‘The Panicosaurus: Managing Anxiety in Children Including Those with Asperger Syndrome’

by K.I. Al-Ghani (and illustrations by Haitham Al-Ghani)

Panicosaurus

Anxiety is a common issue among young children, but almost guaranteed to be an issue for children who have Asperger Syndrome or who lie further along the spectrum of autism conditions.

It is very important to get a handle on anxiety and to develop strategies to lessen feelings of anxiety at an early stage, or the anxiety can build into a chronic condition that is very difficult to treat.

Enter stage right The Panicosaurus: Managing Anxiety in Children Including Those with Asperger Syndrome by K.I. Al-Ghani. This is a terrific children’s picture book (published in 2013 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers) that will help children who experience high levels of anxiety. The book can be read by the child or by a teacher or parent to one or more children (it would benefit the whole classroom).

There is an introduction that explains anxiety in children and which lists techniques that have been found to be helpful for reducing anxiety. There are also further strategies outlined at the end of the book. The picture story about a girl called Mabel and her struggle with anxiety is the main section of the book.

The story starts when we are told about a little dinosaur called the Panicosaurus who lives in a part of our brain called the amygdala. This little dinosaur was very useful in the very olden days when cavemen were out and about fighting sabre tooth tigers and the like. The Panicosaurus would help the cavemen to prepare their bodies for fighting or escaping from predators. This would involve the heart beating faster and pumping extra oxygen to our muscles.

These days, the story continues, the Panicosaurus is quite bored and there are not many dangerous creatures around. But in some people, particularly children, the Panicosaurus is quite naughty and makes them believe there are dangerous things all around them.

Mabel’s Panicosaurus is one of the naughty ones and is constantly trying to trick Mabel into panicking about things like a dog off a lead or a change in school schedule. Luckily Mabel gets some help from Smartosaurus (another little dinosaur who lives in the neocortex) and she manages to defeat the dreaded Panicosaurus with the help of her mother and friends.

This story is easy-to-read and full of great advice for children who are struggling with anxiety. The story is particularly relevant for those with Asperger Syndrome as Mabel is exhibiting some classic Asperger traits such as an aversion to changes in routine and a very strong special interest (jigsaw puzzles).

I found this book enjoyable to read and very useful. I was quite moved by Mabel’s situation and really loved the way the classroom was set up to help her in every way. The book is describing an ideal setting and strategies to implement in a classroom which has one or more children with Autism Spectrum Conditions. The depiction of anxiety in a child with Asperger’s in this book is very convincing.

I would recommend this book to any parent or carer with a child experiencing anxiety. In fact it would useful for all children (and quite a few adults). Everyone experiences anxiety throughout their life at some time and a thorough understanding of the underlying mechanisms such as the flight and fight phenomenon is essential.

I asked my son who has Asperger’s to read and rate this book and he gave it a 5/5. I agree with his assessment :D

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