Author Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier answers three questions she has always wanted to be asked in this special CBC Website Feature!
Why do you write books about children with disabilities living inclusive lives?
I have a deep and profound belief that the extent to which children with disabilities are included in their families’ lives, their school and their community impacts their quality of life and the lives of their family. To that end, I meet an extraordinary number of families who exemplify what this means. It is not easy to live an inclusive life, even in 2017, and most families work hard to give their children every opportunity possible. Hearing their stories and then writing them so other people can hear their stories is the easy part. It also means that children with disabilities, from all walks of life, see themselves in a book they can find at home, at school or at their public library.
Why is the promotion of self-determination important for children with disabilities?
I think we have a natural inclination to want to help children with disabilities, especially the youngest children with disabilities. Over the years, we have a seen a phenomenon appear in both the literature and in the lives of children living with disabilities of “learned helpless”. Learned helpless is in children who become dependent on the adults or other caregivers to do things for them, ultimately, this impacts their ability to be independent as they possibly can be. Self-Determination, on the other hand, is the quite the opposite. It is having choices, autonomy, and decision making ability to so the person with a disability can live the life they want. When children are young, the promotion of self-determination starts with giving them choices, helping them understand how to regulate themselves (understand their own behavior) and helping them engage in activities in a meaningful way. The earlier we start promoting the skills children with disabilities need for later self-determination as an adult, the more opportunity these same children will have to live inclusive lives.
What keeps you writing books?
It would be the children and families we meet as a result of this work. Families of children with disabilities are incredible and each of them have a unique story to tell. One especially rewarding aspect of the writing these books, it the opportunity to see the children and youth engaged with their families and peers living life to the fullest. One such opportunity was when we decided to make my daughter, MyaGrace’s book entitled MyaGrace Wants to Get Ready in real time. So, we took most of the photos on the actual day of the dance. The enthusiasm you see on her face is real and all of us were as excited as she was by the time she was ready to go. That, keeps me wanting to write more and more books because there is not only MyaGrace’s story to tell but so many others as well.
About Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier
Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier, author, worked in the fields of Early Childhood and Special Education for 25 years. She has a PhD in Special Education from the University of Kansas and is currently working for a national research organization. Vera is passionate about the inclusion of each and every child in settings where they would be if they did not have a disability. Parenting a teen and tween with special needs enrich her life.