The Bubel/Aiken Foundation (Clay Aiken’s charity for the inclusion of children with disabilities) recently gave a grant so a group of third-grade authors could publish a book about friendship and acceptance. Our Friend Mikayla, the story of a child with severe developmental disabilities who finds friendship with her typical peers, will be published this fall.
Written and illustrated by third-grade students at the Lower Nazareth Elementary School, Nazareth, PA., Our Friend Mikayla, is an honest portrayal of the children’s first reactions to Mikayla, their barriers to acceptance and finally the true friendship they formed with her. Mikayla, now 11, was born with profound brain damage resulting in spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, severe mental retardation, seizure disorder, legal blindness, hearing impairment, and numerous medical conditions related to her disabilities. Despite the severity of Mikayla’s disabilities, her parents strived to give her as normal a life as possible. When they moved to Pennsylvania four years ago, the idea of full inclusion for a child with severe developmental disabilities was relatively new. Yet in keeping with their own personal philosophy, they requested that Mikayla be included in a regular first grade class.
What they found was that Mikayla’s classmates accepted Mikayla and began to see her as “just like them.” Their relationship with Mikayla and their journey to acceptance inspired the book. Our Friend Mikayla became the class project, mainly because Mikayla’s friends felt they had an important message to share with other children. Their goal was to teach other kids that, “From Mikayla, we’ve learned that people with disabilities aren’t really different. It doesn’t matter if your friend is in a wheelchair. Their disabilities don’t mean you cannot be friends. Having a friend with a disability is cool.”
The children have dedicated Our Friend Mikayla to “all people with disabilities and their friends.” When they chose the dedication, one of the children realized that might mean they were dedicating the book to everyone in the world.
The book will be sold on The Bubel/Aiken Foundation’s website and all net proceeds will help support the Foundation’s efforts towards full inclusion. The book will be available at www.bubelaiken.org in time for the Holiday season.