17 April 2023
As April is the month of autism awareness and acceptance, GO is announcing its sponsorship of an autism-sensitive children’s book, a first of its kind in Malta for children with autism and ADHD. Through GO’s sponsorship, the publication will be digitized and turned into an online book with voice-over.
Titled, ‘Mase in Space’, the book is the brainchild of Michelle Mifsud, a speech and language pathologist with a special interest in the field of autism who dedicated her undergraduate and post graduate dissertations to exploring this field in detail. She teamed up with her sister Marilyn Mifsud, a writer, and illustrator Sharon Naudi, who together created this book to support children in learning how to make requests and to use for social greetings, amongst others.
“Unfortunately, there is still a big lack of resources for children with autism. So when these three talented women approached GO for support, we saw this project in its innovative potential to bridge technology with education,” said Antonio Ivankovic, Chief Commercial Officer of GO.
“Most importantly, the promise that this book will be boosting education for a particular segment of society fulfils GO’s mission to support initiatives where no one is left behind,” added Mr Ivankovic who also mentioned how this publication is a scalable project with plans in place to gamify it.
The launch was attended by Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli who stated that this project was a step towards the right direction in promoting inclusion whilst taking a more technological approach. In her speech, Minister Farrugia Portelli stated that “every child has the right to an inclusive society, and Government’s mission is to ensure that every opportunity’s needs are met to ensure that as a country, we wholeheartedly embrace inclusivity in its entirety.”
“The idea was conceived in the summer of 2021 when I discussed with my sister Marilyn my wish to write an autism-sensitive children’s book to be used as a complementary tool for young children in my chosen vocational practice area,” added Michelle Mifsud.
“Mase in Space” is a narration that incorporates rhythm and rhyme throughout and will mostly appeal to children who are intrigued by animals and space. It has been beautifully illustrated by hand by Sharon Naudi who is not only an artist but also an assistant head with specialisation in literacy and inclusion.
The authors wanted to take all measures possible to make the book inclusive and considerate of the strengths and needs of children on the spectrum.
“Before writing the book, we conducted a lot of research to identify, assess and analyse the most commonly mentioned features that are welcome / unwelcome in children’s books when being read by parents to young children presenting with autism, to ensure a book with the most desired elements.”
“Owing to the complexity and vastness of the spectrum, it is virtually impossible to quantify an exhaustive subset of the above-mentioned features. However, once the first draft of the book was ready, we presented it in a focus group with parents as well as representatives from the Autism Parents Association as well as ADHD Malta for their feedback.”
“The response was overwhelmingly positive and new ideas continued to be developed namely, the use of speech bubbles with the characters’ faces to support the reader to better understand who is speaking,” added Michelle Mifsud.
Although the book is intended as a commercial venture, several copies are being allocated for donation to persons, entities, schools and relevant institutions.