There are many books on the market geared towards adults dealing with children who have Asperger’s, but very few books that are written for children with Asperger’s. Baj And the Word Launcher: Space Age Asperger Adventures in Communication, by Pamela Victor takes on this task and delivers a witty and educational story about Baj, a young man living in the space age, along with his parents and nosy sister.
Not all children with Asperger’s share the same attributes, but some of the commonalities are trouble communicating, not being able to decode facial expressions and social cues, and having difficulty processing sensory input. People with Asperger’s have some wonderfully uncanny characteristics as well; they remember details, and are exceptionally creative. With this in mind, Victor offers some simple and helpful suggestions, and does so in a way that is easy to digest.
We learn about Baj’s daily routine and his meetings with Mr. Pilma, his school counselor. Mr. Pilma’s golden rule is “STOP! LOOK! LISTEN! And THINK before you speak.” Mr. Pilma is amazingly adept at helping Baj navigate his daily interactions, offering common sense advice as well as a few extraordinary accutrements. Mr. Pilma comes to Baj’s rescue with a magical communications kit – a calming cape, a word launcher, and listening aids. The calming cape is, of course, a wonderful calming cloak, the word launcher helps Baj organize his thoughts so that he can pick the right words when responding to others, and the listening aids help Baj focus on crucial text, summarizing the speaker’s intent.
Most of the time these aids come to his rescue, but sometimes he needs additional advice from friends. When Baj ignores his best friend’s greeting, due to the fact that he is in the midst of a day dream, his friend admonishes him to “…keep one ear and one eye open for what’s going on around you, even when you are imagining things.” Baj takes this advice in the spirit it is intended and notes his friend’s words. Over a period of time, we follow Baj and watch him transform from a boy struggling to cope with the world around him to someone competent to handle any and all social interactions.
Baj, and the reader, learn some important lessons about body language, diplomacy, listening to others, responding appropriately, and asking questions. After Baj learns a new skill, it is reinforced in the text with a dialogue box, replete with a series of questions, i.e., “What happens inside your body when you get nervous? Happy? Scared? Mad?”
In addition to these lessons, the story itself is captivating and lively. The author does not talk down to the reader and it is obvious that she has high regard for her subjects, including the sometimes persnickety sister. I realize that this book is geared towards children with Asperger’s, but it is equally fitting for any child, or any adult for that matter. Who couldn’t benefit from most of these lessons? I immediately found myself being more attentive to what was being said by those around me, but oh, what I wouldn’t do for that calming cape.
Quill: Well-written, great story, packed full of useful information, for any age.