Thursday, July 4, 2013

Guest Post - Children with Special Needs

Maria Hughes from Children's Book Store is here to talk about using books to teach students about kids with special needs. Maria is an active children's literature enthusiast, a mom, and an online publisher for Children's Book Store. She enjoys blogging and reading about kids' books at  

Teaching your special needs child about who they are through books

     Years ago, when my children were younger, there was a very delightful little girl who had autism in my son’s kindergarten class.  Meredith had giant, round blue eyes, made even larger than I thought possible with her thick glasses and a mop of unruly curls who would seek me out every day to ask me about my other children.  Unbelievably, she knew the names of every family member of every family that attended the school.  Years later, I watched as she performed in the school talent show in front of friends and family and couldn’t help but reflect upon her amazing transformation, from socially awkward to one of radiating confidence upon the stage.  Her mother, her teachers and a team of therapists, no doubt played an instrumental part for helping Meredith find the grace and courage to be the person she was ultimately meant to be, but of course, the crux lay upon Meredith herself.
     If you too, are fortunate enough to know a very special person like Meredith, or perhaps have personal knowledge because one of your own children or a family member may have received a diagnosis like Autism or Asperger’s then you might relate. At first, it can seem initially overwhelming and can throw your normal world and routine into a tailspin.  Once you’ve completed all your research and educated yourself and family members on what to expect, it may be time to sit down with your child and explain how special they are to you. Chances are your child may still be very young as the average age of diagnosis, according to the Centers of Disease Control, is four years old, but they may already have a feeling that they look at the world in their own way.   Whether they are aware of their ‘differentness’ or not, it is never too early to start talking about who they are.

Below are some books that might appeal to your child 
as you respectfully explain what Autism or Asperger’s means:

·       Russell is Extra Special: A Book About Autism for Children – Charles A. Amenta, III.  This book was written by the father of a child with autism, who also shares his medical expertise as a practicing physician.  Ages 4-8.
·       What It Is to Be Me!: An Asperger Kid Book – Angela Wine.  Another parent/author Ms. Wine talks about her son Danny who has Asperger’s.  Ages 4 and up.
·       To Oz and Back: A Bones and the Duchess Mystery – Alexandra Eden.  This quirky mystery, who-dun-nit is a humorously entertaining book, that introduces the reader to Verity Buscador, a 12-year-old, pseudo-detective who also has Asperger’s.  Ages 5th- 8th grade.
·        A is for Autism F is for Friend: A Kid’s Book for Making Friends with a Child Who has Autism – Joanna L. Keating-Velasco.  Inside this book the reader meets Chelsea, a young girl with autism and shows how Chelsea struggles to fit in and play with other children.  Young children with Autism or Asperger’s may relate to a lot of what Chelsea feels, too.  For children of all ages.
·       All about my Brother – Sarah Peralta.  Written and illustrated by an eight year old, little Sarah Peralta presents to the world an honest account of life with her brother who has autism.  From his quirky habits to his unique ways of communication, this book is a must for siblings who are dealing with an autistic brother or sister.   

Yes, children with special needs have unique perspectives to the world and anyone who has been blessed to have one touch their own lives, then you too, can begin to understand what living in their world is like. Instead of constantly reinforcing special needs children to conform to our standards, it’s nice every now and then to take a deeper look into how their world works, too.

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Thank you to Maria for sharing her insight into using books to help students navigate their unique needs or to support kids as they learn about others who have special needs. Please feel free to share other books that you believe would be great to add to Maria's list in the comments! 

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