Books About Differently Abled Children: Celebrating International Day of People with Disability

Author: Sherry Helms

Today is December 3, the International Day of People with Disability. Promoted by the United Nations since 1992, this international day has been celebrated with varying degrees of success around the globe. The day is observed with an intent to promote an understanding of disability issues, and to mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. This day was originally called as “International Day of Disabled Persons”.

Each year the day comes with a different theme in order to look into the issue from every aspects of life — political, social, economic and cultural. This year (2012) the UN has decided to commemorate the IDPwD with the theme: Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”.  The celebration of this year provides us with an opportunity to address the exclusion of persons with disabilities by focusing on promoting accessibility, as well as removing all types of barriers in society.

Availing this opportunity, we are offering today a list of 5 selected Books about Differently Abled Children that sheds light on the extraordinary capabilities as well as the special needs of children with disabilities, letting us understand that they are rather able to do things differently, and that they need all embrace and encouragement, instead of exclusion from things we consider normal. Here goes the list:

A Different Kind of Boy: A Father’s Memoir on Raising a Gifted Child With Autism by Daniel Mont – A little nine-year old boy looks down at the gymnasium floor. The room is filled with children who like and respect him, but he has no real friends. He can barely name anyone in his class, and has trouble with the simplest things – recognizing people, pretending, and knowing when people are happy or angry or sad. Much of his life has been filled with anxiety. And yet he was only one of seven fourth graders in the United States to ace the National Math Olympiad. In fifth grade he finished second in a national math talent search. That boy is autistic. In this book, his father writes about the joys, fears, frustration, exhilaration, and exhaustion involved in raising his son. He writes about his son’s struggle to learn about life, and to understand what it means to connect with other people. And, oh, yes, math. Lots about math.

Letters to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life by Daniel Gottlieb – Written in the tradition of bestseller Tuesdays with Morrie, this book is a powerful collection of love letters from a quadriplegic grandfather to his autistic grandson.

Daniel Gottlieb was a quadriplegic –the result of a near-fatal automobile accident that occurred two decades ago– and he knows enough not to take anything for granted. Then, his grandson Sam, when only 14 months old, was diagnosed with Pervasive Develop-mental Disability, a form of autism, and suddenly everything changed. Now the grandfather and grandson were bound by something more: a disability, and Daniel’s special understanding of what that means became invaluable. Daniel then began writing a series of heartfelt letters that he hoped Sam would read later in life. This lovingly written, emotionally gripping book offers unique and universal insights into what it means to be human.

There’s a Boy in Here by Judy Barron and Sean Barron – This is a view from inside the mind of autism—a dual autobiography written in point-counterpoint style by Judy Barron and her son, Sean Barron. Together, they chronicle Sean’s young life and the effects of autism on him and his family. As a youngster, Sean was confrontational, uncontrollable, “isolated and desperately unhappy.” Baffled about how to interact with others, he felt “like an alien from outer space.” Then, at seventeen, Sean experienced a breakthrough that began his release from autism. Today he’s a public speaker, college student, and reporter, and close to his family. Everyone must read this book.

A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Special Education Teacher, His Class, and Their Inspiring Journey Through U.S. Space CampMike Kersjes always believed that his students could do anything—even attend the prestigious Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, where some of America’s best and brightest high school students compete in a variety of activities similar to those experienced by NASA astronauts training for space shuttle missions. The challenge was convincing everyone else that the kids in his special education class, with disabilities including Tourette’s syndrome, Down’s syndrome, dyslexia, eating disorders, and a variety of emotional problems, would benefit from the experience and succeed. In this groundbreaking book, Kersjes explains how, with remarkable persistence, he broke down one barrier after another, from his own principal’s office to the inner sanctum of NASA, until Space Camp finally opened its doors. After nine months of rigorous preparation, Kersjes’s class arrived at Space Camp, where they turned in a performance beyond everyone’s expectations.

The Elephant in the Playroom: Ordinary Parents Write Intimately and Honestly About Raising Kids with Special Needs – Four years ago, Denise Brodey’s young son was diagnosed with a combination of special needs. As she struggled to make sense of her new, chaotic world, what she found comforted her most was talking with other parents of kids with special needs, learning how they coped with the emotional, medical, and social challenges they faced.

In this book, Brodey introduces us to a community of intrepid moms and dads who eloquently share the extraordinary highs and heartbreaking lows of parenting a child with ADD/ADHD, sensory disorders, childhood depression, autism, and physical and learning disabilities, as well as kids who fall between diagnoses.

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