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Lorna d'Entremont
BY Lorna d'Entremont

5 Engaging Special Needs Books for Parents, Teachers & Therapists

Educational, engaging, informative and insightful are only a few of the adjectives I could use to describe the five books I introduce in this post.

Three of the books have autism as their main theme; however, each of those books will be beneficial not only to parents of a child with autism but to everyone. Knowledge about the characteristics of individuals on the autism spectrum will foster understanding and acceptance.

Raising a child with learning disabilities and/or ADHD? “On Their Own” is the book to read BEFORE it is time for your adult child to try living independently.

Social learning comes naturally to many; however, for others, a lot of effort and learning is involved. For teachers and parents, one of the greatest challenges in teaching social thinking is finding interesting, imaginative and enjoyable ways for students of all ages to study complex social situations. Dr. Anna Vagin’s book is the perfect resource for teaching social learning skills.

1. That’s My DJ: A Family with an Autistic ChildThat’s My DJ: A Family with an Autistic Child -By Cindy and Michael Mayhew

By: Cindy and Michael Mayhew

DJ’s nonverbal autism was diagnosed at the age of two. Follow his story told by his mom and stepfather. The mom-author wrote, “First I describe in detail everything I did as a parent to deal with my son’s diagnosis while also dealing with a marriage that began to dismantle.

From this point, I began to do what I had to do as a single mother while raising my three kids. As the book progresses, the reader will watch my life unfold as an “autism-mom” and some of the sacrifices I had to make due to my financial situation and lack of moral support.

I also wanted to give an African-American version of autism issues because I haven’t read or seen too many books that deal with autism topics in the black community. In any case, autism is a topic that involves millions of people and I felt the need to share my story with others. “That’s MY DJ” is about awareness, acceptance and unity. This book is very modest and the reader will have the chance to experience our trials and tribulation in an honest and humble fashion. “

Read the complete review.

2. On Their Own: Creating an Independent Future for Your Adult Child With Learning Disabilities and ADHD: A Family Guide

On Their Own

By: Anne Ford and John-Richard Thompson

On Their Own is an indispensable guide to the special challenges faced by parents of learning-disabled children. The practical, down-to-earth advice is written by Anne Ford, a mom of an adult daughter with learning disabilities (LD), who understands the frustration, confusion, and heartache that parents face when thinking of the future that awaits their child who learns differently.

This parent-to-parent book has tips to help you figure out how –and how much–to let go. It guides you through high school, college, the workplace, and life after when your child is on his own. You will appreciate the parent-friendly style of writing and immediately feel you can trust the author’s sage advice on raising a child with learning disabilities to adulthood. Anne Ford has lived through it and has a road map for you to do the same.

You can turn to On Their Own for guidance, for answers, for direction. Parents will like this book’s candid, sympathetic style, laced with real-life stories that ease parents’ fears and answer their questions.

Read the complete review.

3. Learning To Dance In The Rain: A Year of Weathering the Storm with an Autistic Child

Learning To Dance In The Rain: A Year of Weathering the Storm with an Autistic Child By Melanie L. Bennett

By: Melanie L. Bennett

Melanie L. Bennett, the caregiver, is “your fly on the wall” showing you what it is like for this particular family raising a seven-year-old girl with autism.

Melanie wrote, “I want those who have autistic or special needs loved ones to know that they are not alone in this universe of daily challenges. I want to support them as they gather ideas and learn to think outside the box. And I want them to know when they fail miserably in ways they wouldn’t admit to anyone, that they aren’t the only ones who have been down that road.

I want to show that it takes a community of people to raise a child with autism. I want others to see the challenge these precious children face as they live trapped inside a mind and body that doesn’t fit comfortably into anyone else’s world. I want people to know that these children are the real heroes, the ones who overcome the impossible every day. I want them to look eye to eye with a mother of an autistic child and know she’s one of the strongest people they’ll ever meet.”

Written in a very easy style, the author evokes tremendous empathy and understanding from the reader. Whether you know nothing at all about autism or feel well-versed on the topic, I believe you will find my story educational, enlightening, and heartwarming.”

Read the complete review.

4. YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning

YouCue Feelings

By: Anna Vagin, Ph.D.

In life, there are no pause, rewind, or replay buttons but movies and videos do; therefore, they are an excellent medium to use for teaching social skills.

It explains how to use YouTube videos as engaging and effective social thinking material. The book contains summaries and links to 25 YouTube videos with 50 accompanying activities. YouCue Feelings expands feeling vocabulary (beyond “happy”, “sad” and “mad”), helps students track changes in feelings, and, ultimately, supports students to think and talk about their own emotional experiences.

The preselected videos described in the book are brief, captivating, and tell great stories. The activities, many of which involve sketching, are clearly presented. There are suggestions for parents about how to introduce YouCue Feelings at home. The Appendices include pictures of feelings, lists of feelings and a very detailed list of books that can be used to supplement the YouTube work.

YouCue Feelings was written for therapists, teachers, and parents of elementary through middle school students. While all students can benefit from the social emotional learning at the core of YouCue Feelings, it’s specifically written for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD/ADHD, or other Social Learning Challenges.

Read the complete review.

5. A Lifetime of Laughing and Loving with Autism: New and Revisited Stories that Will Warm and Inspire You

A Lifetime of Laughing and Loving with Autism

Stories compiled by R. Wayne Gilpin

A compilation of the first three Laughing and Loving with Autism books, this “Best of” book contains all of your favorite stories, plus some new ones. If an individual on the autism spectrum is part of your life, at home, in the community, or at work, the stories will tug at your heartstrings and make you think. Some anecdotes will probably make you chuckle but most of all you will become more aware of the unique characteristics of people with autism.

Mr. Gilpin explains his concept for Laughing and Loving which came about when he realized how much people enjoyed the stories about his autistic son, Alex, and his unique view of the world. (Alex had passed away at the time this fourth book came out.) Not only did people love his stories, they usually chimed in with a few of their own. This “light” view of autism contrasted sharply with all of the technical manuals, or doom and gloom stories that were in print at the time, so Wayne decided that THIS view needed to be shared… and he did in FOUR successful books!

The anecdotes compiled by Mr. Gilpin for his fourth book were shared by parents and teachers of children on the autism spectrum. Readers find amusing and interesting stories from Australia, England, Canada, and all corners of the United States. The anecdotes are organized in twelve chapters touching many topics: Workplace, Family, Religion, Logic, School, Home, Improper Language, etc.

And the retired teacher in me applauded the positive influence one teacher had on a child with autism. To thank this teacher, his father wrote a long, heart-warming poem. Here is part of it:

Special Teacher

You held the key that unlocked
The chains of silence
You planted a seed that was nurtured
By the grace of your caring…
You held out your hand
It was open, safe, and easy to grasp
Your hand opened a door to a new and exciting
World waiting to be explored
You shined a light that caressed the seed
That blossomed into my son…
By: Greg Buckingham, North Carolina

Read the complete review.

In closing, I hope your child will always have caring teachers as the above poem describes. If you are a teacher, I hope these books will enlighten and motivate you to become such a caring, special teacher!

Lorna d'Entremont

Written on February 1, 2016 by:

Lorna d’Entremont has a Master of Education and has taught thirty years in French elementary classrooms in Nova Scotia. When she retired from teaching, she joined her daughter as co-owner of SentioLife Solutions,Ltd. the makers of the sensory, oral-motor tools SentioChews and KidCompanions Chewelry. She blogs about issues that concern parents of children with special needs and also writes reviews for their Special Needs Book Review site. She is a wife, mom of three, and grandmother of five granddaughters.