Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Teaching Empathy: The Clever Stick by John Lechner, a tool for discussing Autism

The Clever Stick is a quiet fable about a stick, who has always been clever and been able to think many wonderful thoughts. But the stick has one problem – he can’t speak. So he cannot share his thoughts with any of the forest creatures he meets.

Regular readers know, I care about Autism.  Three of my nephews are on the spectrum, severely low functioning, non verbal.  But one of my nephews does the most amazing thing using those little wooden
blocks with letters on them we all played with as kids: he can write words.  And he can draw.  And these two simple little tools allow him to communicate in ways that are different than the norm.  But they let us know that he is more than what it seems.  In fact, each of my nephews have their own ways of communicating.

The Clever Stick is a short, simple fable about a stick.  The stick is smart, but nobody in the forest knows it because he can’t speak.  Until one day the stick looks down and realizes he is leaving lines in the dirt.  These lines become pictures, a way of sharing what is going on inside.

We often talk about using picture books with tweens and teens, and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.  It is a great tool for helping tweens and teens develop some empathy for those who are different, like those on the Autism spectrum.

For more about The Clever Stick, and a teaching guide, visit author John Lechner’s page.  For more about Autism and libraries, please visit the Autism & Libraries section here at TLT.