I Wish I Could Fly Like A Bird
This book is for the birds,
chickadees to be exact, and for the children and adults who
can learn from them. At first we asked each other “Why are we
reviewing a child’s book?” But as we read it, and listened to
the tape [with the chickadee prompt to turn the page] it
became clear that I Wish I Could Fly Like a Bird isn’t about
kids, but about life.
The Dee family - Mom, Dad and 3 kids- lives in an oak treat at
Chic’s house. The parents both work and the kids go to school.
Cindy, 16, and Chaz, the youngest, peck down a quick breakfast
and fly off toward the bus. Mom and Dad take turns rousing
Chic who dallies behind.
Yes, Chic has what he calls a learning disability -- he can’t
fly. We follow him through his day -- missed bus and bullies
dropping him from the air. The whole day is a mess. And then
he meets a friend . . .
This book comes with an 18 minute read along audio tape. The
content -- I’m a bird with possibilities, don’t judge me by my
disabilities -- is accessible to all readers and listeners. I
Wish I Could Fly Like a Bird doesn’t pretend to provide
resources of advanced understanding of complex issues. It’s
focus on basic understanding will sensitize it’s audience. It
does this well.
This story presents a novel way of looking at disabilities as
differences. The author portrays having a disability as being
a part of the human condition. While we imagine this book was
written for family members and siblings of children with
special needs it is equally appropriate for all audiences,
children and adults and families with or without disabilities.
Note: We are compiling a book list sorted by topic. We will be
updating this bibliographic resource on an ongoing basis.
Bridges will use this and make it available to families
seeking information about specific disability subjects.
back to the top
Community Success and Plan Your Day
When we were children we both
remember amusing ourselves with comic books for hours. Calvin
was a “Fantastic Four” and “Superman” fan while Tricia enjoyed
“Archie” and “Supergirl.” As adults our initial reaction to
Community Success and Plan Your Day, by the Attainment
Company, was to ask why we would want to read books made up
almost entirely of comic pictures.
Silly us. Indeed, silly for any parent or educator to pass up
a reading selection specially designed to help children meet
their own daily needs. Community Success and Plan Your Day, do
just that. Using comic drawings, these reading selections
accurately and completely detail the steps a child should take
to complete activities of daily living.
For example, in Community Success, one task, waiting in line,
is depicted in a series of eighteen pictures. The pictures
walk a child through expected behavior while engaged in an
activity we parents frequently take for granted. The user
friendly pictures make it easy for parents, educators and care
providers to tell kids in advance what to expect while waiting
in a line at the bank, for instance and the pictures give
talking points to emphasize the process.
We, like many parents, occasionally fall into a trap of
rejecting information or materials we feel isn’t directed at
us. The Attainment Company has carved a niche in the
educational market by providing common sense, user focused
pictorial aids to help people with special needs plan and
understand daily activities. These books, as are many
Attainment Company products, are designed to empower the user.
Our daughter, Jessica, used the Attainment Company’s daily
planning and shopping materials for a number of years. She
enthusiastically consulted her planner to see what her next
planned daily activity is. Frequently, the picture prompting
was all she needs.
The two selections, Community Success and Plan Your Day are
self-explanatory. Community Success pictorially depicts sixty
commonplace activities such as answering the door, asking for
help, using an elevator, shopping for groceries and going to
the dentist. Plan Your Day similarly prompts action and
suggests the order in which things are done. Plan Your Day
helps organize a wide range of over eighty daily activities
into a manageable schedule.
When parents are looking for materials to help them understand
and meet their children’s special needs, it is refreshing to
know that the Attainment Company is seeking to provide key
information at a level accessible to the children. These books
provide direct help in a format equally accessible to children
and their care providers.
We recommend these books and the format to parents and users
whose impairments make the written word inaccessible. The
Attainment Company’s work is a pleasant but effective reminder
that neither parents nor book reviewers should judge every
book (or its format) by its cover.
Both books are spiral bound. Plan Your Day is 56 pages and
contains instructional material to help the care provider
prepare the “Plan Your Day” user cards. Focused on time
management, this book’s file cards include hour cards, time
and place cards, and start and finish tabs. This volume dove
tails with more comprehensive planner packs (including cards
and card holder books) detailing the essential aspects of time
Community Success, also spiral bound is almost exclusively
pictures used to educate on community based skills. The units
focus on home skills and experiences, identifying types of
public places and the social skills required to go grocery
shopping, to restaurants, professional appointments,
libraries, etc. It also pictorially discusses money
We would advise any parent or care provider looking for a
non-verbal resource to help advance daily planning or living
skills to contact the Attainment Company or Bridges for
information on other Attainment Company products in this same
format. The unique concept of presenting tasks through
pictures is larger than the two books we have reviewed this
month. We recommend this format and the Attainment Company for
its effective and efficient execution of format style.
back to the top
Free and Appropriate Public Education (5th
Our first review presented what
we believe is a “must carry” resource in every advocate’s
briefcase; The Goal Mine and Prospector, by Don and Maureen
Cahill. We are pleased to present the second book which
belongs in the effective advocate’s briefcase. Free and
Appropriate Public Education (5th Edition), by Rud and Ann
Turnbull, is the defining legal resource for all special
The Turnbull’s, who co-founded and co-direct the Beach Center
on Families with Disability at the University of Kansas, take
the cumbersome legal process that is special education and
turn it into a powerful reader friendly guide to understanding
special education advocacy. The book has three parts,
Introduction to the Law, the six principles of IDEA, and
enforcing the law. The 5th edition is updated to include the
1997 IDEA amendments.
The first part of the book places the special education
struggle into an historical context, preparing the reader for
the principles at the heart of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]. The Turnbull’s tell the
reader where the law comes from, why it is needed and explains
its power in the special education process. The reader learns
what law is and how to make it work for individual students. A
reader who understands why IDEA was needed in the first place
will be better armed to advocate for a free appropriate public
education for all students. This historical framework alone
makes the book invaluable.
The second part of the Turnbull’s book focuses on the six
principles of the IDEA: zero reject (including discipline);
nondiscriminatory evaluation; appropriate education (including
positive behavior support); least restrictive environment
(access to general education); due process (including
mediation); and parent participation. The Turnbull’s leave no
stone unturned in detailing what families of children with
disabilities have a right to expect from school administrators
and teachers. The first time reader is thoroughly educated to
the law and children with disability. The return reader and
practicing advocate is given sophisticated information
directly applicable to specific issues. The Turnbulls color
each principle with the ink of history and the script of
Rud and Ann Turnbull’s final section tells parents how to use
the law to obtain a truly free appropriate education for
children with special needs. They give the reader a
straightforward, no nonsense discussion of how IDEA is
enforced. The authors give equal emphasis to hardball legal
mechanisms and emerging alternative dispute resolution
practices. A parent or advocate who understands how the law
really works is better able to weigh specific choices for
Free Appropriate Public Education includes comprehensive
resources. This 400-page hard cover book includes the 1997
IDEA amendments; glossary; a table of important cases; and
extensive excerpts from the three landmark educational rights
This book is ideal for the parent who for whatever reason
cannot take advantage of opportunities to attend or
participate in special education trainings or conferences. It
also is an invaluable resource to those parents and advocates
who present training opportunities or direct advocacy to other
parents and families. The book is easy to use to refresh one’s
understanding of specific concepts or procedures. Finally,
Free and Appropriate Public Education constantly reminds its
readers and users that IDEA belongs to the families and not to
the schools. It is not unreasonable for families to ask that
IDEA be followed. The Turnbull’s have given families a brief
case resource which lets them put reason into practice. We
heartily recommend this book.
back to the top
The Prospector and Goal Mine
We parents of children with
special needs must learn to navigate through many different
service systems while raising our children. For most parents
the school system provides the greatest challenge and requires
the most effort. Federal and state laws protect the
educational rights of children with special needs. But these
laws are enforced through a procedural maze most parents find
to be complex and unfriendly.
The Prospector and Goal Mine, by Don and Maureen Cahill,
gently but effectively guide parents through the special
education maze, empowering them to be strong advocates for
their children’s needs. Although the authors assume readers
are generally familiar with an Individualized Educational Plan
[IEP], they breathe life and understanding into the core
element -- goals and objectives -- of all IEP’s.
The Prospector concisely describes educational “goals” and
“objectives,” and clarifies the distinctions between them. The
authors walk the reader through how goals and objectives are
developed and how they should be used to plan and measure a
child’s educational course.
In Goal Mine, the authors apply The Prospector’s lessons in 31
educational need areas. Over 5,000 examples show what good
goals and objectives look like and give readers specific goals
and objectives to use on their child’s IEP. Suppose a child
diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder has difficulty
attending school. Goal Mine offers 51 specific goals/
objectives that promote the targeted need of improved
The Prospector and Goal Mine come in a single, spiral bound,
331-page volume. The text uses parent friendly language.
Sample goals and objectives are divided into practical subject
areas to make it easy for readers to find suggestions specific
to their particular need.
While the special education system can overwhelm many
families, The Prospector and Goal Mine’s wealth of accessible
information helps ease the confusion. They are a “must carry”
item in every parent’s or advocate’s educational arsenal. We
highly recommend this volume.
You can order the The Prospector and Goal Mine by calling
1-800-294-2759 or visit their website at
back to the top
The Americans with Disability Act
notes as one of its Congressional findings that disability is
part of the human condition. We families of children who have
special needs awaken every morning to the human condition and
needs present in our homes. We might often wake up afraid for
what the day might bring. For us, disability as a human
condition translates into our lives.
As much as disability might be part of the human condition, it
is not part of the dream parents have as they await the birth
of their child.
“When do we first know our lives are forever changed? When do
our hearts sink to our stomachs, our breaths catch in our
throats, our bodies turn leaden? What do we do when we know
there is nothing we can do?” Susan Zimmermann, Grief Dancers,
Grief Dancers: A Journey Into the Depths of the Soul, is Susan
Zimmermann’s diary of life inside and outside of her soul as
she raised her daughter, Katherine, who has Rett Syndrome. On
the surface, Zimmerman takes us through the educational
process leading to her discovery and understanding of
Katherine’s disability. She shares with us the daily
patterning sessions Katherine endured for several years. She
describes to us a daily schedule which most of us have lived
and understand. Were that all that she did in Grief Dancers,
Zimmermann’s description would be useful for most parents
beginning life with a child with challenging disabilities.
But this book is not a “day in the life” diary. It is a
journey down the jagged path of the shattered dream that
cannot be reclaimed from the jungle that is life. In plain
words, Zimmermann says dreams do not lead to pots of gold at
the end of the rainbow. But through her words Zimmermann
guides us around our shattered dreams to the truth and the
reality of knowing love at its basest level.
We are tempted to fill this review with poignant, insightfully
cutting quotes which exemplify Zimmermann’s work. However, we
cannot reprint the whole book for this review. Zimmermann’s
descriptive detail cuts through to her soul’s deepest and
darkest points. With surgical precision she carves out the
pain, anger and frustration she felt and dissects it for all
to see and to study.
She teaches us of the transition from pain to peace.
“We move beyond bitterness, beyond anger, beyond broken dreams
The path winds, circling up and around. At moments we know we
can’t get there. We don’t have it in us. The pain is too raw.
We keep going. Finally we arrive at that place – which once
felt impossibly distant – where we embrace what we didn’t
Grief Dancers, p. 107
We are quite familiar with books about process, about
education, and about concrete expectations. Such books help us
chart courses within the structure of what we know. Zimmermann
takes us outside the world of concrete expectations and
structure. Sharing her probing into her inner most pain and
loss Zimmermann shows us how to connect with our pain, and
from it to experience a love unknown to most. We feel like
Zimmermann was looking into our own souls as she wrote it.
Grief Dancers is a book most people won’t be able to put down.
It feels so personal to us we won’t loan our copy to others.
It reminds us that from broken dreams and self-doubt come
struggle, then understanding, then comfort and finally, a
recognition of “a love not based on fulfillment of dreams.”
Grief Dancers is the perfect book for families of children
“There are loud voices in each of us we don’t listen to.
Voices that haunt us in our dreams and taunt us in our waking
hours. When we have lost something precious, when our hopes
have been dashed, we listen more to those voices. As we seek
our way, we listen to voices we’ve spent our lives silencing.
When we listen very carefully, the clamor turns to quiet and
the quiet to song.” Grief Dancers, p. 201
back to the top
Build a Happy Family
Our first series of reviews have
introduced books designed for a specific segment of the
community of families of children who have special needs.
Through our reviews we have introduced our readers to the
concept of goals and objectives; special education law;
sensory integration and normalizing childhood experiences. But
focused discussion of specific topics does little good if we
do not regularly identify and commit to our existence and role
as parents. First and foremost, we want to be good and
effective parents and to have a happy family, whether or not
we are raising children with special needs.
Frank J. Doberman in Build A Happy Family, gives us the tools
and confidence to achieve as parents. Doberman first
recognizes that parenting is one part skill and one part
determination. Doberman's book and video tape affirm the
concept that we all can be effective and committed parents.
Doberman’s first line in the introduction says “We all want to
be good parents, and most of us are.” But we parents who have
children with special needs, who never expected or anticipated
that our children would have disabilities, often wonder not
only whether we are good parents to our children with
disabilities but whether we are good parents, period. We
second-guess ourselves on sibling relationships, spousal
relationships, extended family relationships and community
relationships. We also give little or no attention to seeing
and meeting our own individual needs. Our drive to be
“perfect” parents often can give our children, especially the
siblings of our children with special needs, unreasonable or
distorted views of family and community relationships. We all
too often forget that we, ourselves, are individuals first.
On a personal level, we have been in a recently stormy
relationship with Jessica’s younger sister, who just this
month graduated from high school. We do not and probably won’t
understand everything that has gone on to put such tension
between us and her. We have been to a wonderful counselor,
Paul, who has helped us tremendously. But when we talk about
our sessions with Paul and our currently estranged daughter,
we have come to realize that much of what Paul has taught us
is effectively presented in Doberman’s book and tape. If we
would have had Doberman’s resources we might not now be
struggling so much with our daughter, whom we deeply love.
Doberman’s 12 basic tools of effective parenting are 1) Plan
ahead; 2) Protect and nurture yourself; 3) Be consistent; 4)
Create and maintain routine; 5) Downplay negative behavior; 6)
Pay attention to positive behavior; 7) Shift emotions into
neutral; 8) Move in close when giving directions; 9) Make
Contact: eye or touch; 10) Use a firm commanding voice; 11) Be
courteous: the two-to five-minute alert; and 12) Make family a
priority. Doberman asserts that these might appear broad and
simplistic on the surface. But what Doberman does so well is
to blend these common sense tools with the concept of
commitment to drive home the point that no tool is effective
Doberman’s proactive approach to basic parenting acknowledges
that effective parenting comes from developing basic skills
that do not change if a child has special needs. Indeed, the
consistency in parenting approach, regardless of a child’s
developmental or medical needs, goes a long way toward
preventing disability-based discrimination within the home.
His approach becomes even more meaningful when he gives us
parents both encouragement and skills to carve out our own
needs and place in the family hierarchy. Parents can take care
of themselves, too.
Unlike our usual reviews, this review reflects how the book
has impacted us and our view of ourselves and our family. We
could have spent an equal number of words lauding the wisdom
and strategies Doberman shares in the book and tape. In our
recent family turmoil we have been so stuck in our own guilt
that until we received Paul’s help and read Doberman’s book we
had no way to view ourselves except as inadequate parents. By
showing you how the book has affected us, we hope you read the
book for yourself and find for yourself the tools and
commitment to affirm that you are good parents who justly
deserve to devote some attention to yourselves.
back to the top