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GOOD TIMES WITH SPECIAL CHILDREN

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Human Development and Family Studies
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

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All children are special and different from one another. Just
as some children have red hair or blue eyes, others have one arm,
use a hearing aid, or wear braces. Some children are special because
they can play and write music when they are young, and others
are special because they live happily while dealing with a serious
disease or disability.

Special children live next door or down the street. They may go
to your school. Some of them swim, run, sing, or do many of the
same things you do. A child with special needs may be your friend,
neighbor, brother, sister, or even you. Special children want
what you want – to be loved
and accepted.

Gifted and disabled children have something in common. All of
these children need special kinds of teaching and care.

WHO ARE SPECIAL CHILDREN?

Children with Disabilities. People who have limitations
in or difficulties with physical, intellectual, emotional, or
social development. Learning and growth may be affected in one
or more of these areas.

Gifted Children. Gifted children often are described as
those whose performance in areas like sports, school work, music,
art, and leadership is repeatedly remarkable or outstanding.

Like all children, special children develop as whole people and
grow in four main areas: physical, intellectual, emotional, and
social development.

  • Physical development means the growth of children’s bones,
    muscles, teeth, and other parts of their bodies.
  • Intellectual development means the growth of children’s brains
    and their abilities to think, remember, and solve problems.
  • How children feel about themselves has to do with their emotional
    development.
  • How children play, work, and get along with others is called
    social development.

Children who are disabled and children who are gifted have
an area of development that is different from the average.

DISABLED CHILDREN

Disabled children grow as whole human beings. It is a mistake
for people to focus on only the disabled part of the child’s development.
If you, as a caregiver, learn only about the things disabled children
cannot do, you miss learning about all the things disabled children
can do. Remember, first and foremost is the child, not the disability.

Quite often, disabled children learn to adapt their lives in order
to compensate for their handicaps. For example, when you cross
a street, you use your eyes to find a safe time to walk. Children
who are blind cannot see when it is safe to cross. They can, however,
use their ears to listen for the sounds of tires and motors and
use their noses to sniff the odors of gasoline exhaust fumes.
Listening and smelling can tell them when it is safe to cross
the street. Blind children also can make use of canes and specially
trained dogs to compensate for their loss of sight.

Other examples of compensation are disabled children who learn
to use their feet and toes to do things others do with their hands
and fingers; or disabled children who learn to read lips and talk
in sign language because they can neither hear nor speak.

These behaviors may seem strange to you at first. That’s okay.
Disabled children use special equipment or different parts of
their bodies to enable them to play, talk, work, and live just
like you. Compensating for a disability helps to reduce the developmental
differences.

As a caregiver, you can help disabled children by accepting them
for who they are, and expecting and encouraging them to do things
for themselves. Disabled children can be treated just like you
would treat any other child or friend.

For more information about caring for disabled children, read
any or all of the sections in this book to discover how the information
applies to the special children you know and care for.

GIFTED CHILDREN

Gifted children grow as whole human beings. It is a mistake
for people to focus only on the brilliant mind or outstanding
talents of gifted children. If you, as a caregiver, learn only
about the extraordinary things gifted children can do, you miss
learning about the parts of them that are just like you and me.
Gifted children sometimes get the idea they are loved only because
they are smart or talented. Sometimes friends, family, and caregivers
miss opportunities to tell them they are loved because they like
to run, swim, play, work, or laugh and are just like everyone
else.

When gifted children are given extra attention because they
are smarter and more creative than other children, they feel different.
Sometimes gifted children who do not like to feel different will
try to make their “specialness” less noticeable. This
also is called compensation. While compensating for a handicap
can be helpful for a disabled child, it can be damaging to a gifted
child. Compensation often causes gifted children to deny their
abilities and talents in order to “fit in” better with
children of their own ages. Denying parts of themselves can lead
to frustration, boredom, and low self-esteem.

As a caregiver, you can help gifted children grow up with confidence
by accepting them for who they are and treating them like you
would any other child or friend. Remember, first and foremost
is the child, not the mental gifts or talents.

More can be learned about who special children are if their gifts
and disabilities are described in more detail. The next section
can make it easier to recognize different kinds of disabilities
and
gifts. It also introduces you to six special children who will
tell you about their disabilities and gifts. These children are
Larry, Susie, Paul, Mary, Mark, and Tina.


WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO LEARN ABOUT SPECIAL CHILDREN?

Often what is known about disabled and gifted children comes
from poorly written television programs and movies or from people
who are not sensitive to the needs of the children. This information
often is false and exaggerated and leads people to believe in
stereotypes. Stereotypes can be destructive to the relationships
between special children and new, inexperienced caregivers.

It is important to learn the truth about special children so there
can be mutual caring and acceptance between you and disabled or
gifted children. Larry, Susie, Paul, Mary, Mark, and Tina will
tell you about some common stereotypes and give you a more factual
idea of what it is like to be disabled or gifted.

1. Stereotype: Children’s disabilities are contagious. You
might catch what they have just as if they had a cold or the flu.

Fact: Children who have learning, sensory, physical, or mental
disabilities were born with them, or they had a handicapping illness.
They also might have become disabled in an accident. People may
be uncomfortable around disabled children because they often look
and sound different. They sometimes use special equipment and
parts of their bodies in ways that are unfamiliar. There are some
stages of growth and development in disabled children that are
different from the average for their age. They are not, however,
contagious.

Paul is a physically disabled child who was born with a disease
called muscular dystrophy. Paul uses a wheelchair because this
disease has gradually weakened the muscles in his legs. Paul is
a good student and goes to a public school. The people at his
school are aware of the needs of disabled students like Paul and
have installed ramps, elevators, and special bathrooms inside
the building. Even though he needs help with some things, Paul
can see, hear, and talk as well as anyone and has lots of friends.
Paul rides the bus home after school with his friends. He can
do this because the bus has a special lift to enable him to use
his wheelchair to board.

2. Stereotype: Being gifted makes life easier. Very smart children
have it made!

Fact: Life often is harder for gifted children because people
think they have it made! Teachers, parents, friends, and others
expect a lot from gifted children. Sometimes they are unwilling
to “give the children a break” because they think the
gifted have too many advantages already. At other times, students
and friends (even brothers and sisters) are jealous of the high
levels of intelligence or ability shown and choose to ignore the
gifted or to be mean to them.

Mentally gifted children often are thought of as different because
they are smarter in school, know how to use big words, and seem
to work on projects longer and harder than other children. They
often seem to be older than children the same age. Being smart
and thought of as different makes it hard for gifted children
to make friends. When they have difficulty making friends, some
gifted children begin to think badly of themselves and develop
low self-esteem. Therefore, their emotional and social development
suffers.

Mark is mentally gifted, which means he is very smart. He is lucky
because his school has a special program for gifted and talented
students. This program encourages him to experiment when solving
problems, allows him to study subjects in greater depth, and gives
him plenty of time to just think and create.

Even though Mark is very bright, he is still a child. He enjoys
playing with his friends and quibbling with his brother and sisters.
One day as he was teasing his sister, she said, “You are
so smart, you should know better than to pick on me!” Mark
felt badly about this because he
thought what his sister said was true. His mother reassured him,
though, by reminding him that he was a child first and a smart
child second. “It’s normal for boys your age to tease their
sisters,” she said, as she smiled. That made Mark feel better
about himself.

3. Stereotype: Children who have a learning disability are
not as smart as other children.

Fact: Learning disabled (LD) children are of average or above
average intelligence. Some LD children are mentally gifted, though
their learning disability may hide their gifts.

LD children have normal hearing and eyesight and come from homes
and families that may be just like yours. They have trouble learning
because they receive, process, and respond to information differently.
In other words, LD children have problems with the messages to
the brain becoming jumbled. Children with LD usually have difficulty
learning how to read, spell, write, remember facts, and do math
problems. They also have a hard time paying attention, are easily
frustrated, and easily confused by details. They usually understand
what is being taught, but often do not understand the way it is
being taught.

Larry is a disabled child who has trouble reading and spelling
because he reverses letters and words or writes and says words
in the wrong order. He sometimes writes “p” when he
means “g” or “was” when he means “saw.”
He also says things like “please up hurry” or reads
“nuclear” when the written word is “unclear.”

These disabilities interfere with Larry’s ability to get good
grades in school. Even though he is a smart boy, he used to get
discouraged by his learning disability and feel like he was “dumb.”
One teacher even called him “lazy.” That hurt because
he knew that he was trying to do his best. Larry’s parents and
his new teacher know about learning disabilities, and, together,
they have created better ways for Larry to complete his assignments.
For example, his problems in reading, writing, and spelling are
minimized by tape recording his assignments. He practices his
reading, writing, and spelling at his own pace with a tutor so
it does not interfere with his homework. Larry and his teachers
have found that it is hard for him to concentrate when people
around him are talking. Because he is easily distracted, he does
his homework in a quiet windowless den at home and in a small
quiet library room at school. These new ways to study and do school
work have improved Larry’s grades and made him feel much better
about himself.

4. Stereotype: All mentally retarded people are unable to care
for themselves and belong in special schools or institutions.

Fact: A mental disability means the retarded person is slow
to learn. Many mentally retarded people can learn to care for
their own basic needs. Therefore, they can live at home or even
on their own when they are older.

Mary is a mentally disabled child who goes to the same public
school as her brother and sister. She takes part in the regular
classroom learning activities, but also attends a special class
designed to help her focus on the parts of learning that are especially
hard for her. In this class, she learns to care for herself, to
read simple signs and words, and to write simple notes and letters.

Attending both regular and special classes is called main-streaming.
Mary also takes part in the special Olympics program. She is a
runner on a relay team.

5. Stereotype: Gifted children make good grades all the time
and always are motivated to do better.

Fact: Highly gifted children are more likely to be bored and
unhappy with school. Because the subjects are not challenging,
they find their own ways to make school more interesting. For
example, if teachers give gifted children four choices on a test,
they will come up with a fifth choice. However, that fifth choice
will most likely be marked wrong, because it was not a choice
to begin with. Artistically gifted children may do poorly with
school subjects, but may excel in art or music. They may make
a song out of a history assignment or draw a beautiful picture
about a story they read in English instead of writing an essay.
They usually are penalized for this creativity because they did
not follow the rules of the assignment.

Tina is an artistically gifted child. She can write poems and
set them to music. She also can play the piano and violin better
than the music teacher at her school. Tina has recently become
interested in art. Last week her mother asked her to take out
the garbage and she brought most of it back into her room so she
could “make something out of it.” Her garbage sculpture
won an award at the school art show. Tina has a curious, active
mind, and she is a very talented girl. However, she finds school
boring and confusing and gets mostly C’s in her classes. Her lack
of motivation in school is due to the fact that she is a gifted
child. She sees life differently than the average person.

6. Stereotype: Special children who are deaf or hard of hearing
also are not as smart as average children.

Fact: Children with a sensory disability (loss of hearing
or sight) usually are of average or above-average intelligence.
People who are deaf, or who have a hearing loss, do not hear words
clearly the way you do. This makes it difficult for them to speak
the words clearly. Children who are deaf may sound different from
you when they talk. They also may use their fingers, hands, arms,
and faces to communicate instead of using their voices. This is
called sign language.

Susie is a special child with sensory disability. She is deaf,
which means she cannot hear with her ears the way therest of us
can. Susie uses special tools to help her “hear.” One
of these tools is a hearing aid. This hearing aid allows her to
hear words almost the way you hear them. It helps improve her
speech, too. Susie is smart to take advantage of the tools available
to help hearing-impaired children. A special tool Susie uses is
called a TDD. A TDD is a machine that will print your conversation
if you have a special attachment on your phone and the phone you
are calling. Susie uses hers to talk to her grandmother.


AGES AND STAGES OF GROWTH

Special children are called special because they are exceptions
to the rules of development. They grow and develop physically,
intellectually, emotionally, or socially in ways that are different
from children who are not disabled or gifted.

It is not important to compare gifted or disabled children with
other children of the same age. It is important to remember that
special children will be like children their age in some ways
and different in other ways.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

One of the best ways you can help special children is to know
more about them. The following pages tell about different ways
children may be disabled or gifted. The descriptions also include
ideas for working with children with special needs. The information
does not give complete answers. The descriptions are general and
will not fit every child. The information will serve as a guide.
It will help you understand and learn about the needs of special
children.

Learning Disabilities

Children with a learning disability have problems with the
messages to the brain becoming jumbled. This makes it difficult
for them to learn in one or more areas, such as reading, math,
spelling, or writing. Children and adults who are learning disabled
are not mentally retarded or slow to learn. In fact, these individuals
usually have average or above average intelligence.

How you can help:
Keep in mind that learning disabled children may have short attention
spans. It is possible they may have trouble remembering or following
directions.

Try various methods to see how the children learn best. For example,
they may learn best by seeing, hearing, reading silently or aloud.
If children are good at remembering what they hear, it is a good
idea to have someone read directions to them or have someone record
the information on a tape for them to listen to. If children are
good at reading, but cannot follow spoken directions, it is a
good idea to write directions on a piece of paper for them to
read. Be sure you have the children’s attention and eye contact
before you begin to talk to them. Explain directions carefully,
simply, and slowly.

Resources

Colorado Association for Children with Learning Disabilities
P.O. Box
1506 Denver, CO 80201 (303) 757-5556

Children’s Books

*He’s My Brother* by Joe Lasker, Whitman Publisher. A story
about an older brother’s affection for his younger brother who
has a learning disability.

SENSORY DISABILITIES

VISUAL IMPAIRMENT

Visual impairment or loss of sight may range from legal blindness
to partial sightedness. The legally blind person might be totally
blind, able to see only lights, shadow, or large print, or have
tunnel vision. People with tunnel vision cannot see to the sides
without turning their heads. The partially sighted person might
have problems with near or distant vision. People are considered
legally blind if they see at 20 feet or less, what a person with
normal vision can see at 200 feet. Thus, you might read or hear
the term 20/200 vision. The visually impaired person’s eyesight
is somewhat better. Their vision is between 20/60 and 20/200 with
correction or glasses. Normal vision is 20/20.

Children with visual impairments may seem awkward or careless.
This seems particularly true during activities where they use
their hands and eyes together, such as puzzles, sewing, or climbing.
Some children may hold objects close to their eyes. Others may
seem to be looking to the side or straight ahead rather than at
you. These compensations may be uncomfortable for the caregiver
at first, but they help the children see.

How you can help:
When working with children who cannot see well, introduce yourself
so they are aware that you are speaking to them. You might say
“Hi! It’s me, Jamie. I’ve come to visit.” In time, your
friend will learn to recognize your voice or even your footsteps.

It is not necessary to raise your voice when talking with blind
children. Speak directly to them and not to the person that is
with them. Even though visually impaired children may not be able
to see, they usually can hear and understand you. Visually impaired
children need to become familiar with new rooms or places. Give
them a tour of any place they have not been before. Do not just
walk off and leave them! They need more than one visit before
they know where everything is located. Make an effort to describe
things around you. Let the visually impaired child touch, smell,
or taste, if possible. Talk about the things they are exploring.

Resources

American Foundation for the Blind Regional Office 1860 Lincoln
Street, Denver, CO 80203 (303) 861-9355

Blind Federation of Denver, Inc. 2232 South Broadway, Denver,
CO 80205 (303) 778-1130

Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind West Hall Building, Kiowa
and Institute Street Colorado Springs, CO 80903 (303) 634-2745
(voice or Tele-Communication service for the Deaf – TDD)

Children’s Books

*Follow My Leader* by James Garfield (Viking Press). The author,
who is blind himself, has written the story of 11-year-old Jimmy,
who is blinded accidentally by a firecracker thrown by his friend,
Mike. After attending a special school for instruction in using
guide dogs, Jimmy returns to his regular school.

*Gift of Gold* by Beverly Cutler. Cathy is determined to prove
herself as a speech therapist, despite her blindness. When Dr.
Rosenthal tells her there is some hope for restoring her vision,
she is sure this will be the solution to all her problems. Although
everything does not work out quite as she had hoped, she does
succeed with determination and lots of hard work.

*Products for People With Vision Problems* is a free catalog with
more than 400 products, from sports equipment to tape measures
to cooking utensils, that are helpful to the visually impaired.
Write: American Foundation for the Blind, Dept. CTM, Consumer
Products Dept., 15 W. 16th Street, New York, NY 10011.

*Sally Can’t See* by Palle Petersen (The John Day Co). The story
of a girl who can do a great deal despite the fact she is blind.
The book helps children imagine what it would be like to be blind.

*Seeing Through the Dark: Blind and Sighted – A Vision Shared*
by Malcolm E. Weiss. This book tells the story of the many ways
that blind people visualize.

*View Beyond My Father* by Mabel Allen. Other things besides her
blindness forced Mary to live in a very narrow, stifling world.
Her family did not know how to cope with her blindness, and yet
were terrified of the operation that might restore some of her
sight. With the help of friends and doctors, Mary does regain
her sight and breaks out of the over-protective world her family
has created.

*What Do You Do When You See A Blind Person?* A booklet written
to help sighted people and children know what to do when they
see a blind person. Send a postcard with your name, address and
zip code to: American Foundation for the Blind, 15 W. 16th Street,
New York, NY
10011.

HEARING IMPAIRMENT

There are two terms that are used with hearing disabilities.
They are “deaf” and “hard of hearing.” A hearing
loss can be anywhere from mild (when the person only has difficulty
hearing faint or distant speech) to severe (when the person can
only feel vibrations).

People who are born deaf, or who become deaf at an early age,
cannot hear the spoken language. Thus, they often cannot speak
it. They may be difficult to understand because they cannot hear
words in order to learn how to form them. The hearing impaired
have different ways of communicating and understanding. These
methods include sign language, lip reading, finger spelling, writing
messages, and use of a hearing aid.

How you can help:
Spend time with hearing impaired children to find out their strengths
and weaknesses. Visit with their parents and teachers to gather
helpful ideas. Children with a hearing impairment may understand
better on a one-to-one level than in a large group. It may be
difficult for them to follow spoken directions or to distinguish
between similar sounding words like map and nap or pin and pen.
Try to speak clearly and slowly. It is not necessary to exaggerate
or shout. Even though someone is wearing a hearing aid, that does
not necessarily indicate they can hear normally or understand
spoken words. The hearing aid may make sound louder but not always
clearer.

Resources

Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind West Hall Building,
Kiowa & Institute Street Colorado Springs, CO 80903. (303)
634-2745 (voice or TDD)

Colorado Hearing and Speech Center, 4280 Hale Parkway, Denver,
CO 80220. (303) 322-1871

Center on Deafness Suite 201, 201 University Boulevard Denver,
CO 80206. (303) 377-2789

Northern Colorado Center on Deafness 1865 10th Avenue, Greeley,
CO 80631. (303) 352-2265

Children’s Books

*A Handful of Colors: A Signing Book for Beginners* by Jeanne
Schwartz. This book is designed to help hearing children communicate
with their hearing impaired peers and includes illustrated signs
for 57 words commonly used by preschool children, 1981. Write
to: CBH Publishing, Inc., 464 Central Avenue, Northfield, IL 60093.

*Anna’s Silent World* by Bernard Wolf is a story about 6-year-old
Anna, who is born deaf and learns to lip read, speak, and dance.

*Dance to Still Music* by Barbara Corcoran. When Margaret’s mother
decided to remarry and send her to a special school for the deaf,
Margaret had to do something. While running away, Margaret helps
an injured deer and meets Josie who helps Margaret cope with her
new stepfather, deafness, and getting along in the hearing world.

*David in Silence* by Veronica Robinson (Harper and Row), relates
the prejudices toward 13-year-old David, a deaf mute recently
moved to England. The children think he is mentally retarded until
his friend, Michael, persuades them to give him a chance. The
other children learn to admire David for his thoroughness and
his courage. Communication frustrations are vividly portrayed.

*Deafness* by Jane Hyman is a book about finger spelling, the
different kinds of machinery deaf people use, and the effects
of deafness on friendships, families, and learning.

*Lisa and Her Soundless World* by Edna Levine (Human Science Press)
is the story of a deaf child who is helped by hearing aids and
learns to speak, read lips, and communicate with sign language
at a special school.

*The Swing* by Emily Hanlon. The swing was important to Danny
and Beth but neither of them wanted to share it with the other.
After an adventure with bears on the mountain, they become friends,
despite Beth’s deafness, and share more than the swing.

PHYSICAL DISABILITIES

Physical disabilities are divided into two types: orthopedic
and neurological.

ORTHOPEDIC DISABILITIES

Orthopedic disabilities affect the use of the spine, muscles,
bones, or joints, such as the knee or elbow. Orthopedic conditions
are ones that do not allow children to use their bodies or arms
and legs the same way you do.

Conditions most commonly found in children and young adults include:
muscular dystrophy, amputations, arthritis, paralysis, and spina
bifida. Children with orthopedic disabilities have many different
levels of abilities and may use different adaptive devices like
wheelchairs. Activities should be planned for the needs and abilities
of each person.

NEUROLOGICAL DISABILITIES

Neurological disabilities happen when there is a problem in
the central nervous system. The central nervous system is a part
of the brain. Messages are sent from the brain to the body and
tell the parts of our bodies how and when to move. Sometimes,
these disabilities cause the same limitations as orthopedic ones.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a type of movement difficulty caused by
injury or damage to the brain. This can happen either before birth,
at birth, or after birth. Messages sent from the brain to control
movement seem to short-circuit. For example, a message sent from
the brain to the legs telling them to move is not completed. The
message never reaches the legs, and they do not move. The type
of cerebral palsy a person has depends on what area of the brain
is damaged and how much damage there is. Some people with CP can
walk well, some use braces, some use crutches, and others need
a wheelchair at all times. Other disabilities such as hearing
loss, poor sight, speech difficulties, learning disabilities,
and emotional or psychological problems also may be present with
cerebral palsy. A person will not die from cerebral palsy, but
it is not curable. The person will always have CP. Cerebral palsy
is not contagious, so children will not “catch” it like
you “catch” a cold or chicken pox.

How you can help:
When you talk to children with CP, or any other neurological disability,
be sure to talk to them directly, not to the person they are with.
Remember, that an individual with CP often has difficulty speaking
clearly. This does not mean they are mentally retarded. People
who have difficulty speaking may use communication boards. The
boards may be electronic devices or a simple wooden board complete
with key words or the alphabet.

If a child uses special equipment, know how the equipment works.
For example, go up and down curbs, open and fold the chair, and
operate the brakes.

Avoid situations that cause stress or tension. Tension may increase
rigidity in muscles. When muscles become tight, it is hard, if
not impossible, for children to do things they can do when their
muscles are relaxed.

Resources

Easter Seal Society, 609 W. Littleton Blvd., Littleton, CO
80120. (303) 795-2016

March of Dimes Regional Office, 8000 E. Girard Ave., Denver, CO
80231. (303) 750-2010

United Cerebral Palsy Center of Denver, 2727 Columbine Street,
Denver, CO 80205. (303) 355-7337

National Association of Sports for Cerebral Palsy, P.O. Box 3874,
Smith Station, New Haven, CT 06511. (203) 397-1402

National Wheelchair Athletic Association, Nassau Community College,
Garden City, NY 11530. (516) 222-1245

Amputee Sports Association, George Beckmann, President, St. Joseph’s
Hospital, 11705 Mercy Boulevard, Savannah, GA 31406

Children’s Books

*Alesia* by Eloise Greenfield and Alesia Revis. 18-year-old
Alesia can barely walk because of an accident at age 9. Her diary
entries reveal her problems, solutions, and optimism.

*Don’t Feel Sorry for Paul* by Bernard Wolf (Lippincott, Harper
and Row). This book relates a short period in the life of 7-year-old
Paul Jockimo who wears a prosthesis on his right arm and one on
each leg. His family has tried to make him independent, encouraging
him to engage in regular activities. He is sometimes hurt by thoughtless
remarks and looks of pity, but he has learned to handle such situations.

*Head Over Wheels*, by Lee Kingman, is a story of teenage twin
brothers and how they learn to cope with the aftermath of an accident
that leaves one of them quadriplegic. It takes an honest look
at the toll taken by severe accidents – the physical and emotional
pain, the financial burden, and the gradual realization that there
is no going back to the way life was before.

*Janet at School* by Paul White, tells how 5-year-old Janet, who
is in a wheelchair, manages her day in school.

*Wheelchair Champions: A History of Wheelchair Sports* by Harriet
May Savitz.

MENTAL DISABILITIES

A mentally retarded person is slow to learn. Mentally retarded
children do not have the intellectual or physical abilities of
other children. A mentally retarded child also may be limited
in the development of physical skills. Other disabilities, such
as speech, visual, or hearing impairments may be present as well
as neurological or orthopedic. These children can learn to do
most of the things that you do, but it takes them longer to learn.
Some mentally retarded people will never be able to take care
of themselves. Many learn to care for themselves and can live
on their own as adults. Sometimes mentally retarded people look
and act differently than you. They may walk slower, they may stick
their tongues out, their eyes may look dull, or they may talk
to themselves. There may be as wide a range of differences among
retarded children as there are among children described as able-bodied.

Currently, experts refer to mild, moderate, severe, and profound
levels of retardation.

Mild: Development is slower than average. Children are
capable of being educated and are able to live independent lives.

Moderate: Children are slow in their development, but are
able to learn to care for themselves. Children are capable of
being trained. As adults they may need to work and live in a sheltered
environment.

Severe: Physical development, speech, and language are
delayed. They are not completely dependent but are not able to
live on their own.

Profound: Need constant care or supervision. Physical and
sensory development also is impaired.

Resources

Colorado Association for Retarded Citizens, 2727 Bryant L3,
Denver, CO 80211. (303) 455-4411 (Many counties have a local chapter
of ARC)

Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council, 4126 S. Knox Court,
Denver, CO 80236. (303) 761-0220, X322

Children’s Books

*A Special Kind of Sister* by Lucia B. Smith. Through pictures,
a young girl describes her not-always-wonderful relationship with
her brain-damaged brother.

*Between Friends* by Sheila Garrigue. Jill was between friends
that summer because she had just moved from California. The only
person around was Dede, who lived down the street, went to a special
school, and was retarded. Jill’s other friends did not understand
her friendship
with Dede, but that friendship helped Jill through a terrible
experience.

*Like Me* by Alan Brightman (Little, Brown and Co.), is a sensitive
story of a young retarded boy who wants to be treated like any
other child.

*My Friend Jacob* by Lucille Clifton. Seventeen-year-old Jacob,
a slow learner, and 8-year-old Sam are friends in this warm story
about how they teach and surprise each other.

*Do Bananas Chew Gum?* by Jamie Gilson. Able to read and write
at only a second grade level, sixth-grader Sam Mot considered
himself dumb and was sure everyone was laughing at him. Then friends
and a teacher made him realize he was not dumb but only needed
some special help.

*Mental Retardation* by Robert E. Dunbar. A thorough and clear
introduction to attitudes toward retardation, definitions, IQ’s,
causes of retardation, mainstreaming, and more.

*More Time To Grow: Explaining Mental Retardation to Children*
by Sharon Hya Grollman. The story of 9-year-old Carla and her
5-year-old brother during the stressful time when their parents
are told Arthur is retarded.

*My Brother Steven is Retarded* by Harriet Langsam Sobol (Macmillan).
This is an ideal book for helping children cope with siblings
who are disabled.

*Secret Dreamer, Secret Dreams* by Florence Heide. Caroline is
13 and mentally handicapped. Her world includes her parents, sister,
a dog, and school. But no one she comes in contact with knows
much about Caroline, her feelings or her view of the world. This
book reveals Caroline’s inner world to us.

GIFTED AND TALENTED

It used to be that only children with high IQ’s were considered
gifted. Today, other talents also are recognized as hallmarks
of gifted children. Children are seen to be gifted in such areas
as leadership, physical events, arts, and mechanics. It is estimated
there are between 1.5 and 2.5 million gifted children in the United
States and they are talented in many different ways.

Here are some clues to watch for that may lead you, as a caregiver,
to discover a gifted or talented child.

  • Early physical and intellectual development. A child who
    walks, talks, or learns to fix a radio at a young age may be
    gifted.
  • Curiosity and interest in things happening in the world may
    signal a gifted child. Gifted children often have a strong desire
    to be informed and learn.
  • Interest in books – especially reference books like dictionaries,
    encyclopedias, atlases, and biographies – may be a signal of
    a high IQ, a talent for writing or another kind of intellectual
    gift.
  • Gifted children often show leadership qualities and are very
    responsible for their ages.
  • Reading, math problems, writing, and speaking are done with
    ease by gifted children.


How you can help:

Gifted children are still children. They need to be loved for
who they are and encouraged to develop their talents and intellectual
skills. You can encourage them by providing books, hobbies, trips
to museums or art galleries, and by including them in conversations.
Gifted children need to have their questions answered honestly
and often in great detail.

Resources

Gifted Child Quarterly, Published by National Association for
Gifted Children, 217 Gregory Drive, Hot Springs, AK 71901

Office of the Gifted and Talented, U.S. Office of Education, Donohoe
Bldg., 400 6th St. SW, Room 3827, Washington, DC 20202

Children’s Books

Resources for the Gifted Inc. This company provides quality
books, games, and gift ideas for gifted children. Information
about ordering should be addressed to: Resources for the Gifted,
Inc., 3421 North 44th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85018.

Pamphlets from The Children’s Museum. Write to them at 931 Bannock
Street, Denver, CO 80204

Write for a free pamphlet: 67 Ten-minute Calculator Activities,
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1906 Association
Drive, Reston, VA 22091

LEARN BY DOING

1. Interview a disabled or gifted adult. What difficulties
do they encounter?

2. Ask friends about their experiences with special children.
Share this book with them and ask them to help you learn more
about special children.

3. Observe a disabled or gifted child’s family. Write a short
paper about how each member of the family talks, plays, and cares
for the child.

4. Read one of the books listed in the resource sections of this
book. Give a report on the book to a club, class, or a community
group. Read this book to children who do not have a handicapped
condition, and talk to them about what it might be like if they
were the ones with the disability.

5. Set up a display of materials you have collected about special
children. You might put it in a school, a church or synagogue,
city hall, chamber of commerce, county courthouse, or in a local
store window. Your display might include materials or photos from
agencies or programs that work with special children, art, or
other projects that children have done, or information about a
particular condition such as cerebral palsy.

6. Visit an agency or program that works with special children.
Ideas for places to visit include special schools, institutions,
public school programs, a respite care, or rehabilitation center.
(A respite center is like a day care center for disabled children.
A rehabilitation center offers training, therapy, and guidance
to those who have been sick, injured, or disabled.) Collect publications
about their activities. Learn what is being done through training.
You also might like to interview one or more professionals who
work with special children. Ideas include gifted and special education
teachers, speech therapists, audiologists, physical therapists,
occupational therapists, social workers, or human developmentalists.

7. Plan and present a children’s puppet show. You can make your
puppets. You also might like to write your own show, songs, or
music. Children who like to do art work might like to draw or
paint scenery for the puppet show. Gifted and talented children
may especially like this activity.

8. Find out more about equipment that may be used by special children,
such as hearing aids, auditory trainers, or wheelchairs. You could
collect information about wheelchairs such as how they work, how
much they cost, how a person learns to use a wheelchair, and how
sports wheelchairs are different from other types of wheelchairs.

9. Review *Good Times with Health and Safety*. Report to a club
or group on prevention of accidents that could lead to handicapped
conditions.

10. Volunteer to help with the Special Olympics in your community
or area. Special Olympics is a sports competition for persons
with disabilities. You could assist with coaching and teaching
the children before the olympics and help with the events the
day of the competition.

11. [Specific to Colorado State University] Contact the 4-H Handicapped
program coordinator for Colorado State University Cooperative
Extension. The coordinator presents a puppet show program called
Meet the Kids on the Block. The puppets in this show have different
disabilities. You can arrange to have them come to a school for
a program by contacting: 4-H Handicapped Program Coordinator,
125 Aylesworth Hall, NW, CSU, Fort Collins, CO 80523.

RESOURCES

Listed below are resources that are available for you to borrow
from the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office
in human development and family studies. Order through your county
Cooperative Extension office.

*Alpha Chi Omega Day Book*. Self-help toys to make for handicapped
children.

*Let’s Play Games* by Katherine Bissell Croke and Betty Jacinto
Fairchild. A collection of games that children with physical handicaps
can play and enjoy with or without adaptations.

*Let’s Play to Grow*. A kit with recreational, athletic, and dance
activities.

*Like Me, Like You* in a package – A disability awareness curriculum
published by The Children’s Museum of Denver. Written by Theresa
Preda, M.Ed. and Gale Shetterly More.

OTHER RESOURCES

Boy Scouts of America, Scouting for the Handicapped Service
P.O. Box 31060, Dallas – Fort Worth Airport, TX 75261 (211) 659-2108

*The Exceptional Parent*, a bi-monthly magazine. Offers help in
caring for disabled children. Check your library for copies of
this magazine. A sample copy of the magazine is available for
$1.00 from: Exceptional Parent, 296 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
02116.

*Sharing the Street: Activities for all Children*. An activity
book especially designed for people who work with special needs
children. Send $2.00 to: Children’s TV Workshop, Community Education
Services Division, Dept. PN, 1 Lincoln Plaza, New York, NY 10023.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

*Me Too* by Vera and Bill Cleaver. Lydia and Lornie Birdsong
are twins. Lydia is determined to be the one who really changes
Lornie to be just like herself. She anticipates nothing but success,
but time and again Lornie retreats to her familiar language and
behavior. Lydia’s summer helps her to understand about responsibility
and love and to deal with the newfound knowledge that happiness
is not “normal” or “exceptional”, it just
is.

*Feeling Free* by Mary Beth Sullivan and others. Children with
learning problems and physical disabilities talk about their feelings
in this adaptation from a TV series.

*Sports for the Handicapped* by Anne Allen. Sports are for everyone.
Adapted skiing, wheelchair basketball, swimming, horseback riding,
and other sports are illustrated.

*The Alfred Summer* by Jan Slepian. This award-winning book is
the first of two that tell about the relationship between two
young boys; Lester, whose movements and speech are affected by
cerebral palsy, and Alfred, who is retarded and physically handicapped.
Their friendship is detailed in a touching way.

*They Triumphed Over Handicaps*, by Joan Harris, profiles six
handicapped people, all living now. The emphasis is on trying
to get everything out of life and being allowed to try.

*What If You Couldn’t…?* A Book About Special Needs by Janet
Kamien. How it feels to be blind, mentally retarded, deaf, or
in a wheelchair is covered in simple terms.

*Winners: Eight Special Young People* by Dorothy Schainman Seigel.
These young people talk about their diseases (hemophilia, juvenile
arthritis, and other handicaps.)



DOCUMENT
USE/COPYRIGHT

National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the
National Extension Service Children Youth and Family Educational
Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials
in whole or in part for educational purposes only (not for profit
beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and
Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child
Care –
NNCC. Lagoni, L. S., Martin, D. H., Maslin-Cole, C., Cook, A.,

MacIsaac, K., Parrill, G., Bigner, J., Coker, E., & Sheie,
S. (1989).
Good times with special children. In *Good times with child
care
* (pp.
58-81). Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Cooperative

Extension.

Any additions or changes to these materials must be preapproved
by the author.

AVAILABLE FROM::
Patricia A. Johnson, Ed. D.
Cooperative Extension
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Gifford Building, Room 119
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
PHONE:: (970) 491-5889
FAX:: (970) 491-7975
EMAIL:: pjohnson@picasso.cahs.colostate.edu

COPYRIGHT PERMISSION ACCESS
Patricia A. Johnson, Ed. D.
Cooperative Extension
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Gifford Building, Room 119
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
PHONE:: (970) 491-5889
FAX:: (970) 491-7975
EMAIL:: pjohnson@picasso.cahs.colostate.edu


FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Print – 253 pages
DOCUMENT REVIEW::
Level 2 – Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 71 K or 19 pages
ENTRY DATE:: May 1996

 


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