Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tonia's Big List of Resources for Learning About Disabilities

[Image is: The word 'option' written on many small pieces of white paper in different colors and fonts]


The Little Couple - This show follows married couple Bill Klein, Dr. Jennifer Arnold, and their children, Will and Zoey as they live their lives.  All four are little people.  By far, some of the best disability representation I have ever seen.  So positive.  Watch with the whole family.


Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood - Daniel meets a new friend, Chrissie, who uses crutches and wears braces.  He quickly learns they are more the same than they are different.  (Children 2 and up)

Follow That Bird - Big Bird's friends (including Linda) set out to find him after he runs away from the Dodo family.  This was my favorite movie as a child.  *Use discretion if your child has a foster/adoptive background, has been in a custody dispute, is home after a kidnapping or has known abuse involving being caged. (Children 2 and up)

It's Okay to Ask by experts at Gillette Children's Hospital and illustrated by Nancy Carlson - Introduces audiences to five kids with different disabilities and/or complex medical conditions and emphasizes that kids of all abilities can be friends with each other.  (Children 2 and up)

Sesame Street: Elmo and J.R. Martinez Talk About Their Feelings - Elmo talks to J.R. Martinez about how he coped when his skin got hurt. (Children 2 and up)

Sesame Street: The Wheels on My Chair Go Round and Round - A little girl on Sesame Street sings a song about her wheelchair.  (Children 2 and up)

Sesame Street: What My Family Wants You to Know About Autism - Grover learns about autism when he meets twin brothers AJ and Garrett, who are autistic.  (Children ages 2 and up.)

Why Is Dad So Mad? by Seth Kastle - A young lion cub learns why their dad is different after going overseas to work.  This book does a wonderful job explaining combat-related PTSD to young children and is written by a veteran who wanted to explain the change in him to his own young daughters.  (Children ages 2 and up.)

Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek - Innocent observations (between the ages of 3 and 5) by poet Mattie Stepanek, who was born with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy.  Topics include senses, seasons and celebrations.  (Children 3 and up)

Karen's New Friend (Baby-Sitters Little Sister #36) - Seven-year-old Karen Brewer learns how to be a friend to the new student in her class, Addie Sidney, who has Cerebral Palsy.  (Though the summary online uses words like 'victim' to talk about Addie, there is no such language in the book itself.  Addie is independent, speaks for herself, and has friends and hobbies just like other girls her age.)  (Children ages 4 and up.)

Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall - a blue crayon has a red label, and all the other crayons tell him to just try harder to draw red strawberries, red apples and red ants.  One day he learns it's okay to be blue, and learns all the things blue can color.  An important book for disabled children living in a largely ableist world. (Children ages 4 and up.)

Celebrate Through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek - a book about celebrating life every day, with even more poetry by Mattie.  (Children 8 and up)

How to Train Your Dragon - Hiccup finds hurt dragon, Toothless, and builds him a prosthesis.  Together, they are unstoppable, even when the unthinkable happens (Children 12 and under.)


Reflections of a Peacemaker by Mattie J.T. Stepanek - published after Mattie's death in 2004 from a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, this final anthology of poetry written over a ten year span (ages 3 to 13) paints an amazing picture of the person Mattie was.  His spirit is very much alive on all the pages of this book.  (Children 11 and up.)

Journey Through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek - poetry by Mattie Stepanek, who was born with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy.  This book focuses on more mature themes including, grief at losing a sibling, and hospitalization.  (Children 12 and up.)

Soul Surfer - 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton was born to surf.  When she is injured, she must learn to do many things differently.  (Children 12 and up.)

Heartsongs Collection: The Poetry of Mattie J.T. Stepanek - unabridged audio book of all of Mattie J.T. Stepanek's Heartsongs poetry, read by the author.  I have this and it is so incredible.  (Children 13 and up.)

Hope Through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek - poet Mattie J.T. Stepanek writes about themes like disability, divorce and death, but also hope and peace in this powerful collection of his work.  (Children 13 and up.)

Joan of Arcadia - a television show focusing on 16-year-old Joan Girardi, whose older brother Kevin, recently became paralyzed.  Majority of portrayal regarding disability is positive.  The family comes to terms with their new reality and Kevin learns to adapt.

Loving Through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek - A bit more mature in tone, though not inappropriate in any sense, poet Mattie Stepanek writes about love.  (Children 13 and up.)

The Facts of Life: Cousin Geri - A fantastic episode of The Facts of Life that guest stars Geri Jewell, who has Cerebral Palsy.  (Children 13 and up.)

The Glee Project - Though I haven't been able to find any full episodes of this show since they aired, The Glee Project (a reality television show meant to find new talent for Glee) featured many disabled competitors: Mario Bonds and Ali Stroker to name a couple.  They provided great insight into the reality of living with a disability.  (Children 13 and up, though any age can watch the clips I linked.)

Glee - episode 4x14 "I Do" - While a lot of Glee's disability representation is problematic, this episode in particular is mostly positive, particularly the casting of Ali Stroker (who is actually paralyzed) as Betty Pillsbury.  Though not a main storyline most of that which features Betty is inclusive, normalized and positive.  (Children ages 14 and up)


A Brilliant Madness by Patty Duke - Actress Patty Duke writes about the reality of living with bipolar disorder, both before and after her diagnosis.

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah - An unprecedented firsthand account of a former child soldier who was abducted and forced to fight in Sierra Leone's civil war and the severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder he developed.

An Unkindness of Ghosts - Rivers Solomon authors this fictional account of Aster, a young, Black, autistic-presenting protagonist, on board the space ship Matilda.  Containts the best disability representation I have ever read in fiction.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston - Mountaineer and outdoorsman Aron Ralston details his experience becoming trapped in a slot canyon for six days, and eventually performing his own amputation in order to survive.

By Faith Not By Sight by Scott MacIntyre - The true story of a gifted child who grew up blind and developed life threatening kidney disease later in life.

Fighting for My Life by Amy M. Mareck - The autobiography of a young woman, diagnosed with cancer at age 13 and who passed away at age 19.

Gabby by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly - Chronicles the survival and recovery of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords following an assassination attempt resulting in a traumatic brain injury.  The final chapter was written by Gabrielle herself.

Grey's Anatomy - Medical drama which covers various disabilities sensitively and accurately   Season 5 - Dr. Dixon, a cardiac surgeon with Asperger's Syndrome comes to work at Seattle Grace. Dr. Hunt deals with war-related PTSD.  Season 7 - multiple doctors deal with PTSD (which presents differently in all of them,)  Dr. Torres recovers from a car accident which resulted in brain and various physical injuries.  Season 8 - Dr. Bailey develops OCD following a mistake in the OR, and has to get it treated before she can return to operate again,  Also, a 12-year kidnapping victim and trauma survivor is treated by the surgeons and a therapist so she can learn to trust and feel in control of her own life.  Season 9 - Following a plane crash, Dr. Yang develops reactive psychosis and Dr. Robbins has to recover and adapt to life after losing her leg.

Human After All by Kate Margaret Bigalk - a collection of poetry which touches on many experiences including the author's own as a woman in a wheelchair.

In An Instant by Lee & Bob Woodruff - The story of how ABC News co-anchor Bob Woodruff survived and recovered following a traumatic brain injury he sustained while on assignment with the military in Iraq.  Book contains alternating view points between Bob and his wife, Lee.

It Happened to Nancy by An Anonymous Teenager - A true story of a teenager raped and subsequently living with AIDS, taken from the pages of her own diary.  Though dated, the candor and insight of this book remains relevant.

It's Not About The Bike by Lance Armstrong - Cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong shares his story of diagnosis and recovery.

Just Peace by Mattie J.T. Stepanek with Jimmy Carter - contains personal insight and emails from poet Mattie Stepanek about the reality of living with a disability

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova - written by a neuroscientist, this book does an excellent job conveying what it can be like living with left neglect (which most commonly results from an injury to the right hemisphere of the brain.)

Life Is Just What You Make It by Donny Osmond - Singer Donny Osmond shares his story and his experiences coping with a severe anxiety disorder.

Life Is Short by Jennifer Arnold, MD & Bill Klein - Stars of TLC's The Little Couple, Dr. Jen Arnold and her husband Bill Klein share the story of their lives, both individually, and together as they married and started a family.

Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox - Actor Michael J. Fox shares many life experiences in his memoir, including how he's adapted after being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

Messenger by Jeni Stepanek - If I could only recommend one book, it would be this one.  In addition to being the story of her son, Mattie's life, and eventual death from a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, this is also the only book I've ever found that details what it's like for a disabled mother raising disabled children.  Packed full of insight, intelligence and love, I can't recommend this book highly enough.  If you have the opportunity to read it, please do.

Mistaken Identity by Don & Susie Van Ryn and Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak - The true story of two families brought together by a tragic car accident, which killed one family's daughter, and left the other family's daughter to first recover and adjust to life with a traumatic brain injury.  The epilogue is written by Whitney herself.

My Beautiful Broken Brain - Lotje Sodderland experiences a hemorrhagic stroke and wants to document her recovery so she can have a record of the experience.  A bit intense at times, especially if you or a loved one has experienced a brain injury, but a good firsthand account.

Push Girls - follows paralyzed women through their day to day lives.

You Get Past the Tears - Hydeia Broadbent (AIDS activist) and her mother, Patricia Broadbent, co-authored this book about Hydeia's life.  It chronicles raising a child with HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s when not much was known about the disease.  I learned so much more about Hydeia (whom I have seen on various television specials growing up.)  This book is not sugar coated, it's reality for one girl and her family, and that, to me, is what makes it so compelling.


If you are looking for disability representation in the media by people who are disabled (chronically ill, physically disabled, intellectually disabled, learning disabled or Deaf), here are a few names to know:

Jyoti Amge (shortest living woman in the world)

Jennifer Arnold (mommy, neonatologist, simulation educator, cancer survivor, and co-star of TLC's The Little Couple)

Sean Berdy (actor)

Mario Arnauz Bonds (singer, motivational speaker and voice actor)

Jamie Brewer (actress)

Jen Bricker (speaker and acrobat)

Kiera Brinkley (dancer and choreographer)

Hydeia Broadbent (AIDS activist)

Joshua Castille (Actor/Artist)

Loretta Claiborne (Special Olympics athlete)

Meryl Davis (Sochi Olympics Gold medalist, ice dancing)

Daniel N. Durant (in the Broadway production of Spring Awakening)

Treshelle Edmond (Deaf actress and ASL performer by heart)

Sandra Mae Frank (Broadway Debut this Fall as Wendla Bergman in Deaf West's Spring Awakening)

Nia Sioux Frazier (dancer and singer)

Carly Fleischmann (Autistic advocate)

Aaron Fotheringham (extreme wheelchair athlete)

Gabrielle Giffords (Proudly served Arizona's 8th District in the United States Congress 2007-2012.)

Whoopi Goldberg (comedian/actress/singer/songwriter/political activist/talk show host)

Sean Gray - (singer in punk band, The Birth Defects)

Bethany Hamilton (professional surfer)

Amelia Hensley (Actor/Artist)

Geri Jewell (actress/comedian)

Bill Klein (dad, husband, master of nothing, self proclaimed comedian, male, 4 ft even)

Blake Leeper (Paralympic athlete)

J.R. Martinez - (best-selling author, motivational speaker, advocate and wounded U.S. Army veteran)

Marlee Matlin (actress)

Kyle Maynard (speaker/author/athlete)

Jillian Mercado (model)

RJ Mitte (actor)

Gregg Mozgala (triple threat: actor, writer, cripple)

Robby Novack (Kid President)

Luca Patuelli (dancer)

Lauren Potter (actress)

Amy Purdy (Sochi Olympics Bronze medalist, snowboarding)

Juliana Ramos (traumatic brain injury survivor)

Angela Rockwood (model)

Jeni Stepanek (author, peacemaker and mother to Katie, Stevie, Jamie and Mattie)

Mattie Stepanek (poet, peacemaker and philosopher who played after every storm)

Ali Stroker (singer.  actress.  dancer.  wild child.  happiness isn't a destination it's a way of life.)

Zack Weinstein (actor)

Stella Young (writer, comedian, knitter, crip, inspiration boner killer)

Maysoon Zayid (comedian)


Interview with Jen Bricker

Speech by Jeni Stepanek

Interview with Ali Stroker

Stella Young - Inspiration Porn and the Objectification of Disability

* This post is in progress, and will be added to over time.