Saturday, 26 October 2013

A focus on the "ability" in "disability"

Hi everyone

I had the great pleasure recently of presenting at a conference of Special Educators about the teaching of reading.  Firstly, "hats off" to the teachers who work with students with "special needs" or I like to call it "additional needs" as I think all kids have "special needs".

There are a number of picture books that I just love for looking at individual differences and strengths.  Check out my "Cutlery & Conformity" blog post for ideas that could be used for all students about inclusivity and individual identity. 

The picture books in this post are specifically around disability, but I like to focus on the "ability" not the "dis".  A resource I made for this is "Don't 'diss' my Ability" based on the picture book, "Susan Laughs" by Jeanne Willis. Donna Wakefiled reads the story on youtube here.   Check out my resource by clicking on the cover image below (left).

One of my all time favourite picture books for this is Australian.  It is written and illustrated by Melanie and Maggie Prewett who are descended from the Ngarluma people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia.  They are a mother and daughter team and Melanie is the mother of Jack, the central character in the picture book, "Two Mates". 
 "Two Mates" is the true story of two boys and their special mateship growing up in Broome in far north Western Australia.  They fish for salmon, hunt for barni, dress up as superheroes, ride the quad bike, go fishing and prove that friendship has no boundaries...     I am not going to spoil the ending for you (although I just realised that the teacher notes give it away), but it has a real twist and is an awesome mentor text for writing, even if you didn't use it within the context of "ability" and "disability".  It is one of my all time favourites and I am very thankful to Shelly for introducing it to me last year.

You can purchase the book and find out more about it through the publisher, Magabala books. They even provide free teacher notes. While you are there you might like to check out other great titles written and illustrated by indigenous authors and illustrators.

Other picture books I love using around this topic include:

"Keep Your Ear on the Ball" by Genevieve Petrillo (Free teacher notes here)

"Looking After Louis" by Lesley Ely.  A critical review of "Looking After Louis" questions how disability is represented in the text and the affect it may have on young readers.  This reveiw argues that the illustrations and text contradict each other and may produce a negative representation of disability.  I actually really enjoyed the book for the teamwork, inclusivity and understanding portrayed, but it is always good to critically reflect on issues such as these and to consider other viewpoints.

Desiree Pointer Mace reads "Looking After Louis" on youtube.

"Just Because" by Jacqueline Wilson.  This book is based on the author's two children, Toby and Clemmie. Visit the author's website here to find out more.

"How Katie Got a Voice (and a very cool new nickname)" by Patricia L. Mervine.  You can view a youtube clip of the story here or visit the author's website to find out more, including viewing a video about disability ettiquette.

Check out my pinterest board on Social Emotional and Behaviour or my board on picture books featuring characters with Special Needs for further ideas.

Also check out my friend Tess's blog on Autism - you will find heaps of information here :)

Thanks again to the wonderful Iva from etsy who does all of my custom-made clip art for me.  I just love her work.  You can find Iva on etsy by following this link to her etsy store - nahhan73.


  1. As a teacher of children with special needs I LOVE this post! Too often we focus on the disability and not on the abilities. Kids with special needs are capable of so much and what wonderful resources you are brining to this forum! Thank you so much! I would love to share some of your material!

    1. Susan...I thought you would be interested in this post...if you send me a personal message on my Ripper Resources FB page with your email address I will send you my resource for free :) Thank you for leaving feedback - this is really important work that we do with kids with additional needs - don't we all have additional needs? If you could let others in the special needs world know about my very new blog and my resource, I would really appreciate it. Blessings x Kylie :)