Materials for Children and Teens with Disabilities

This blog is intended as a means to update and expand on the Linda Lucas Walling Collection of Materials for and about Children and Teens with Different Abilities:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why is Linda Lucas Walling interested in this subject?

To begin with, I (Linda) have cerebral palsy. It's mild, affecting my left side, but my parents' attitude was that it was a severe disability. I carry lots of emotional baggage because of that and because of cruelty from other children. My brother had what I think would be diagnosed today as one or more learning disabilities. He was a very bright man but couldn't take full advantage of his intelligence. So that was where I started from.

My last three years of undergraduate school were paid for by the Iowa Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. To qualify for that, I had to be observed in an institutional setting for about a month. That was an eye opener. I saw first hand how people (teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s, including me) are devalued and sometimes even unintentionally mistreated -- and how "the system" functions or doesn't function for individuals. Very enlightening, but not an experience I want to go through again.

So I had many reasons to have an interest in children and adults with disabilities. Through my years as a high school librarian, an academic librarian, and a doctoral student, I followed the changes that were taking place in society -- the Rehabilitation Act, for example. While I was a doctoral student, I volunteered at a halfway house for people with mental retardation who were receiving job training and learning skills they would need to live more independently. My job was to accompany them on shopping expeitions as they learned to select tootpaste and clothes and manage their money. I really enjoyed the people and realized how much more they were capable of than their families and society let them experience.

When I arrived at Carolina for my interview with Bill Summers, then the Dean of the College, he had noted my volunteer work on my vita. The College had a Special Populations course on the books, but it was taught by an adjunct. Bill asked if I would be interested in teaching the course. Fresh from my positive volunteer experience in Illinois and with the Education for All Handicapped Children in place, I thought that was an exciting possibility. I had no experience working with people with disabilities in a library setting, but I knew a great deal about disabilities! I said yes, not realizing that that decision would change the direction of my career. (My dissertation was on reading interests and public library users, and I had assumed that information transfer would be my direction. I taught courses in those areas but did little research there.)

As things evolved and the date for the implementation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act approached, it became critical that the College's alums going into school library media centers and children's services in public libraries learn about the Act, the children, and the disabilities. Our College's strength was, and is, educating people for those kinds of positions. Three of us faculty members (me, Marilyn Karrenbrock -- now Marilyn Stauffer -- and Pam Barron) developed a workshop for our students. Marilyn and Pam had both worked for several years with children, disabled and not. I contributed a focus on disabilities. We discovered that there was very little written on the subject and expressed our frustration about that. A colleague suggested that we write a book. Marilyn and I did that. We were pleased with how well the book was received.

Thus, my career began to focus on children with disabilities -- although I also have publications on prison librarianship (another story), older adults, and college students with disabilities. I don't present myself as having years of experience working with children with disabilities. When I teach classes or give workshops on the subject, I seek to enable the students (who are often already working with childrern with disabilities) to be sensitive to the abilities and disabilities presented by each child. I've had the good fortune to be involved with librarians who were highly skilled in working with children with disabilities in library settings. Coy Hunsucker, Jane McGregor, and Iris Shirley, for example). Coy and Jane worked with children in Cincinnati, and Jane also worked here in South Carolina. Iris worked for many years in the media center at a special school here in Columbia.

I've tried to encourage my students and colleagues to write and research on the subject. A few have done so. There is still a great shortage of material on the subject except in the area of technology. I am pleased that some of my former students suggested the Linda Lucas Walling Collection because I see that as a way I can enable students and librarians to have more confidence as they work with children.


Blogger Kristi H said...

I enjoyed reading your bio. I teach a middle school self-contained class of students with orthopedic disabilities in Greenville. A few years ago my students and I wrote a classsroom book titled "We're all the Same." We shared the book with others at our school. I love reading good books to my class, of any kind. When our school librarian shared you materials site along with this site I was interested.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Linda Lucas Walling said...

Thanks for sharing. I hope you will continue to share!

11:41 AM  

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