To kids, accessibility and ability aren't standard topics of conversation. Schools are so integrated, that classrooms consist of kids of all learning types and physical abilities. At younger ages, for the most part, they don't seem to care about differences between one another, but as they hit big kid or even tween status, questions might develop about kids who aren't like them. So, how do you talk to your kids about accessibility and differences between them and classmates?
Local author Stefania Moffatt has written a fantastic kids' book that can open up those discussions. "Everyday Superhero" is the story of a girl named Kat who has cerebral palsy. The story follows a day in her life, and all the things she loves to do. It presents her abilities in a fun, approachable, positive light with a simple message: Kat can pretty much do anything she sets her mind to, just like kids without a disability.
As Stefania states on her site: "My desire to write Everyday Superhero was to show kids and parents that CP is not a limiting condition. I want kids and adults, with or without a disability, to better understand CP and know that a fulfilling life can be had with such a disability." It's meant to serve as a conversation tool: a book you can read with your child, as a catalyst for discussion.
Stefania has been presenting the book and topic to community groups and is hoping that it gets into recreational programs, libraries and schools. We're lucky: the Dude and Stef's kids all attend a school with an autism program. Our school focuses on integrating the students together in facilitated interactions; this year, kids from the two programs are working together to make their own cookie dough for a fundraiser to help fund the autism program. Sensitizing them to differences and abilities is just part of the curriculum.
One of the best features of the book is that it is designed to be easy to hold and easy to read. Yup, accessibility even factored into the book design. How smart is that? I've known Stef a long time, and I can vouch that her attention to detail was no accident :)
You can find out more (and order the book) on Stefania's site and in this great Ottawa Citizen article: Leaping Over Barriers. While you're at it, why not grab a couple of extra copies for your kids' classroom and school libraries? Only good things can come from fostering discussion...