What The special education teacher at Isaac Fox School in Lake Zurich and author of "A Special Friend", said she wrote the book with the intent to spark a conversation about children with special needs.
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The rhyming story was written for students at Matuszewski's school to explain why children with special needs have their own class. During part of the day, special needs students attend general education classes with mainstream students.
"There wasn't anything out there that make the kids that are already part of that classroom know why students are coming in for parts of the day and not other parts," she said. "Nobody really talks about it."
Prompted by recent anti-bullying campaigns in schools, Matuszewski said she wanted to help people accept and interact with kids with special needs.
"If we foster an understanding at an early age that these kids really just have trouble, it's something that they can't help, then I think we're being proactive," Matuszewski said.
She wasn't the only one to help spread the message.
One of her students, 9-year-old Mikayla Crow, who has autism spectrum disorder, illustrated the book with original pieces of artwork.
The book also includes two discussion sections, one for parents and one for teachers, with prompted scenarios involving kids with special needs. The guide asks them how they would properly react in various situations.
Mikayla's father, Steve Crow, said the book is an important tool for people to use to understand kids with special needs.
"It's critically important to get these kids out of the bubble and into more mainstream interaction. Now there is more hope that children like my daughter can be accepted and included," he said.
The book, which was released this week, will retail for $11.95. Partial proceeds will benefit the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
It will be available at Learning Express in Lake Zurich, Brilliant Sky in Deer Park, and Anderson's Book Shops in Downers Grove and Naperville, and will be sold as an E-book on Remedia Publications' ">Laura Matuszewskiwebsite;www.rempub.com/a-special-friend [URL]. Brilliant Sky has scheduled a book signing for Monday, July 23, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. [/URL]