Kids & Family

Great News for Parents and Kids With Disabilities: Award-Winning Children’s Books and a Night to Shine

Great News for Parents and Kids With Disabilities: Award-Winning Children's Books and a Night to Shine

Reading children’s books in the library.

Often children with disabilities don’t feel the same type of inclusion as other kids and parents struggle with this fact. Thankfully ‘the times they are a-changing’ as some would say. Given more young people being diagnosed with mental issues like autism, a type of physical, or other limitation is finally receiving the same type of spotlight and recognition in today’s media as those who are not challenged in some way.

Firstly, let’s take a look at these award-winning children’s books featuring differently-abled youngsters starring in title roles inside these novellas. In January 2020, the American Library Association named three winners and three honorees of its Schneider Family Book Awards. These honorees have been recognized recently for their contributory roles as authors and illustrators. They portray the youth disability experience. There are three age-related categories given annually:

Young Children in Children’s Books

The winner in this group goes to a title written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in, “Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” encouraging children to communicate with their fellows to embrace and accept their unique differences which makes them stronger. Also, “A Friend For Henry“, written by Jenn Bailey, is about friendship as told from a boy with autism.

Elementary and Middle School Grades in Children’s Books

A Song for a Whale” by Lynne Kelly won the award for her tale about a twelve-year-old deaf child. They go on a quest to help a whale who can’t communicate with other whales. In the honorary category, “Each Tiny Spark” won. It follows a daughter whose father returns home from military deployment a changed man as the result of PTSD.

High Schoolers and Teens in Children’s Books

Karol Ruth Silverstein won in the teenage category for her portrayal of a young girl with juvenile arthritis in “Cursed“. Meanwhile, Alison Gervais received the honorary status for her story of a deaf student adjusting to a high school. Everyone else can hear in “The Silence Between Us“.

The winners in each of these categories will receive $5,000 and a framed plaque in a presentation. These occur during the library association’s annual conference held every June in Chicago.

A Night to Remember

Attending prom is a high school ritual. It is a rite of passage for many teenagers. However, it’s more than just a dance or a reason to get all dressed up and hang out with adolescent friends. It’s an evening where all students, no matter where they sit during lunchtime, what clubs or cliques they belong to, instead, it’s a time to come together for a party one last time before graduation.

Many kids who are disabled either from socially-related mental disorders or have mobility issues, often don’t feel really comfortable in these type of party settings. This shouldn’t stop these students from attending one of these functions and thanks to former NFL superstar Tim Tebow’s namesake foundation and hundreds of churches across the country and all around the world, today’s ‘Prom’ is now for everyone.

A Night to Shine

Held prior to Valentine’s Day annually, A Night to Shine puts all of these unique teens in Prom’s premium spotlight regardless of their limitations. Indeed, every year these unique venues feature a red carpet entrance complete with friendly paparazzi.

Prior to arrival at Prom, there are limos provided (or other specially-equipped types of transportation available) and typically feature shoe-shining services along with hair and makeup stations. These spectacular events include a traditional Prom with a delicious dinner, live music, and a brightly-lit dance floor.

Learn More About These Children’s Books

Our hearts go out to The Tim Tebow Foundation along with churches all over the world who sponsor these events. Further, we’d like to salute Six Flags for providing a one-day, safer place to play for those youngsters with Autism.

8+ Excellent Movies With Disabled, Mentally or Mobility Challenged Main Characters

8+ Excellent Movies With Disabled, Mentally or Mobility Challenged Main Characters

In 2019, actress Ali Stroker made history by becoming the first person confined to a wheelchair to win a Tony for her performance in a revival of the Broadway classic Oklahoma! In a moving speech, Stroker emotionally dedicated the award to, “every kid who is watching tonight who has a disability, who has a limitation, or a challenge, who has been waiting to see themselves represented in this arena… you are.”

We’d like to dedicate these eight movies showcasing characters who are disabled, mentally, or mobility challenged to Ali Stroker. While those with limitations have often been underserved in title roles, we’re happy to see them in the limelight.

1. The Miracle Worker

Based on a true story, a caregiver struggles to connect with an unruly, deaf, mute, and blind child. Further, the role provided a young Patty Duke an Oscar for her role as Helen Keller. Movies like The Miracle Worker and The Elephant Man are often considered classic and cornerstone films that bring the real-life struggles of those who are different to audiences everywhere.

2. A Beautiful Mind

Based on a true story, A Beautiful Mind tells Nobel Prize-winning, schizophrenic mathematician, John Forbes’ story. Further, the film won an Oscar statue for director Ron Howard and actress Jennifer Connelly for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress respectfully.

3. Benny & Joon

Benny (Aidan Quinn) cares for his younger sister Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) who navigates several unspecified forms of mental illnesses. Soon Sam (Johnny Depp) enters the picture and begins to woo Joon with his Charlie Chaplin-like charm and antics. As the pair begins to fall in love, Benny contemplates sending Joon to live in a group home.

4. Children of a Lesser God

Marlee Matlin was the first (and still only) deaf person to receive an Academy Award for her portrayal alongside William Hurt in Children of a Lesser God. In the film, Hurt is a new teacher at a school for the deaf. His challenge is getting former student Matlin to use her spoken voice instead of relying on sign language. A romantic relationship develops between the two despite the emotionally distant and bitter background suffered by Matlin’s character of Sarah.

5. I Am Sam

In an Oscar-nominated performance, Sean Penn delivered an epic performance as the title role in I Am Sam. Penn portrays a developmentally disabled man fighting to retain custody of his seven-year-old daughter played by Dakota Fanning. Indeed, based on a true story, Sam’s struggle comes to light as his daughter’s growing mental capabilities begin to surpass his own.

6. The Theory of Everything

Based on real-life events, The Theory of Everything relates the relationship of Stephen Hawking with fellow student Jane Wilde. At the age of twenty-one, the couple discovers Hawking has a motor neuron disease. According to his doctor, he has little time left to live. Despite the terrible news, they begin an ambitious study of time, breaking new grounds in the fields of science and medicine.

7. My Left Foot

Born with cerebral palsy, Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis) only has control over a single limb, his left foot. However, early on, Brown astonishes his impoverished family by scrawling the word ‘mother’ on the floor with a piece of chalk gripped with the toes on his left foot. This truly remarkable man goes on to become an accomplished writer and painter in Ireland.

8. Simon Birch

We recently showcased Simon Birch as a choice for a fantastic, lesser-known, family-friendly movie to watch and would like to highlight a fun fact about the film. The actor who played the title character, Ian Michael Smith was born with Morquio Syndrome also known as MPSIVA which affects the skeletal structure and causes dwarfism. However, even with his smaller stature at just over three feet tall, this little boy has a big purpose in this spiritually inspirational film. It also stars Ashley Judd and Oliver Platt.

BONUS: Soul Surfer

Every teen going through a hard time needs to watch Soul Surfer, the true tale of thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton. Indeed, she loses her arm in a shark attack. Not only does this brave gal get back on the surfboard again, but she also finds a higher purpose in life by helping others.

Crip Camp Documentary on Netflix

Crip Camp Documentary on Netflix

Activism, disabilities, and summer camp may not seem like they would all belong together. However, they all intersected in the 1970’s for campers at Camp Jened. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution outlines the lives of campers, their experiences with disabilities, and becoming activists for themselves and others like them.

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution 

This documentary draws watchers into a history lesson on a camp for disabled youth and the revolution that followed. The campers’ disabilities ranged from spina bifida to cerebral palsy and more. The camp’s goal was to be inclusive to all with disabilities.

This camp was set up to be like most other summer camps and provided the campers with the ability to explore, play, and learn more than they ever thought possible. The documentary focuses on the summer of 1971 and the campers that finally felt like their disabilities would no longer hold them back. It follows some of the campers through the years and the changes they helped make for others with disabilities that came along after them.

These teenagers joined the camp in hopes of enjoying summer, exploring, and participating in sports. What they did not expect was everything else they got. They began to feel less isolated. The campers experimented with smoking, making out, and finally feeling included. They participated in more than they had before and saw others with similar disabilities coming together.

The campers also discussed the discrimination they faced and how many other disabled teenagers had been institutionalized. Camp Jened provided the backdrop for many to feel empowered and they want to change the future for themselves as well as others.

Camp Jened

This camp is where these campers came together. Camp Jened is in the Catskills in New York. The camp is a real place that brought many teenagers together throughout the years. It was opened in 1951 and ran for many years. In 1977, the owners had to close down due to financial reasons. The camp reopened in 1980 for another 29 years. It closed down in 2009 and has remained closed since then.

The Build to a Revolution

As the campers discussed politics and what they faced with their disabilities, their passions grew. This led many of the campers and counselors to become activists for themselves and those with disabilities. None of the campers dreamed that their learning and fun would lead to something bigger.

Judy Huemann, a Camp Jened counselor, is featured in this documentary. She spearheaded many protests and played a major role in fighting for the American Disabilities Act. In 1977, among the 300 disabled protestors, Huemann and others from the camp planned a protest against the regulations being placed on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The protestors went to the Housing, Education, and Welfare office in San Francisco. The plan was not for a sit-in to take place, but that is what they did. Eleven days passed with them in the building to show their support for those with disabilities and improving their political standing. Eventually, ABC News played footage of the protest and secretary of health, education, and welfare Joseph Califano dismissing the protestors. The protestors won when Califano banned discriminatory regulations by signing the legislation.

The Effect of Crip Camp

Not many have heard of this civil rights movement and Crip Camp brings it to light. Not only did Camp Jened empower the campers, but it also led to political wins for those with disabilities.

This documentary shows the real lives of those with disabilities in the 1970s to today. Not only do viewers get to see their adventures at camp, but they are also exposed to the victories for those with disabilities.

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is available now on Netflix. If you are looking for an uplifting, powerful movie- Crip Camp will provide that and so much more.

Top 5+ Fantastic Lesser-Known Family-Friendly Movies to Stream During Spring and Summer 2020

Top 5+ Fantastic Lesser-Known Family-Friendly Movies to Stream During Spring and Summer 2020

When the temperatures begin to rise, some of us look forward to enjoying the great outdoors. However, staying at home is a great way to spend some quality time at home. While many new movies hit the big screen in summer, there are many great, lesser-known movies. Check out some of these lesser-known movies that are a real eye-opener.

1. Angus

With a stellar cast including Kathy Bates and George C. Scott, the title character of Angus (played by Charlie Talbert) follows the antics of a shy, obese teenager. He attempts to win the heart of his childhood crush Melissa (Ariana Richards), a popular cheerleader who is dating Rick (James Van der Beek) the quarterback of their High School football team. For fans of classic underdog tales, don’t miss this touching movie.

RATED PG-13 for mild language and sexual innuendo but worthy of some important lessons on bullying and teasing for teenagers

2. Big Hero 6

Even though it took home the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year in 2015, many have overlooked Big Hero 6. The anime-style cartoon follows a special bond that develops between an inflatable, health-minded robot named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit) and tech-prodigy Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter). This unlikely duo teams up with a group of nerdy friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.

RATED PG for some mild violence mostly during chases scenes and run-ins with villains

3. The Iron Giant

While it flopped at the box office, The Iron Giant continues to support a growing fan base. It quickly became a must-see family favorite with critics and viewers alike. Here’s another tale about the unlikely friendship between a boy and his robot. However, in this case, the mechanical, metal man is an enormous alien. This is one of those tales that’s best left to be unraveled first-hand by viewers unless they’ve already read the book by the same name written by Ted Hughes back in 1968.

RATED PG for some mild violence and suspense

4. Simon Birch

There’s a big message coming from the small character of Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith) though his heartwarming friendship with his best pal Joe (Joseph Mazzello). Born with a medical condition making Simon extra-small and fragile, Joe equips his bicycle with a special add-on accessory giving his little best friend greater mobility. Despite his much smaller stature, Simon is convinced he was put on earth for a greater purpose. Thus, their friendship is put to the ultimate test when the pair must deal with an unexpected tragedy.

RATED PG for some mild language and another flick with important lessons and an excellent message

5. Zathura: A Space Adventure

Practically everyone has seen Jumanji starring Robin Williams (or the newer version with Dwayne Johnson) playing a board game gone wrong bringing the terrors of a twisted fictionalized jungle to real-life scenarios. Zathura follows a similar plotline except in outer space. In the author’s book, the space movie plot thrusts a brother and sister (Josh Hutcherson and Kristen Stewart) into perilous parts of the galaxy. They are trapped inside their house while playing Zathura: A Space Adventure. Again, similar to the Jumanji experience, the siblings must work together to finish playing the game before getting destroyed by one unexpected adventure after another.

RATED PG for some mild violence and suspense

HOLIDAY BONUS: Rise of the Guardians

Although this lesser-known animated movie is set during Christmastime, the Rise of the Guardians showcases almost every major holiday with an associative protector known as guardians of their red-letter dates and traditions. Among the more notable voices, you’ll find characters include Chris Pine portraying Jack Frost, Alec Baldwin as North, Hugh Jackman appears as the Bunny from Down Under, along with Australian actress Isla Fisher playing the flighty Tooth Fairy, and Jude Law as the villainous Pitch.

RATED PG for some mild violence and suspense. This movie includes a newer, more unique viewpoint, and twists about the holidays and other popular traditions