Growing Up Special

Parents of Special Needs and Adopted Children Seeking Excellence


Include Me Please

By Rainy on April 14th, 2010

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     When you are raising special needs children you know how painful it can be for your child to be excluded from other children and their activities.  Sometimes your child’s challenges prohibit them from sharing an activity or experience that other children around them enjoy…but other times, it is either through prejudice or mis-information…or, a lack of understanding.  No matter the reason, being excluded is not fun and can actually be harmful to your child’s self-esteem and their ability to form positive social interative relationships.   Therefore, teaching how to accept and include others is a huge life lesson for families, schools, churches, organizations and agencies.

       That is why i love the book called, The Friendship Puzzle.  The children’s book is all about helping children to learn about the importance of accepting and including kids who are living with autism.   It talks about differences and how friendships are formed once we understand each other.  We have to learn to look beyond the surface of who a person appears to be different from ourselves; to see the real them.  Then, we must find ways to include each other in our daily lives for a chance to become friends.    Sometimes it is easy to misunderstand another person’s actions when we don’t understand why they do or say certain things; or, behave in a different way. 

       The Friendship Puzzle was written by Julie L. Coe and illustrated by Sondra l. Brassel.  The book was inspired by Jennifer Maloni  who’s children Dominic and Dylan are living with autism.  The boys experienced a similar real life experience that was sad and disappointing.  That experience is used in this book to make a difference in how we view people with disabilities.   You can learn more about the book and where to purchase it here:  This is not an affiliate link… it is just a book that I happen to adore. 

        That message, of accepting and including one another, is very profound.  We can all apply that message in multiple ways to better the relationships we have with others without regard to abilities or disabilities; it is something that we can all improve on.  This book and a recent news piece on an amusement park for those who are disabled reminded me of how often people neglect to include those who are different from ourselves in the things we enjoy; simply out of ignorance of how to do it.

        The amusement park I read about is called Morgans Wonderland and it is in San Antonio, Texas.  It was built by a father after a failed attempt by his daughter Morgan to interact in play with other children due to her disabilities and the lack of clear communication between the children alongside of a pool.  The other children were playing with a beach ball and she wanted to play too…but lack of communication and understanding prevented continued play.  This kind of situation can be heartbreaking…but in this case it was the catalyst he needed to dream of a place where special needs people and their families and caregivers could come and be included in all of the activities. 

        Gordon Hartman was the father and he has achieved his dream.  Morgans Wonderland is a 25 acre park that lets the special need individual be themselves and experience the joy of an amusement park just like anyone else.  They utilize volunteers at their park and they encourage families to come and enjoy their time together.  I love the idea behind this park.   If you are interested in learning more about Morgan’s Wonderland and all it has to offer…please click here:  Again, this is not an affiliate link…it is just a place where a family can go to relax and have a positive family experience with their special needs loved one. 

        I just want to thank the Gordon Hartman’s and the Julie Coe’s of this world who realize the importance of acceptance and inclusion. 

3 Responses to “Include Me Please”

  1. I am a huge fan of Julie and Sondra. Their dedication to The Friendship Puzzle in honor of their friend, Jenny Maloni is remarkable! They truly are ladies of actions and words!

    Like the meaning of the book and the works of Gordon Hartman, I believe that all children have the right to play and grow- with each other. I do not know Mr. Hartman, but respect and honor his enthusiasm.

    However, it was my privilege to have Julie and Sondra join my show in January 2010 (Learning and Laughter with Louise!). Their desire to educate others about inclusion, friendship and special programs such as the Kennedy-Krieger Institute’s IAN PROJECT was invaluable for many of our listeners and followers of the show. I know that many people availed themselves of the important information provided.

    BRAVO to Rainy for spotlighting all of these “doers” here on this wonderful blog!

  2. I hope this information gets out to the masses and people will allow themselves to become enlightened.

    As for my contribution, I will be sharing this information and your blog post to my contacts at our childrens’ agencies and services coordinators so they can let their clients know about these things. In addition, I have retired teachers in my network who can contact their networks to get the word out, too.

    God bless you all and bless those special needs folks who have so much to teach us.

    Rainy, God bless you for being such an inspiration and sharing it in such delightful ways. You are a blessing to mankind.

    Connie Baum

  3. Thanks for sending me this link, Rainy! I see that Miss Louise has already commented, too :-) I actually first heard about The Friendship Puzzle through Louise and her toginet show. Although I haven’t seen it yet, Louise tells me it’s wonderful.

    I look forward to checking out their website again and learning more about the book!

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