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5 hoots out of 5

Transfiguring Adoption awarded this movie 5 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

From the Cover of This Beach is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill:

“Patience, understanding, and a soothing exercise saves the beach day when excitement turns to sensory overload.

Going to the beach is exciting. But it can also be busy. And loud. Sand can feel hot or itchy or sticky…and it gets everywhere! In This Beach Is Loud!, a sensitive boy gets overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds, and sensations at the beach. Luckily, this kiddo’s dad has a trick up his sleeve to help his son face these unexpected obstacles.

Combining accessible storytelling and playful design, This Beach Is Loud! gently offers practical advice for coping with new experiences to sensitive children on and off the autism spectrum.”

Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:

This Beach is Loud by Samantha Cotterill tells the story of a little boy who takes a trip to the beach with his father. The book has colorful and engaging illustrations and lots of onomatopoeia which makes it fun to read aloud. This is a great choice for all ages and is a great way to both normalize and start conversations about sensory issues and anxiety. The author herself is on the Autism spectrum and specifically writes books that children with ASD can identify with.

** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **

How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?

This book does not specifically address foster care or adoption, however the author is on the Autism spectrum and specifically writes for children with autism or sensory issues. Many children who have experienced trauma may relate to feeling overwhelmed by new experiences as the little boy in this book is. The book is also a great resource for caregivers in demonstrating how a trauma-informed and supportive adult can help a child experiencing these difficulties.

Discussion Points:

  • Sensory Issues
    The book portrays a little boy who is at the beach with his father and is surprised to find how loud and crowded it is and quickly becomes overwhelmed by all the new sensations. This can be a great opportunity to talk to children about sensory issues they might have or how sometimes places or activities might be different than expected and how to best prepare for unfamiliar sounds, sights, smells, or feelings.
  • Managing Expectations/Recovering an Experience
    When preparing for a family activity it is easy to get caught up and excited about how amazing it’s going to be- both as the child and as a caregiver. When things don’t go as planned or something unexpected comes up it’s easy to become frustrated and write the whole thing off as a loss or bad day. However, if you can go in with a mindset that even if it’s not perfect it can still be a good day, that often makes all the difference. And as the adult it’s our job to help children regulate their own emotions- if we feel like a failure or like the day is ruined they are going to pick up on that. This story is a great example of how the father is able to help his son process and get through his meltdown and sensory overload and they are still able to have a great day together, despite the small wrinkle. If the dad had just given up when his son became unhappy, the would have lost out on the whole experience and both would have remembered it as a bad day. But instead they are able to find a way to connect and process what’s going on and adapt the activity to be more enjoyable for everyone.

Cautionary Points:

  • There are no real cautionary points or triggers in this book. There are a few illustrations where there are a lot of words overlapping pictures on the page to help illustrate the experience of sensory overload which may be overwhelming for some very sensitive children.

Discussion Guide:

  1. Have you ever been to the beach? What was it like?
    Caregiver Note: This is primarily just a question to get the conversation going and facilitate bonding. However, if a child is new to your home this is also an opportunity to learn about some of their past experiences. I remember being surprised when the first child I worked with told me she’d never been to the beach before- despite the fact that she was 12 and it was only a two-hour drive away. Children may need help to understand what  beach is like if it’s not an experience they’ve had.
  2. What do/would you like to do there?
    Caregiver Note: This goes along with the previous question and is just a fun question to start talking and thinking about the story. If they’ve never been to the beach, you could brainstorm what they think a beach would be like before reading or even talk about another trip or special place they’ve been if they want to share.
  3. How does the little boy feel about his upcoming beach trip? How can you tell what he’s feeling?
    Caregiver Note: The little boy is very clearly excited about his trip. We can see this from his facial expressions and his behavior such as running into his dad’s room, getting everything ready, talking a lot, etc. Sometimes children who have experienced trauma have difficulty in recognizing and labeling emotions so this can be a great opportunity to practice! It’s also important to understanding the contrast of how he feels later in the story.
  4. How about when he arrives at the beach? Was it what he expected?
    Caregiver Note: Often anxiety stems from not knowing what to expect during a new experience. But even when someone prepares beforehand, like this little boy does, the actual experience might be different or surprising. This is an opportunity to talk about how this sometimes happens and how to handle it when it does. It’s also another opportunity to look at the boy’s facial expressions and behavior to note the way it changes.
  5. Have you ever had something like this happen?
    Caregiver Note: If the child fees comfortable this can be a way to segue into talking about their own experiences with something unexpected happening or a time they felt overwhelmed. If they don’t feel comfortable talking about their own experience that’s okay too! They may feel safer keeping the conversation focused on the characters in the story.
  6. How did his dad help him when he felt overwhelmed?
    Caregiver Note: We see his dad remind him that he’s safe multiple times and take him through a grounding exercise where he counts and taps and takes deep breaths. Then he creates a quiet and private place for him in a tent- This allows the boy the space he needs to regulate his emotions and senses and he is able to rejoin the activity when he is ready.
  7. How can I help you when you feel overwhelmed?
    Caregiver Note: Going along with the previous question, use this as an opportunity to talk about things that might help them when they feel overwhelmed or ways you can help them regulate. Depending on the age of the child they may not know how to articulate what helps when they have been feelings or sensory overload. It may help to list different options and ask if they would like that, keeping in mind that each child is different and will have different needs and likes in what makes them feel safe and will likely need some trial and error to figure out the best approach.
  8. ACTIVITY: Breathing/Grounding Exercises
    Caregiver Note: There are lots of different options out there for variations on exercises to manage anxiety and sensory overload so feel free to try a few to find one that your child likes best! You could even try the one the father guides his son through in the book- simply counting
    to 3 and then tapping.
  9. Do you think they had a good day?
    Caregiver Note: Sometimes it’s easy to write things of as a failure or bad day when something happens like this little boy’s meltdown. However we see in the rest of the story that after his dad is able to help him through it, they find a quiet spot and are still able to enjoy some aspects of their beach activity. It may not look like exactly how they had planned it but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a great day! This is a great reminder that sometime as caregivers we need to manage our own expectations and accept that even if things deviate from the plan or issues arise we can still make great memories if we can let go of the need to make things be perfect and just enjoy the moments.
  10. Activity: Draw a picture of the beach
    Caregiver Note: This is pretty straight forward but a nice activity to work on together while talking or after finishing the book. Sometimes it’s easier for children to talk about difficult topics if they are also engaged in another safe activity like coloring. You can talk about how the little boy’s beach trip compares to what they thought the beach would be like before you read the book, or how it might compare to their own trips to the beach in the past. Or if you’re reading the book in preparation for your own beach trip, have them draw things they hope they will experience.

About the Author: Jenn Ehlers

Jenn is a central Virginia native who received her BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2012. Since then she has worked for a local mental health agency and the Department of Social Services in various capacities and has been involved in her community’s efforts to create a Trauma Informed Network. Currently Jenn works in vocational rehab and mentors youth in foster care. When she isn’t working, Jenn enjoys writing stories, anything and everything Harry Potter, and spending time with her niece and nephew.

**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.

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