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Put a Wheelchair in a Children's Story

Blog

Put a Wheelchair in a Children's Story

Debra Jacobs

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Children’s literature lacks depictions of differently-abled children. Very few books include pictures of blind kids, those who use wheelchairs, or those with other challenges. (For now, I'm focusing on physical differences - more on emotional and intellectual challenges later). Almost none have such children as main characters.

Today, tell your child a story with a main character who - by the way - uses a wheelchair. It can go something like this:

A kingdom is in trouble. The people there like to go outside and play, but one day a big dragon came and started breathing fire. Every time someone went outside, they had to run away from the dragon’s fire.

The queen was very worried about her people. She knew she needed someone to find the dragon and make sure it never threatened her kingdom again. She knew that Emma was brave and strong, so she chose her for the job.

So Emma gathered up supplies. She took a backpack filled with clothes, rope, a flashlight …  Then she started up the mountain to the dragon’s cave. She worked very hard with her strong arms to wheel her wheelchair up the mountain path ...

Continue the story, talking about the challenges she faces and how she overcomes them. End the story when she meets the dragon and either convinces her to go away and never come back, or she becomes friends with the dragon, who comes to play with the children of the kingdom and promises never to breathe fire on them again.

The goal is to normalize wheelchair use and other physical differences. Think about occasionally inserting a physically challenged hero or heroine in the repertoire of stories you tell your child.