March 9, 2017

Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does.”Stella Young, comedian, journalist and disability rights activist

March is both National Women’s History Month and Indiana Disability Awareness Month. In each of my previous blogs I have highlighted women in many roles, and I hope they will be a starting point as you continue to celebrate the importance of women in the world.

This month, however, I have decided to celebrate the accomplishments and narratives of those who are differently abled. I have been blessed many times during my 31 years as an educator to work with students and adults who fit this category. I have also seen my neurotypical and “able-bodied” students interacting with classmates of all abilities. And I am thrilled to see the world is finally celebrating and showcasing the strengths of our differently abled citizens. 

Nonfiction and fiction books, as well as media, give us a window into the lives of differently-abled children and adults. I have compiled a list of books I hope will help you gain a better understanding of the many facets of being differently abled and that you will start sharing what you’ve learned with your students and your families.

R.J. Palacio, the author of “Wonder,” has said she was inspired to write the book based on an actual experience she had with her own two young children. While walking out of an ice cream parlor, they saw a boy with facial deformities sitting on a bench with his mother; Palacio’s children did not react in a positive way. That night, while at home, she thought about what it must be like to be a parent of a child with disabilities and also what she could do to help her own children be more positive and kind. In addition to her books, Palacio organized the Choose Kind Campaign.

If you are looking for ways to help your children understand and connect with classmates with disabilities, here are three resources you might find helpful.

Teachers may find the following resources helpful as they explore this month with their students.

As always, I have included a sampling of books that may expand your relationship and understanding of differently-abled children and adults.

Picture Books

  • “Arnie and The New Kid” by Nancy Carlson
  • “The Black Book of Colors” by Menena Cottin
  • “Dad and Me in the Morning” by Pat Lakin
  • “Hello Goodbye Dog” by Maria Gianferrari
  • “Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism” by Laurie Lears
  • “The Junkyard Wonders” by Patricia Polacco
  • “King for a Day” by Rukhsana Khan
  • “My Brother Charlie” by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
  • “My Pal, Victor/Mi Amigo, Victor” by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
  • “My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay” by Cari Best
  • “Silent Days, Silent Dreams” by Allen Say
  • “Sometimes My Brother: Helping Kids Understand Autism Through a Sibling’s Eyes” by Angie Greenlaw and Angie Healy

YA Novels

  • “A Small White Scar” by K.A. Nuzum
  • “A Time to Dance” by Padma Venkatraman
  • “Accidents of Nature” by Harriet McBryde Johnson
  • “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon
  • “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus” by Dusti Bowling
  • “The London Eye Mystery” by Siobhan Dowd
  • “Reaching for Sun” by Tracie Zimmer
  • “You’re Welcome, Universe” by Whitney Gardner

Novels

  • “A Corner of the Universe” by Ann M. Martin
  • “Counting by 7s” by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • “Fish in a Tree” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • “Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess” by Shari Green
  • “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine
  • “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper
  • “Rain Reign” by Ann M. Martin
  • “Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything” by Lenore Look
  • “The Someday Birds” by Sally J. Pla
  • “Walking with Miss Millie” by Tamara Bundy
  • “The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio

Nonfiction

  • “Autism Acceptance Book: Being a Friend to Someone with Autism” by Ellen Sabin
  • “Can You Hear a Rainbow? The story of a Deaf Boy Named Chris” by Jamee Riggio Heelan, OTR/L
  • “Disability: Don’t Call Me Special” by Pat Thomas
  • “Extraordinary Friends” by Fred Rogers
  • “Friends at School” by Rochelle Bunnett
  • “The Friendship Puzzle: Helping kids learn about accepting and including kids with autism” by Julie L. Coe
  • “I Am Utterly Unique: Celebrating the Strengths of Children with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism” by Elaine Marie Larson
  • “Jordan Has a Hearing Loss” by Jillian Powell
  • “Looking after Louis” by Lesley Ely
  • “Luke has Down’s Syndrome” by Jillian Powell
  • “Rolling Along: The Story of Taylor and His Wheelchair” by Jamee Riggio Heelan, OTR/L
  • “Sam uses a Wheelchair” by Jillian Powell
  • “Some Kids Are Blind”; “Some Kids Are Deaf”; “Some Kids Wear Leg Braces”; and “Some Kids Use Wheelchairs” by Lola M. Schaefer
  • “Taking Cerebral Palsy to School” by Mary Elizabeth Anderson
  • “We Can Do It!” by Laura Dwight
  • “What it’s like to be me” edited by Helen Exley

Biography/Autobiography

  • “Alia (What It’s like to be 11 Years Old and Have Down syndrome” by Ailia Bliss Colin
  • “Chuck Close, Up Close” by Jan Greenberg
  • “Dreams are for Catching: Discovering The Star in You” by Tamika Catchings with Kym S. Reeves
  • “Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah” by Laurie Ann Thompson
  • “The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin” by Julia Finley Mosca
  • “Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability” by Shane Burcaw
  • “Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express” by Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and RJ Peete
  • “This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (Not Disability)” by Aaron Philip

If you are looking for additional books, I strongly recommend the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award which, “… honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”

If you would like to expand your reading to include books published in other countries that explore disabilities, take a look at the 2017 IBBY Selection of Outstanding Books For Young People With Disabilities.

You might also enjoy looking at the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award given by the Council for Exceptional Children to, “… recognize authors, illustrators and publishers of high-quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate and young adult books that appropriately portray individuals with developmental disabilities.”

There are also wonderful ways you, your families and students can become involved with our local community of differently abled kids.

Special Olympics

The Special Olympics is a wonderful organization with a local chapter whose work goes on year-round to help our kids with intellectual disabilities participate in sports. The local chapter can be accessed here.

Fundraising Walks

Perhaps you would like to help raise funds and be active with Autism Speaks? The organization’s walk in Indianapolis is September 22, 2018. Or maybe the Buddy Walk is for you. You can walk to support local efforts for children and adults with Down syndrome on Saturday, October 13, 2018.

Paralympics

Many of you were glued to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, in early February. Did you know that the Paralympics will also be happening there March 9-18? Last year, some of my classes and I watched a few of these superior athletes and were thrilled to see the level of athletic skill demonstrated throughout the games.

Fashion

Check out the new line of clothing that model and designer Madeline Stuart has created. She is one of the first models with Down Syndrome to walk a runway during New York Fashion Week!

There are also companies that not only offer amazing products, but also support children and adults with disabilities. Try shirts from Two Blind Brothers or socks John’s Crazy Socks