Going with the flow was something I’d been working on with Dad. It was a new trick he was trying to teach me, to help me not flip my lid, which happened a lot because of my Autism Spectrum Disorder. Going with the flow didn’t have anything to do with rivers. It meant not getting angry when things didn’t go the way I thought they would. Sometimes going with the flow was easy, and it felt like I was on a calm pond.
Readers previously met Lauren in Slug Days and Penguin Days. In Duck Days, Lauren, who has ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), is in grade 3. Meeting new people and trying new things do not come easy to her, and so finding a best friend, Irma, in her class brings a brand-new experience to Lauren. Lauren must use her best coping skills to learn to play with Irma and to deal with situations where she must be brave. Irma is patient and kind and introduces Lauren to Jonas, her friend and neighbor, who enthusiastically tries to teach Lauren some bicycle tricks. This new experience forces Lauren to rely on her breathing techniques and to process how to react in new situations, with the latter being hard for someone with ASD as routine and familiarity are staples.
The biggest hurdle for Lauren occurs during the Mountain-Bike Day at school where she has to participate, even though it is too much for her to process. With the cheers of her friends, teachers, and family members to push her on and a little bit of encouragement from everyone, Lauren is brave enough to tackle the obstacle course and ultimately to try to ride without the training wheels she has always relied on.
This story hit close to home as I have two children very close to me with ASD. Duck Days is accurate when portraying the challenges for a child who has “dragonflies” in her tummy when faced with something new. Showing Lauren being hesitant to try new foods, activities and not being in charge will be relatable for the readers.
Although Duck Days might read as a Kindergarten-grade 4 level book, I think it could be used as a teaching tool for even higher grades to address differences and challenges for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD is a lifelong disorder. You cannot change the fact that a person has ASD, but support can significantly improve the ability of that person to be successful in all areas of her/his life. This support is referred to as intervention (Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - Canada.ca)
Having books like Duck Days available as a starting point for discussion with children who can relate and see themselves in Lauren’s behavior and thought process can only serve as essential tools for parents and teachers alike.
Shelly Quade, the Talent Lab Manager for the Whistler Film Festival, is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she helps train and promote Canadian storytellers from her remote office.