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Reading Tips & Conversation Starters

Talking to your child about neurodiversity might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't need to be.

Brains are wired differently and the more we normalise this from a young age, the more inclusive the world will be.

While reading Billy's Brain, you may like to consider these ideas  for opening up the conversation as you read through the story. Let the conversation flow as naturally as possible.

If it doesn't feel right to talk about the name of a diagnosis (such as autism) just yet, you can still start talking to the child about their differences in a positive and empowering way.

Pages 1-4:

The things that I like/don't like 

  1. What are three things that you like? Why?

  2.  Can you draw a picture of something you like?

  3. What are three things you don’t like? Why?

  4. Can you draw a picture of something you don’t like?


Strategies To Consider

Reduce distractions in the environment where possible.

Use your child's name to gain their attention before giving them an instruction or asking a question.

Consider your child's interests, strengths and learning style.

Speak slowly and clearly. Use your voice by varying your pitch.

Use simple and specific language with an emphasis on key words. Key words are necessary for understanding.

Leave a pause between phrases and sentences. Give your child time to process what you have said.

Identify new vocabulary and explain it. Try to relate it back to the child's experiences.

Try to use a multi-sensory approach to word learning, e.g. use props, actions, visuals, etc.

Ask specific questions or ask your child to repeat the instruction to check that they have understood. Repeat or rephrase the the question if they haven’t understood.

Use expectant pauses to give your child a turn to talk.


Use sentence expansion - Repeat what your child says back to them and add a word or phrase to give your child a model of the sentence.


If your child has difficulty contributing or responding verbally, either:

Allow non-speaking responses e.g. pointing, using a gesture/action to stand for something.

Use Sentence Completion - You start a sentence for your child and give them space to complete it.

Use Scaffolding Questions - Ask "who", "what", "where", "when" questions and model a sentence for them.

Give a "forced alternative" – meaning, give the child two options of what they could say and allow them the choice, rather than giving them the answer. E.g. Do you want to write about this or draw about it? Is Billy's hair brown or blonde?


If your child responds well to praise, give specific and immediate praise for contributions. Even if they weren't 100% correct, you can say “Well done for trying to….”

If your child does not wish to engage in an in depth conversation that is challenging at the given moment in time, it is important that you give them space. Chances are they are absorbing what is being said in the story and may not wish to elaborate. Please respect this. Remember, you can read the book together as many times as you like! It isn't expected that you would utilise all of these strategies in one day.


Special thanks to Liza, Speech Pathologist at at
Chat Well Allied Health, for her assistance with developing these tips!

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