'd always get off-task with elevator trivia and at first I thought my role was to help him be less tangential. That didn't work so well, and he may have perceived my not being willing to speak his "language" as some sort of rejection. So one afternoon I suggested we have our meeting IN the elevator. I swear I met him again for the first time that day! This kid was floored (forgive the pun) that I was willing to enter the elevator, and his world. In return, he opened up and shared himself like never before. Elevators made sense to him, and I think the movement calmed him too. So it made sense that we were most able to connect in that setting. PS: World's Fastest Elevator - Taipei 101 Tower. ;)
Mr. Schu: Do you think a child who feels isolated will identify with the boy?
Dr. Paul: The value of "I'm Here" for a special needs population may well be to legitimatize their clever and special forms of communication. To the larger population, the message is a reminder that we be open to varied types of communication. Finally, the book places welcome emphasis on the notion that it is not most important HOW we communicate, only THAT we communicate.