Pedro’s Whale by Paula Kluth, Ph.D. and Patrick Schwarz, Ph.D., is a picture book about autism many were waiting for. After their award winning guidebook, Just Give Him the Whale: 20 Ways to Use Fascinations, Areas of Expertise, and Strengths to Support Students with Autism, the authors realized a children’s book about areas of interests was needed. Educators, who were using the ideas in Just Give Him the Whale in their inclusive classrooms, wanted a resource to explain their strategies to their students. Parents, who had a child with autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s syndrome and who had fascinations, wanted a way for siblings and family members to understand.
About the Book
Pedro’s Whale is based on a true story about a young boy with autism. Pedro loved whales above all else. When his new teacher told him to put his toy whale away he was devastated. When the principal, Ms. Gomez, saw Pedro crying and crouching under the classroom table she suggested allowing his toy to help him feel safe and to do his best work. The rest of the year, his teacher and classmates honoured his passion by incorporating his special interest into the whole curriculum. This simple accommodation is a “win win” solution for all parties involved, child with autism, classmates, teachers, and parents.
I would suggest reading first Pedro’s Whale alone with the child who also has special interests. The child with these facinations will be pleased that Pedro is like him. He can use Pedro’s story as a springboard to share his feelings about his strong passion. He will value this time alone with you to ask questions or comment on things that have troubled him. While discussing the book with him, explain why you want to read it to the others in his life.
Educators and parents using Pedro’s Whale will appreciate the three page section How to Use This Book. One activity they suggest is to use Pedro’s Whale to teach classmates or siblings about individual differences. The child in question will probably hear other students admit that they also love certain things above all else. This will lead to discussing unique needs and curricular adaptations. The child’s peers will be eager to learn how to support their classmate’s special interest.
Congratulations to Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz for Pedro’s Whale! I highly recommend it. It has all the qualities to be a favourite in many classrooms and homes with its practical tips, high quality paper, hard cover, and the wonderful story that perfectly conveys honouring a child’s area of interests.
Watch a video of National Louis University’s Patrick Schwarz, Ph.D., professor in the National College of Education, talking about Pedro’s Whale and how to gear instruction towards the interests of special education students.
About the Illustrator
Justin Canha brings the characters to life. The adorable illustrations are colourful and take three quarters of each page. His detailed drawings will help struggling readers to understand the story. They will keep children’s interest when sharing the story with a reading circle.
Justin Canha is an accomplished artist who has autism. His childhood passion for drawing animals and cartoon characters showed his artistic talent and attracted the attention of the mainstream community when he was only 14 years old. Justin also designed the cover of Just Give Him the Whale! He also desighed a new line of math books for young children on the spectrum called IBET (Integrated Behavioral Experiential Teaching).
For more information on Justin and to see more of his artwork and his animations, visit his web site: www.justinart.com
About the Authors
Dr. Paula Kluth is a consultant, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities and to create more responsive and engaging schooling experiences for all learners. Her research and professional interests include differentiating instruction, and supporting students with autism and significant disabilities in inclusive classrooms.
Paula is a former special educator who has served as a classroom teacher, consulting teacher, and inclusion facilitator. She works with teachers in K-12 schools, pre-schools, and early intervention programs. She also regularly works with family organizations and disability-rights and advocacy groups.
She is the author or co-author of Just Give Him the Whale: 20 Ways to Use… Strengths to Support Students with Autism , “You’re Going to Love This Kid”: Teaching Students with Autism in the Inclusive Classroom ; the lead editor of Access to Academics: Critical Approaches to Inclusive Curriculum, Instruction, and Policy, and the co-author of several other books including A Land We Can Share: The Literate Lives of Students with Autism; Joyful Learning: Active and Collaborative Structures for the Inclusive Classroom; You’re Welcome: 30 Innovative Ideas for Inclusive Schools, and A is for All Aboard.
Read more about Dr. Kluth on her web site.
Dr. Patrick Schwarz is a dynamic and engaging professor, author, motivational speaker and leader in Education (Inclusive Education, Special Education, General Education, Educational Leadership) and Human Services. He is a professor at National-Louis University, Chicago. Patrick’s company is Creative Culture Consulting LLC. There are many keynotes, presentations and workshops that are delivered by Dr. Patrick Schwarz. Some frequently requested presentations can be found here. He has co-authored some books with Paula Kluth. Here are some of his publications:
- You’re Welcome: 30 Innovative Ideas for the Inclusive Classroom
- Pedro’s Whale
- You’re Welcome: Promoting Peaceful Schools
- You’re Welcome: Differentiated Instruction
Learn more about Dr. Schwarz from his website.