Leah’s Voice

Leah's Voice9781612442402_p0_v1_s260x420Leah’s Voice

Lori DeMonia, Author

Monique Turchan, Illustrator

Halo Publishing International, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for ages: 5-8 years

Themes: Autism Spectrum, Siblings, Differences, Compassion, Kindness, Special Needs

Opening: Logan stood at the window waiting with excitement. Her friend Abby was coming over for her very first play date. As soon as a car pulled in the drive, Logan yelled out, “She’s here!” 

Synopsis: Logan looks forward to a play date with her friend Abby. She introduces Abby to her older sister Leah. They play a board game and invite Leah to play. But Leah leaves the room after her turn. Abby is upset that Leah won’t stay and play. Logan explains that her sister is uncomfortable around new people. Abby tells Logan that “next time we’ll play at my house.” Logan is sad about how her friend treats Leah and wonders why she doesn’t like her. Logan thinks about the similarities and differences between her and Leah. Her mother takes them to a movie and Leah has a melt down and ruins the day. Logan is angry and confused. Her parents explain that Leah has autism and that’s why she doesn’t talk much and gets upset easily. Logan tries to be patient and focuses on what Leah loves best, drawing pictures.

Why I like this book: Lori DeMonia knows first hand the confusion and challenge for a sibling who has an autistic sister or brother.  It is a fictional story inspired by her daughters. The story is told with such simplicity that young children will be able to read and understand. Siblings don’t know how to explain it to their friends. They are embarrassed by their behavior and angry when they have meltdowns and ruin family outings. Leah’s Voice is an important story about accepting differences and treating others with respect and kindness. It is perfect for the classroom. Monique Turchan’s illustrations are colorful and lively. They beautifully capture the emotion of the story.

Awards:  2014 Temple Grandin Outstanding Literary Work of the Year award from the Autism Society of America, the Mom’s Choice Award, the New York Book Festival 2013 Honorable Mention Award,  and the London Book Festival 2013 Honorable Mention Award.

Resources: Visit the website for Leah’s Voice to  see Leah’s artwork and find printable pages. For information about autism visit the Austism Society website.

Russell’s World

Russell's World9781433809767_p0_v1_s260x420Russell’s World:  A Story for Kids About Autism

Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D.,  Author

Monika Pollak, Illustrator

Magination Press:  Non-fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages:  5 – 10

Themes:  Autism Spectrum, Sibling Relationships, Family Support, Differences

Opening“Russell is a kid with special differences.  He has autism.  This means his behaviors can be surprising in three big ways.  He likes to be alone…He can’t talk…He doesn’t play the way other kids do.”

Synopsis:  Russell is nine years old and has a form of autism which makes it hard for him to talk and learn.  He hums, babbles, giggles and screams.  He has two younger brothers, Benjamin and Gregory, who love Russell and play with him when he’s willing.  They also know when they need to leave Russell alone.  When his brothers have friends over, Russell leaves the room.  Benjamin and Gregory are important in helping Russell copy things they do through repetition.    Russell attends school where he learns sign language, manners and playing with other children.  But, there are times that Russell puts his relationship with his brothers to the test when he breaks their toys or throws tantrums during the night.  Unlike many children with autism, Russell, loves hugs and tickles.   He is happy boy with brothers who support him.

Why I like this book:  This story is a heart warming look into a family living with a child with autism.  It is written by Russell’s father, a doctor, who uses very simple language to help children understand autism.  The story is told through a collage of photographs of Russell and his brothers accompanied by colorful illustrations that create a background.  Very clever.   Throughout the story Dr. Amenta shares a situation, and then helps kids understand Russell’s response.  He’s also quick to point out that even though Russell may be nonverbal, other kids with autism do talk, have an easier time learning and have special talents.   He explains to kids that autism affects each child differently.  I feel that parents of an autistic child would find this book  useful in helping siblings understand the differences.

Since the book was first published in 1992, Russell and his brothers are now adults.  Russell runs a small envelope stuffing business and has a deep love of music.  Benjamin is a pianist and Gregory is a mathematician/physicist and percussionist.  Music is a very strong bond for this family.

Resources:  There is extensive back matter in the book for parents.  In using the book with children, ask them what is alike and what is different in Russell’s world compared to their own.  Siblings of kids with autism may see both similarities and differences between Russell and their brother/sister.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Emily Included – Cerebral Palsy

Emily Included9781926920337_p0_v1_s260x420Emily Included:  A True Story

Kathleen McDonnell, Author

Second Story Press, Biography, Mar. 1, 2012

Suitable for Ages:  8-12

Themes:  Cerebral Palsy, Disabilities, Special Needs, Inclusive Education, Supreme Court

Synopsis:  Emily Eaton was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy (CP) and had many physical challenges.   As a young child, her body was “floppy,” but she eventually defied doctors predictions and learned to sit, feed herself and walk with a special walker and leg braces.  She uses a wheel chair.  Verbal communication was difficult, although she learned to communicate with facial expressions and body language. Emily also had visual difficulties.  Because of her special need for therapy and teachers, Emily had attended a school for children with disabilities.  But at age five, her parents decided to enroll her in a public school so that she could interact with other children and become part of the community in which she lived.  Emily was nervous at first, but grew to love her school and new friends.  She attended school two years before the board of education intervened.

Little did Emily know she was about to face a great challenge in her life  — a school system that only saw her disabilities and not her abilities.  She was denied access to her second grade class.    This very strong girl only wanted the right to attend school like a regular kid.  With the support of her family, Emily  confronted the local board of education first.  This courageous girl ended up taking her case to the Canadian Supreme Court in the late 1990s.  Her fight became a battle for all children with physical and mental disabilities to have the right to be included in public schools.

What I like about this book:  Kathleen McDonnell has written an inspirational narrative about Emily’s remarkable journey to attend school with non-disabled children.  What I found fascinating was that Emily’s teachers and students found how much they benefited from her participation in school.  They all worked together as a team and enjoyed her presence in the classroom.  Teachers reported here were so many valuable lessons for everyone involved.  Her inclusion in school was groundbreaking for a child with severe CP in the nineties.   According to the author, there is still a lot of work to be done because “resources and funding remain major roadblocks to facilitating these rights in classrooms today.”   Emily however, graduated from high school.  You may visit Kathleen McDonnell at her website.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Ellie Bean the Drama Queen!

Ellie Bean the Drama Queen!

Jennie Harding, Author

David Padgett, Illustrator

Sensory World, Imprint of Future Horizons, 2011, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Theme:  Processing sensory messages, neurological disability, teamwork with the family, therapist and school

Opening/Synopsis“With her unevenly cut brown hair, bare feet, and loud, munchkin-like singing voice, Ellie Bean spun wildly in circles in her backyard.  As the wind blew harder against her face, Elli Bean laughed and sang longer…and louder…and louder.  Her spinning became faster…and faster!”  Ellie’s mother yells for her to slow down.  When she suddenly stops  spinning very fast, she doesn’t  seem wobbly.  She takes off running after a butterfly.  She spots a bee and runs screaming into the house sobbing.  Her mother quietly asks her what is wrong.  But, Ellie is not able “to put her fear into words.”   Many things upset Ellie like the smell and taste of toothpaste,  the flushing the toilet, getting a hair cut.  For Ellie, everything is “too loud,  too scratchy, too painful, too tight, too smelly, too ouchy and too squishy,”  all of which send her into a meltdown.  Some people think she’s drama queen.

Ellie and her parents visit a specialist and learn that she has a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  An occupational therapist works with Ellie and her parents to discover what things make her feel better and calm her down, like swinging, spinning, jumping on a trampoline, brushing her arms and legs with a soft brush and wrapping her tightly in a blanket.  After her parents start using these exercises with her, Ellie  begins to use words to tell her mom what is bothering her.

Why I like this book:  Jennie Harding uses drama and a lot of action to show how SPD affects the quality of life for children.  She is the parent of a child with sensory-processing difficulties and a special educator.  SPD is a term used to cover a variety  of neurological disabilities, not just one.  Some children with autism have SPD.  David Padgett has created a very colorful and lively illustrations that beautifully compliment the story.  Harding says it is important the parents educate themselves and seek help.  An Occupational Therapist will know what tools can be used to ease the discomfort for a child, who has difficulty processing information that is received in the brain.   It is also important to train the child to listen to his/her own body.  Please read the Author Information about SPD at the back of the book.  She gives an overview and provides important resources and web sites for parents.

Resources:  Visit the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation , which is establishing an on-line SPD University, The Sensory and Motor Integration Website of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Sensory Integration Global Network for more information.  This is a book that could be used in the classroom to discuss sensory issues with students.  A lot of kids find things that are too ouchy, too itchy, too noisy, and too smelly.  This would help children better understand kids with SPD.  You could also have children draw pictures about what bothers them most.  This could lead to a lively discussion about similarities.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

Understanding Sam and Asperger Syndrome

Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA, CCC-SLP, Authors

Clarabelle van Niekerk, Illustrator

Skeezel Press, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for:  Preschool to Grade 2

Awards:  2010 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award, and the 2009 Mom’ Choice Award.

Themes:  Understanding a child with Asperger Syndrome, Helping the child succeed at home and at school, Teamwork

Opening“Sam loved to giggle.  He would close his eyes, throw back his head, and just giggle.  This would make everyone else giggle.  Sam was a happy boy but he was a little different.  He did not like loud noises.  He did not like to rough and tumble with other boys.  Making friends was hard for Sam.”  This is an endearing story about Sam, who  acts differently.  He lives with his parents, his sister and his dog.  Sam doesn’t like his pancakes to touch each other on the plate.  He doesn’t like to wear new clothes because they feel funny.  He builds puzzles by himself at school and the kids tease him.   A fair comes to town and Sam’s father takes him to ride on the Ferris wheel.   Sam loves the feeling of going round and round so much that he slips out of the house later that night and returns to the Ferris wheel.  That’s when his parents realize it’s time to see a doctor.

Why I like this book:  The authors give a realistic portrayal of child with Asperger Syndrome in an upbeat and happy way.   The illustrations are colorful and beautifully support the positive mood of the story.  They show how important it is for the doctors, therapists,  family, teacher and students to work together as a team to understand and help Sam.  Over the months Sam learns to interact with the other students and they include him in their activities.  And, Sam is given his moment to shine at a school event where he shares a very special gift.

Activities:  At the end of the book, the authors have a special discussion guide for students, family and friends.  They offer 10 very helpful tips for kids who have friends who may seem a little different.   These tips will promote a thoughtful and lively classroom or family conversation.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism

I Am in Here:  The Journey of a child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice

Elizabeth M. Bonker and Virginia G. Breen, Authors

Revell, Baker Publishing Group, Oct., 2011, Nonfiction

Suitable for:  Parents, and Teens and Adults with Autism

Theme:  Autism Spectrum, Poetry, Finding a Voice

Synopsis:  Elizabeth was diagnosed with autism at age 13 months and lost her ability to speak at 15 months.  Until then, she was progressing normally.  She was diagnosed as mentally retarded by specialists, but her intelligence is now considered in the genius range.  Her older brother Charles also has autism, but is very talkative.  Virginia admits the autism journey is like riding a roller coaster as they heard of new treatments daily and had to make their own decisions about what would work for their children.   In their attempt to reach Elizabeth,      her parents worked with a woman who developed teaching method called Rapid Prompting Method (RPM).  The program worked for Elizabeth.  She began to write single-word answers and then full sentences with a letterboard.   From ages seven to thirteen, Elizabeth has written more than 100 poems, in which she talks about her inner world and her connection with the world around her.  She is a self-taught poet who was born with a gift to write.  I found it interesting that Elizabeth does her homework on a laptop computer, but writes her poetry on the letterboard.  I have told you enough about Elizabeth.  Now I want you to meet this beautiful soul.

 ME

I sometimes fear
That people cannot understand
That I hear
And I know
That they don’t believe I go
To every extreme
To try to express
My need to talk.
If only They could walk
In my shoes
They would share my news:
I  am here
And trying to speak every day
In some kind of way.   (age 9)

I wrote Me to let people know that even though I don’t speak, I feel and understand the world around me.  I want to be heard and respected.  I want that for everyone, especially for people like me.” – Elizabeth

Me Revisited

I can’t sit still.
What’s wrong with me?
My body is doing things
I can’t explain.
My dignity I am trying to maintain.
People Stare at me
When I rock and shake.
I don’t know how much
More I can take.
So much to deal with
Going on inside me.
I wish I could get better.
I want to be set free
From my silent cage.

“Some of the people at school who do not know me make me feel uncomfortable.  They stare at me.  I would not rock and shake if I could stop it.  It just happens sometimes  I wish they could understand, but mostly I wish I could explain it to them. ” – Elizabeth

Bright Future

When you see
A tree
Think of me
Growing strong and tall.

When you see
The Sun shining brightly
Think of me
Tough and mighty.

When you see
The water on the lake
Think of the future
I plan to make.

Me
Strong
Mighty
Free

Why I like this book:  Elizabeth’s book, co-authored with her mother Virginia, is an inspirational and powerful beacon that will offer much hope to parents with children in the Austism Spectrum.   It is a profoundly moving and spiritual journey between a mother and daughter.   Elizabeth shows great courage and determination in learning to communicate, despite the fact that she lacks fine motor skills to write.  She types one letter at a time with her forefinger.  Her optimism is remarkable as she wants people to find peace in her book.

For Virginia, “Elizabeth has become my teacher, and I am learning to think about life, faith, and relationships in a whole new way.  I have come to see the world as divided into Why People and How People.   Why People cannot be at peace until they answer the question of why suffering has befallen them.  How People ask “How can I move forward?  Having been dealt their hand in life, their focus shifts to how they can find whatever healing and wholeness is possible.”  For Virgina, her 13-year-old daughter is a miracle who has “shattered the silence of autism through her beautiful poetry.”   I Am in Here, is a masterpiece of poetry and prose.  And we are so fortunate to capture a rare glimpse into Elizabeth’s beautiful mind and world.

You can visit Elizabeth at her website I Am in Here, and read the first two chapters of her book for free under “Book” and “Read a Passage.”   You will also find  videos, resources and other information.    Virginia has also indicated that Amazon is having a Kindle special price of $2.99 for I Am in Here during the month of March. 

Autism Awareness Month is approaching  in April.  For information contact Autism Speaks .   Join Autism Speaks in celebrating World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and Light It Up Blue to help shine a light on autism. Whether it’s your front porch or your local city hall, an office party or a banquet, the entire world is going blue to increase awareness about autism.  The month will be filled with activities.  Among the buildings going blue last year were the: Empire State Building, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Niagara Falls, Al Anoud Tower in Saudi Arabia,  Cairo Tower in Egypt, Great Buddha at Hyogo in Japan, CN Tower in Canada and Sydney Opera House in Australia.

In Jesse’s Shoes – Perfect Picture Book

In Jesse’s Shoes: Appreciating Kids With Special Needs

Beverly Lewis, Author

Laura Nikiel, Illustrator

Bethany House Publishers, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Themes:  Appreciating a sibling with special needs,  embarrassment,  teasing, acceptance, friendship.

Opening/SynopsisEvery day I walk my brother to his bus at the corner.  It’s not far, but it takes a long time because Jesse gets distracted by things like rain puddles, honeysuckle blossoms, and even ladybugs — which bugs me a lot.”  Allie walks with her older brother, Jesse, to the school bus stop every morning and endures his distractions, and the teasing and giggling of the other kids waiting for the bus.  She wonders to herself “Why didn’t I get a regular brother?”  She loves Jesse, but is frustrated and tired of being embarrassed by him.  Allie feels terrible about her feelings.  One  day Jesse meets Allie and tells her to put on his large shoes and instructs her to “do what Jesse does.”  Allie follows Jessie  and discovers the wonders of his world that she has not noticed.  That day changes Alli forever.

Why I like this book:  Beverly Lewis has written a story with a powerful message about acceptance for children.  I like that she told the story from Allie’s viewpoint.  Laura Nikiel’s illustrations are bright, colorful and filled with expression.  There are many children who have a sibling with a special need.  Like Allie, siblings deal with  emotions ranging from love to embarrassment.  It’s important that they have a way to express how they feel to someone who will listen.  Beverly Lewis comes up with a very creative way of helping Allie see life as Jesse does.   This is a good book for home or at school.  Activity:  Have students discuss what it means to “walk in someone else’s shoes” before you read the book.  Encourage them think of examples of people to share.  After you read the book,  have each child write a letter to Jesse to tell him what they learned from his story.

For those who want more information about siblings and special needs families, please go to Sibshops. They have developed a flexible curriculum that provides much-needed peer support and a safe place for kids to talk about their feelings and experiences.  The workshops are always a good balance of fun, friendship and support and help build a network of friendship and resources.  The Sibshop curriculum is used throughout the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Guatemala, Turkey, and Argentina.  Thank you Cathy Mealey for the information about this site.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.