New Children's Book Teaches"Typical Kids" How to Befriend Children with Autism

February 26, 2009

BALTIMORE, MD - More than ever before, children with autism are being included in classrooms with "typical" children. The increased incidence of the disorder and tightening budgets suggest that nearly every typically-developing school age child will spend time in a classroom, lunchroom, or on a playground alongside a child with autism. Unfortunately, most children will be unprepared and unsure how to engage their new peers. The Friendship Puzzle: Helping kids learn about accepting and including kids with autism (Larstan, February 2009, $14.95) is one of the first books to address this situation.

The Friendship Puzzle is the story of Mackenzie Mackabee, a student at Brook Acres Elementary. Mackenzie is excited when she meets Dylan, a new boy in class, because she loves meeting new people. Immediately she wants to be his friend but for some reason, he does not respond to her attempts at friendship. As she goes about solving what she calls her "friendship puzzle," Mackenzie discovers that Dylan has autism. With the help of her teacher, Ms. Noonan, she learns how to be his friend.

The Friendship Puzzle is the result of collaboration among three Maryland women who saw first-hand the need for this type of educational tool. Author Julie Coe and illustrator Sandra Brassel, both mothers of young children, were inspired by their life-long friend, Jenny Maloni, who is raising two young boys with autism.

"A child with autism may look like all the other kids in school, but may exhibit behaviors that seem strange or different to other children. This can be confusing and create a situation in which "typical" children do not feel comfortable with or know how to reach out to children with autism." said author Julie Coe. "We owe it to our children to educate and teach them strategies for interacting with all children, even those who seem different."

In a lighthearted and fun way, The Friendship Puzzle opens up dialogue among children, teachers, and parents about how to react to and include children who may seem different. With a foreword by Dr. Rebecca Landa, Director of Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Autism & Related Disorders in Baltimore, and an activity guide that can be used by educators and parents, The Friendship Puzzle presents an innovative and useful new resource.

"As I watched other children struggle to befriend my sons, I realized that children must be taught the tools they need to interact with children with autism," said Jenny Maloni of Mt. Airy, MD. "I hope this book is a step towards raising a generation of children who understand, embrace, and include children like mine. If we give these skills to all children, as mothers and teachers, we can help grow a generation of friends."

Media Inquires

To request a review copy of The Friendship Puzzle, to arrange an interview with Julie Coe or Jenny Maloni, or for additional information, email friendshippuzzle@gmail.com or call 301-922-3653.

The book is for sale online at www.friendshippuzzle.com, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Powell's Books, and www.booktopia.com.au.