More Heaven: Because Every Child Special Is Special (Release Date: March, 2016) was written over 25 years ago when I was teaching children with autism and special needs. The book is based upon these children and their stories: their pain, self-discovery, growth and their opening to trust, learning and relating.
These children were finally given the legal right in 1975 to be educated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the US. Beforehand, about 4 million children with disabilities were denied meaningful participation. Almost half were excluded outright from public school. Others were in segregated classrooms, which at that time often meant isolation for the children and their teachers. Many children didn’t receive the necessary support afforded the rest of the children to whom a free and appropriate education was the norm.
Unfortunately, like many new Social, Cultural and Educational Shifts, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, exposure to people who are “different”, advocacy and education.
At the time I wrote the first draft, I wanted More Heaven to reach everyone (I still do) to say “These children are just like you and me! They laugh and cry; they fear and love, they hide and reveal. Acceptance of these children and understanding their uniqueness and gifts are also about accepting ourselves.
We think that now, in 2016, we face an entirely different social and educational climate, and we don’t have to advocate or pay attention to how people with special needs are still treated differently and often ostracized. In many ways, we’ve come far, that’s true and I applaud all of them. More children with special needs are attending public school in regular education classes and the quality of their educational program is evaluated for meaning and quality. Parents of these children aren’t hiding them behind closed doors like many parents once had to, and many activities and events don’t block out people with special needs as before.
Yet, many parents are still battling educational placement and services for their children. And in October, 2015, neighbors sued a family with a son who is autistic, claiming that it would negatively affect their California property value! The family felt forced to move out of the home they lived in for seven years, and still the lawsuit wasn’t dropped by everyone!
Also in October, 2015, there was an undercover investigation by ABC, Action News in Philadelphia that exposed something alarming. Philadelphia cab drivers weren’t picking up people with disabilities, often pretending they didn’t see the person(s) waiting by the curb, signaling for help. That illegal activity according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) was going on unknowingly, and it had to be split wide open for someone to finally pay attention!
I write this blog, not to bring us down or focus your attention on negative events. Rather to say that more needs to be done. I believe More Heaven: Because Every Child Special Is Special is another vehicle to spread acceptance, visibility and loving support to these individuals and their families and to uphold basic humane and human rights. The more we know and understand and the more we accept and embrace differences, the more we can live lovingly and peacefully. And the more amazing contributions we will receive from the people who we once turned our backs on. More Heaven: Because Every Child Special Is Special is a link to our universal connection, humanity and oneness.
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