This self-published book is a team effort: the author is a paraprofessional at a high school in New Jersey; the illustrator, David Cruz, is a young man with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and Ms. Gallagher’s student; Ruth Cruz is David’s mom and pitched in as an editor and writes the afterword. Speech pathologist Maura M. Lazzara worked with David and writes the foreword. David has a solid team surrounding him!
Look at Me Look at Me is based on a game developed specifically for and with David, to develop and maintain eye contact during social interactions. The repetitive phrase, “Look at me Look at me” invites David – and readers – to make eye contact to communicate feelings. The story is upbeat and positive, with David’s illustrations of Puppyduck – a puppy with duck feet – bringing a sweet element into the artwork. David the Puppyduck goes through his day, interacting with different adults who encourage him to look at them. The story ends with a counting game that any kid would enjoy and is easily translated to others.
The next half of the book is dedicated to strategies for parents, educators, and caregivers when working with special needs kids. Discussions include Sections include eye contact and how to maintain it; fun bubble-blowing and puppet activities, and dress-up play.
David’s illustrations are bright, child-friendly, and positive. He makes his characters’ eyes large, so readers can maintain eye contact with them (a great start). It’s an empowering book for kids, especially those with special needs. I’d love to see this in school counselors’ and doctors offices.