Since I teach kids with severe and multiple impairments, we have tons of different disability-related "stuff" in our classroom. We have wheelchairs and AFOs (braces), arm splints and adaptive toilets, communication devices and tube-feeding supplies, hearing aids and glasses, helmets and weighted vests, adaptive spoons and cups, wedges and bolsters, sensory and behavior aids...the list goes on and on.
We are all very honest and frank about disability in our room, too. "Why does so-and-so get to sit in that chair?" someone might ask. "Because his body doesn't work like other bodies do, and he needs more help sitting up tall," is our answer. Or, "How come I don't have to wear hearing aids like so-and-so does?" comes another question. "Because your ears work just fine, but so-and-so's don't, so he needs help hearing. Just like you wear AFOs to help you walk!" One of my higher-functioning kids has some severe behavior issues (self-abuse and violence towards others), and if we have a sub or visitor in our room I ask him to explain to the new person about his disability. "I wear arm splints so I don't bite my fingers, and I'll try hard not to scratch you with my fingernails or hit you but sometimes I can't help it," he'll say. "And sometimes I spit at you. Cover my eyes when I'm eating and drinking so I don't spit. That helps me relax." We don't mess around with disability...we own it and it's just a fact of life with us!
But...until recently, I have never had any books on disability on my kids' level in my classroom. It seems like all of the books about disability written for kids are either for siblings of special needs kids, or are about autism (publishers seem to think the only disability out there is autism!!! Is it just me, or is autism the cool kid of the disability world?!) or were so obviously published in the '70s (as evidenced by the yellowing pictures of "retarded" children wearing Bill Cosby sweaters!). I know other teachers - both special ed and general ed - teach units on diversity/disability, so I want to share this great book series I found recently!
This nonfiction/information-text series is called "Understanding Differences," published by Capstone Press. I have the three books pictured above - you can also find them and the other two books in the series on Amazon. I also want to get the "Some Kids Wear Leg Braces" one. I love these books for the simple, straightforward language - they are meant for/appropriate for pre-k to 2nd graders - and the real photographs of a variety of kids with the disability at hand. The "Some Kids Use Wheelchairs" book shows manual and motorized chairs, kids who look like they have a simple motor impairment and those who obviously are more severely impaired. The books (very simply) introduce types of equipment kids may use, different therapists who may work with the kids, and reasons why a child might have a certain disability.
I read some criticism of these books that they don't show the kids interacting with non-disabled peers...but that's completely not the point of the books! The point is introducing the disability and what's involved in it, and not to promote or even speak in any way for or against inclusion. If you're looking for really simple intros to some disabilities, these are great books to have.
And my kids LOVE these books! Finally, books that show pictures of kids like THEM!!!