10 Children’s Books that Teach Inclusion

Summer is a fantastic time for exploring new books that foster meaningful conversations between children and adults. Help children understand and welcome peers with and without disabilities by reading one or many of these books this summer. Whether you’re a parent, children’s ministry leader, or summer school teacher, you’ll enjoy sharing these stories with the kids in your lives. Be sure to add your own favorites in the “Comments” section below!

Note: All book descriptions are from Amazon unless otherwise noted.

  1. All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman

    All Cats have Asperger SyndromeAll Cats Have Asperger Syndrome takes a playful look at Asperger Syndrome (AS), drawing inspiration from the feline world in a way that will strike a chord with all those who are familiar with AS.Delightful color photographs of cats bring to life familiar characteristics such as sensitive hearing, scampering at the first sign of being stroked and particular eating habits. Touching, humorous and insightful, this book evokes the difficulties and joys of raising a child who is different and leaves the reader with a sense of the dignity, individuality and potential of people with AS.This engaging book is an ideal, gentle introduction to the world of AS.

  2. All Kinds of Friends, Even Green!All Kinds of Friends, Even Green! by Ellen Senisi

    More than just a story about friendship, ALL KINDS OF FRIENDS, EVEN GREEN! looks at difference—such as being in a wheelchair or missing toes—in a unique way. With this beautifully photographed and engaging story, children discover that living with disability and facing its challenges can be seen as interesting, even positive. With an Afterword about disabilities, Moses, and iguanas, the story provides material for discussing inclusion at school and home.

  3. Be Good to Eddie LeeBe Good to Eddie Lee by Virginia Fleming

    This book is an excellent tool to begin discussions with children in grades Preschool-6 about forming friendships with a child with a disability. Before you begin reading this book, tell the children gathered, “When we are done, I’m going to ask you which person in the story knew how to be the best friend.” You will have a great discussion and open the doors to talk about the way in which you want children to treat one another in your setting. (Available from CLC Network.)

  4. Body Building: Devotions to Celebrate Inclusive CommunityBody Building: Devotions to Celebrate Inclusive Community by Barbara J. Newman

    This book features 6 weeks of 7 devotionals. Each devotion highlights a passage of Scripture as well as a story from an inclusive Christian school or church. The devotion book also offers opportunities for those reading to submit a story from their own community to CLC Network for possible publication on the website or in a future book. We are delighted to offer this truly unique and inspirational resource written by Barbara J. Newman with theological support from Dr. Andrew J. Bandstra. (Available from CLC Network.)

  5. Don't Call Me SpecialDon’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas

    This delightful picture book explores questions and concerns about physical disabilities in a simple and reassuring way. Younger children can find out about individual disabilities, special equipment that is available to help the disabled, and how people of all ages can deal with disabilities and live happy and full lives. Titles in this series for younger children explore emotional issues that boys and girls encounter as part of the growing-up process. Books are focused to appeal to kids of preschool through early school age.

  6. Little RainmanLittle Rainman: Autism – Through the Eyes of a Child by Karen Simmons

    Recommended by world-renowned author and speaker Dr. Temple Grandin, this children’s book paints a picture of what life is like for children with autism. Unique illustrations accompany a child’s voice as he explains the different ways he thinks, sees, hears, and feels. This book is great for reading to children with or without autism to encourage acceptance and understanding. Written by Karen Simmons-Sicoli, mother of a son with autism, this was one of the first books of its kind and it continues to be a classic in the autism community.

  7. The Little CupcakesThe Little Cupcakes by Anthony King

    The Little Cupcakes is a beautiful and engaging learning journey, encouraging children and parents to talk with each other about tolerance and diversity in a caring, sharing, sensitive way.

  8. We'll Paint the Octopus RedWe’ll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

    As six-year-old Emma anticipates the birth of her new baby brother or sister, she vividly imagines all of the things they can do together. Emma feels ready to be a big sister! Then when the baby is born, her dad tells her that it’s a boy and he has something called Down syndrome. Finally she asks, “If Isaac has this Down thing, then what can’t he do?”. Her dad thinks about it, then tells her that as long as they are patient with him, and help him when he needs it, there probably isn’t anything Isaac can’t do. In this touching story, Emma helps her father as much as he helps her to realise that Isaac is the baby they dreamed of. The book concludes with a set of commonly asked questions about Down syndrome with answers for children and how it might affect their sibling and family. For ages 3-7.

  9. You Are SpecialYou Are Special by Max Lucado

    In this heartwarming children’s tale from the best-selling pen of author Max Lucado, Eli the woodcarver helps Punchinello understand how special he is–no matter what other Wemmicks may think. It’s a vital message for children everywhere: that regardless of how the world evaluates them, God cherishes each of them, just as they are.

  10. You've Got a FriendYou’ve Got a Friend by Joni Eareckson Tada

    Benjamin, sad and lonely in his wheelchair, receives help from two angels when they create the opportunity for him to fix his old friend Tony’s flat bicycle tire.

How about you…what books about disability and inclusion do you recommend?

Note: If you purchase these books through Amazon, CLC Network (Christian Learning Center) will receive a percentage of your purchase through AmazonSmile.


The Benefits of Journaling

We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.
John Dewey (1859-1952)

Life has seemed to move us all into the fast lane. Unfortunately we are taking our children there with us. In the classroom the emphasis has shifted from mastery of learning to coverage of material. When we rush learning, children may do well on the Friday test, but come Monday, all is forgotten. How do we correct this? How do we help children to think deeply about concepts new to them and not just memorize facts? To do so, it is essential to teach children to reflect on what they are learning.

Journaling as a Form of Reflection

Journal and PenThere are many ways one can use to teach children the skill of reflecting. I would like to focus on one that I find to be superior: journaling about what is being learned. Journaling is effective for children (and adults) of all ages and abilities. It is not time consuming and can take on many different forms. In school it can be done in all classes from the arts to physical education to math.

A simple way for teachers to use this technique with their students is to pause after presenting new information, asking students to take out their journals and in some way reflect on the concept or information that was just given. Students are free to journal in whatever form best helps them to process the new information. This could be a simple sketch, a graph or diagram, a poem, notes connecting this to prior learning, questions needing clarification, or any form of writing that helps the learner internalize the new teaching.

Just the process of writing in itself is valuable and recent research demonstrates that doing so helps us process the information in different parts of the brain than hearing alone does. For those children who enjoy drawing or sketching to illustrate the concept, there is the added benefit of thinking metaphorically and this may help them think more deeply about the material.

Process with a Partner

Collection of JournalsPerhaps the biggest benefit of journaling is what comes next. After students have been given five minutes or so to put down their thoughts they are then given time to share their entries with a learning partner. Real learning is now taking place because they must explain their thinking to their partner. Furthermore, they also are now able to see how their partner processed the information. This exchange of thinking and sharing of ideas is learning at its best. From this sharing, misunderstandings can be revealed and new perspectives can be taken. Children are now truly reflecting on their learning. Journal notes make a great way for later study.

Such journaling does not have to be limited to the classroom. People of all ages journal their thoughts on what they read or keep a spiritual journal on their daily devotions. In short, journaling is a fantastic way of recording those thoughts and ideas we really wish to learn and remember and it is always handy for review. The secret is that it forces us to slow down and more deeply consider that which is important to us as learners.

photo credit: vidalia_11 via photopin cc
photo credit: Dvortygirl via photopin cc

Photo of Greg YoderGreg Yoder is a teacher consultant at CLC Network in Grand Rapids, MI. Read about his involvement in creating inclusive communities at West Highland Christian Academy and Creston Christian School.

Inclusion at West Highland Christian Academy

West Highland students“There’s something magical about this place,” shares Greg Yoder, CLC Network’s teacher consultant serving West Highland Christian Academy in Milford, Michigan. “Students are leaving with a love, caring, and understanding of the differences in every person. It’s a wonderful microcosm of the real world.”

West Highland’s teachers and parents agree that this student body is truly a family. After their first year of inclusive education with a student who had signifi­cant special needs, students responded to a survey telling the teachers they couldn’t imagine their school without that student.

The next year, five more students with disabilities enrolled.

“I expected it to grow, but not that quickly,” shares Trina Mavin, the school’s Principal. “But when God sends someone to this school, we have to trust that He’s going to make it work.”

West Highland Christian Academy Principal, Trina Mavin

West Highland Christian Academy Principal, Trina Mavin

With 85 students in grades from kindergarten to twelfth grade, part of West Highland’s secret is to keep class sizes small. “Our teachers are incredibly sup­portive, and we serve each student indi­vidually rather than creating a program,” adds Mavin.

The school also enlists the students’ help with their classmates. Currently, seven students serve as student aids, help­ing three students with disabilities to get where they need to be and to work on specific goals. Next year, one high school student will shadow a younger students’ therapy, receiving early training for a career in special education.

After being told he wouldn’t graduate from his previous school, one tenth-grade student with autism spectrum disorder is now on the path to a diploma.

“The stu­dents really reach out to my son and teach him social skills, without ostracizing him or making him feel different,” explains Barb Barber, Tim’s mom. “Tim has come out of his shell, and he is getting A’s and B’s in some general education courses. He’s using his brain and really progressing.”

In addition, West Highland Christian Academy specializes in working with stu­dents who have dyslexia. “Because we have such small classes, stu­dents were functioning okay before we imple­mented screening,” explains Mavin. “Now that their dyslexia has been identified, they’re doing much bet­ter.” The dyslexia program serves seven­teen current West Highland students as well as ten area students enrolled in after school programs.

“I believe all Christian schools can do something,” says Mavin. “Even small steps, some accommodations. The body of Christ isn’t all high achievers.” And at West Highland Christian Academy, the body of Christ is seen as a family helping each other.

To learn more about how your school can include students at all levels of ability and disability, visit our website at clcnetwork.org

This article originally appeared in our Spring 2014 Inclusive newsletter.

Elizabeth Dombrowski photoElizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network (Christian Learning Center) in Grand Rapids, MI. 

Identifying Your Vocation

Identifying Your Vocation - The First Steps | clcnetwork.org/blogAs we shared last week, life after high school can be difficult to figure out, particularly if continuing education isn’t the obvious next step for your son or daughter.  We asked Life Coach Judi Warner to share some initial questions she asks clients to help them determine their vocational interests. As you’re thinking about life beyond high school for your son or daughter, consider sitting down and discussing these questions with them.

1. Understanding yourself:

  • What are your areas of strength?  (Example:  Are you good at building things or are you better on computers?)
  • What is challenging for you?  (Example:  Is being on time difficult? Or making decisions?)
  • What do you really enjoy doing?
  • What activities or environments to you tend to stay away from?
  • What do you value?  (Example:  Friendships, Faith, Responsibility, etc.)

2. Accepting and liking who you are:

  • On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied are you?  1 (dislike) — 5 (like)
  • If you could change 3 things about your life, what would they be?
  • What has been your biggest accomplishment in life and your biggest disappointment?

3. Goal setting:

  • What is your dream job or ideal future?
  • What motivates you?
  • Where is your life out of balance?

4. Facing reality:

  • What are you afraid of?
  • What’s working well for you?
  • What’s in the way of finding the job you desire?

5. Moving forward:

  • Who can you think of that might be able to help you move forward?
  • On a scale of 1-5, how motivated are you to set goals for yourself?  (1 – not motivated  5 – very motivated)
Is Life Coaching for you?

If you found these questions helpful, perhaps you may want to meet with a Life Coach to figure out your next steps. What does Life Coaching look like? Typically, it takes about a month of weekly meetings between you and your Life Coach to establish a good relationship. During that time, you’ll address questions like the above and determine action steps to reach a desired outcome.  Your coach will encourage you and may help you stay accountable to the goals you set.  You determine the length of the relationship, however, the average relationship is three months.

Judi WarnerIf you want to explore these questions and learn about how a Life Coach could help you, contact Judi Warner at judiwarner [AT] gmail [DOT COM].

10 Summer Activities for Kids with Disabilities

1. Create a Social Story.

Social Stories are a helpful way to depict what activities and appropriate responses your son or daughter MIGHT expect in an upcoming situation, like your summer break. The title of your summer Social Story could be A look at ________’s Summer Vacation.  This social story could talk about your plans for what your child MIGHT experience this summer: visits to the library or park, spending time with a tutor or babysitter, books they MIGHT read, a visit to camp, and more. You could even make a Social Story for individual events as well as the entire summer. Read more about creating a preview of your summer vacation and the importance of using words like “maybe” and “probably”, in this blog post.

 2. Create a daily, visual schedule.  

Just like a vacation away from home can bring uncomfortable routine changes for some, your son or daughter might be distressed by the changes in routine summer brings. Help your child know what their daily activities are with a picture schedule, like this one from Shannon Des Roches Rosa in “Autism, Parenting, and Summer: Keeping Busy”.  (You can find photos for daily activities at Do2Learn.) The schedule can include time for academics, work/job, exercise, fun and more.

 3. Maintain academics…and make it fun!

Reading by DeptofEdThis is a realistic and important goal.  You may not necessarily be able to move your children further ahead academically, but maintaining academic skills is a valid goal. Consider having a reading, math, writing, and/or art day, where you review skills learned during the year. Find fun ways to incorporate these skills into your summer by visiting museums, journaling, participating in your local library’s summer reading program and more.  Talk with your child’s teacher to discuss material you should work on over the summer and older students or community members who might be a good tutor, if that’s appropriate. Find more resources for summer learning from Edutopia at this link.

Jump in!4. Schedule play dates.

Schedule an outing with your child’s Circle of Friends or classmates. Using a Social Story, work with your child beforehand on what activities they MIGHT expect, appropriate social skills, and what to do if they get frustrated.

5.  Plan family activities.

Allow your child to pick some special family activities they would like to do this summer – whether that’s a picnic, family vacation, or video game night. Allowing your child to choose and help plan a family activity empowers them to own their decision. If you’re looking for family-friendly events that are intentional about including persons with disabilities, look into Wilderness Inquiry or movie theaters with a sensory friendly film in your area. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to include it in your picture schedule!

6. Do service projects around your child’s strengths.

Give to others this summer by participating in or starting a service project in your neighborhood, within your church, or in your broader community.  What strengths and interests does your son or daughter possess that could benefit the community? Maybe they’re great at planting seeds, cleaning windows, organizing library books or playing with animals. Help them utilize their strengths to give back to the community. Explain to your child what service is and why it’s important to help others.

HopScotch7. Exercise. 

What activities does your child enjoy? How can you make this into something active? Brainstorm with your child what can be done to exercise and why this is important.  If they enjoy videogames, incorporate the Wii Fit into their schedule. If they like art, have them draw hopscotch and then play it with them.  If they enjoy athletics, encourage them to join a summer sports league or train for a race.  Plan an exercise period each day…and plan as many as needed!

8. Give your summer a theme…or two…or three. 

There are so many themes you could choose from, whether that’s a certain country (perhaps Brazil for the FIFA World Cup), a holiday (celebrate Flag Day on June 14 through Independence Day on July 4 with a patriotic theme), a favorite school subject (summer is the perfect time to study science – there’s so many bugs and plants to learn about!) or something else your family enjoys. Plan your meals, activities, learning, and art projects/exploration around your chosen theme.

 Kids Cooking9. Make meals together.

Invite your child to help plan and prepare meals – maybe one meal per week. Allow them to assist with the shopping by helping create the shopping list, crossing off the items at the grocery store, adding up the items, etc. You can even tie your meals in with your summer theme(s).

10. Play games, games, and more games!

Whether it’s a board, card, or a yard activity, games are a great way to practice social skills, as well as how to follow rules, be a gracious winner, be cooperative, and lose. Looking for game ideas? Visit Marbles – The Brain Store for games, software, puzzles, books and more that develop critical thinking, memory, coordination, visual perception and word skills.  Most importantly, have fun!

photo credit: US Department of Education via photopin cc

photo credit: AnneCN via photopin cc

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photo credit: willem velthoven via photopin cc

Pam Maat Image

Pam Maat is a teacher consultant at CLC Network and the director of educational support services at Holland Christian Schools. She is a trained All Kinds of Minds facilitator, and a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Calvin College.





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Katie Barkley is the marketing  communications manager at CLC Network.