How does it feel to live with heightened senses?
Superhero comics and cartoons tell plenty of stories of extraordinary hearing and infrared vision, but the truth is a little different. For starters, we don’t need to turn to fantasy or science fiction if we want to read about heightened senses. Plenty of people today live with sensory differences, and one such person is the main character of Lindsey Rowe Parker’s new book Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down (BQB Publishing). Our heroine is a young neurodivergent girl who goes through life with a heightened sensory experience. As the reader follows her through her day, they can see how her sensory awareness impacts her everyday routine and gain an understanding of how she interacts with the world around her.
CALMING THE JITTERS DOWN
The very first page of Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down puts us right into the story as our narrator tells us about the jitters that compel her to move. From touching every wall as she runs around the kitchen, to rhythmically tapping her spoon as she eats an unexpected food — “that,” she tells us, “calms my jitters down.”
Her stimming behavior brings her confidence and comfort as she navigates through her day, getting dressed in her comfiest, non-itchiest clothes and heading to the park with her mom. There, our narrator enjoys playing on the swing and in the sandpit. That is, until tiny grains of sand get stuck on her hands and won’t come off, no matter how hard she tries to wipe them clean. Overwhelmed by the sensation of the sand still clinging to her skin, the narrator begins to have a meltdown. It’s only when she’s able to wash the sand away down the sink drain that she can start to feel better.
The story makes it clear that heightened sensory needs work both ways. While the main character’s elevated senses help her feel the sensations of her stims, that level of intensity can quickly become overwhelming.
A STORY FROM THE HEART
For author Lindsey Rowe Parker, this story is much more than just an important message — it’s personal. She shares in an author’s note that while learning more about heightened sensory experiences, she saw something familiar in herself. “Through pediatric occupational therapies with my kiddos, I have a greater understanding of not only some of their sensory needs, but my own,” she says in an interview with Geek Club Books. “I wrote this story from my own sensory experiences, and now also as a mother learning how to provide sensory input to meet the needs of my kids.”
Parker’s book is a triumph in depicting sensory sensitivity and is an indispensable teaching tool for classrooms and educators everywhere. It’s clear that her representation of a neurodivergent child with heightened sensory needs comes from a place of caring and understanding. The story presents the main character’s difficulty with sensory overload without judgment, while also celebrating the positive ways her sensory differences impact her.
Along with Parker’s prose, Rebecca Burgess’s colorful and dynamic illustrations perfectly capture the energy of the story. As our heroine hops around her room or taps her spoon on the table, the sounds are echoed on the page to emphasize the movement. The book has great “read-aloud-ability,” and is sure to be a hit in classrooms where students can participate in the sound effects.
More important than a teaching moment, however, Parker and Burgess have created a story where children with heightened sensory needs can see themselves depicted on the page. Parker emphasizes, “I think this story applies to many kids and adults that are looking for that sensory input, which they themselves may not have a name for.” Ultimately, Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down is a celebration of individuality and the unique ways we all experience our world.
Thank you to Cameron Kimball at Booktrib for this review!