On July 20, Blythedale Children’s Hospital commemorated this week’s 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with clinicians, patients and special guests.
The hospital’s Speech Pathology & Audiology Department, “Blythedale Bookworms,” coordinated through the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy program, and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force to identify books with diverse protagonists and get them into the hands and homes of patients as part of a literacy outreach campaign for children with varying abilities.
“Inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act movement, we are also adapting some of the books at Blythedale to increase access for all kids who may have physical, cognitive or verbal differences that make a standard book inaccessible,” said Abigail Crane, a Blythedale speech-language pathologist. “We physically dissect the actual book, which increases the child’s ability to have communicative impact while also making stories come alive in a new way.”
Some examples include page turners or cotton balls used to make it easier for children with physical limitations to manually turn the page, Velcro tabs attached to pages with removable laminated core words and texture added for tactile feedback.
The latest adaptive project involves a new children’s picture book about sensory differences called “Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down” written by neurodiverse author Lindsey Rowe Parker, with Rebecca Burgess, an autistic illustrator.
The brightly illustrated story follows a young girl with heightened sensory experiences through her day with fun, interactive sounds and motions.
“I feel so fortunate that the team at Blythedale adapted this book for the kids and families served in their programs,” Parker said. “We are proud to offer support in our own small way in celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary this month, ensuring all people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.”
Blythedale’s onsite public school district, the Mount Pleasant Blythedale Union Free School District, is also marking the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with a capstone project completed by some of its high school students (who are also day hospital patients at Blythedale).
Meghan Lyles, 16, of Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County, researched and presented to her 12th-grade class about the significance and impact of the landmark 1990 civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Lyles was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and has undergone numerous surgeries for scoliosis.
“This project is about how we can all help people with disabilities, like myself, to achieve their dreams and reach their full potential,” she said. “The Americans with Disabilities Act is important to me because I know I wouldn’t want to be treated differently just because I have a disability, so why would anyone else?”
Parker read her book to day hospital patients attending the Mount Pleasant Blythedale school in grades K-6. Immediately following, Blythedale speech therapists presented their adapted version of the same book.
Parker also read her book to patients, in-person and remotely, then distributed signed copies provided by Blythedale Bookworms. Blythedale speech therapists presented their adapted version of the same book.