Meredith Gaffney ’16, an early childhood education major, and Dr. Julia Wilkins, assistant professor of education, recently had their second article about children’s books featuring characters with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) published. In their article, they recommend a classroom collection of five books that exposes students to diverse characters while helping to increase their understanding of the range of characteristics associated with ASD.
Gaffney stated, “Because books are so widely used in elementary school classrooms, classroom libraries, and group reading, it is so important for students to see themselves as similar to characters in literature and to be able to learn about those who may be different from them.”
In their first article, Gaffney and Wilkins focused on special considerations for selecting children’s books in which main characters have ASD. For example, they pointed out that if the book is illustrated by an individual with ASD, it adds authenticity and richness to the book. Gaffney and Wilkins spent many hours reviewing a selection of almost 50 children’s books featuring characters with ASD to develop their book recommendations for classroom teachers.
“Writing this article allowed me to see the importance of providing a tool for early childhood classroom teachers to use to help them determine if a book accurately and respectfully portrays children with autism spectrum disorder and if a book could be useful to meet the needs of the increasingly inclusive classroom,” Gaffney said. “Additionally, I enjoyed collaborating with Dr. Wilkins on this project. Her experience with special education and my status as an early childhood education major with a love for literacy converged in my capstone project, and I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with her on this endeavor.”
Their article entitled “Children’s books featuring characters with autism spectrum disorder: A classroom collection for read-alouds” is published in the Spring 2016 edition of “Early Years Bulletin” published by the Association for Childhood Education International.
Gaffney graduated in May and will start teaching in Asheville, NC, this fall.
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