It was with great interest that I read this title because it has been written in collaboration with Libby Scott, the 11-year-old girl whose piece of writing, ‘The Life of a Perfectionist,’ about being autistic went viral in 2018. ‘Can You See Me?’ is a blend of narrative story and diary entries written by Libby and inspired by her own experiences.
The narrator of this story is Tally, who always tries very hard to be just like her ‘normal’ friends and sometimes manages it. This is much harder than it sounds because Tally is autistic and just doesn’t always see things and think things in the same way as ‘neurotypical’ people do.
Tally and her school friends are moving up into Year 7 where it’s even more important to fit in and be normal or risk total social isolation. Will people understand and accept Tally as she is? Will Tally ever be able to find her way around the school quickly enough to avoid getting a dreaded detention? Will her friends stand by her even though others may think she’s weird?
This book should be a must-read for everyone, but particularly for those who work with or know autistic children. As a teacher, although I have taught autistic children and know a little about the best way to work with them as individuals, it was fascinating to see just how easily people’s words or actions can be misunderstood by someone who takes every word or gesture entirely at face value. It has made me rethink not only how I interact with children with specific needs, but also the phrases and expressions I use with all pupils.
I especially enjoyed Tally’s diary entries which were written by Libby, for their frankness, their helpful advice and the windows they provided into Tally’s mind. They gave interesting background information into the behaviours and rituals which may be relevant to many autistic children. They also proved that autism does not hamper a keen sense of self-awareness.
The story itself is actually one which any child transitioning to secondary school could relate to: struggling to fit in, struggling to be yourself, fallings out with friends, bullies, sleepovers. It also delves into the pressures felt by Tally’s family members and how sensitive she can be about how her behaviour affects them.
As I said, a brilliant, uplifting read for anyone who is struggling with being themselves, and a must-have book for any school library or person who has regular contact with autistic children.
*Many thanks to Scholastic for sending me this title to review*