Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is an annual campaign that raises awareness of the inclusion and contributions of people with developmental disabilities (DD) in all aspects of community life. It highlights how people – those with and those without disabilities – build strong communities together. The campaign is also a time to examine what work is still needed to remove barriers.

This year’s theme, A World of Opportunities, celebrates working together to remove obstacles and build communities where everyone can do well and succeed.

Icon of three books leaning together above text "The Storygraph"Pro-tip: Track the books you & your children are reading. Download the free app The Storygraph, created and owned by Black female tech entrepreneur Nadia Odunayo.

All titles are available through the Debra S Fish Early Childhood Resource Library, a branch of the St. Paul Public Library.

Children’s titles

WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? (Age Focus: 3 – 6 years)

What happened to you? Was it a shark? A burglar? A lion? Did it fall off? A boy named Joe is trying to play pirates at the playground, but he keeps being asked what happened to his leg. Bombarded with questions and silly suggestions, Joe becomes more and more fed up…until the kids finally understand they don’t need to know what happened. And that they’re wasting valuable playtime!

My Brain Is Magic: A Sensory-Seeking Celebration (Age Focus: 5 – 9 Years)  

A sensory-seeking child describes her sensational life. Whether your brain buzzes around the room like a bee or tells you to be loud and roar like a lion, celebrate the many things that it can be! This sensory-seeking celebration shines a light on sensory processing and neurodiversity in a fun and action-packed way for all children to enjoy.

Dancing Hands: A Story of Friendship in Filipino Sign Language (Age Focus: 3 – 7 Years)

A Schneider Family Book Award Honor Book
An Ezra Jack Keats Illustrator Honor Winner

Sam’s new neighbors’ hands make graceful movements she doesn’t recognize, and she wonders what they are saying. Soon she meets her new neighbor, Mai, who teaches Sam some Filipino Sign Language. Along the way, they both discover the joys of making a new friend, a best friend.
This sweet and perceptive picture book by authors Joanna Que and Charina Marquez tells the story of two girls as they learn to communicate with each other. With playful illustrations that celebrate the beautiful movements of sign language, back matter discussing sign languages around the world, and endpapers teaching all the signs used in the book, Dancing Hands conveys the shy and fumbling experience of making friends and overcoming language barriers.

Sam’s Super Seats (Age Focus: 4 – 8 Years)

A joyful picture book about a disabled girl with cerebral palsy who goes back-to-school shopping with her best friends. After a busy morning of rest, Sam and her friends try on cute outfits at the mall and imagine what the new school year might bring. It’s not until Sam feels tired, and the new seat she meets isn’t so super, that she discovers what might be her best idea all day.
Sam’s Super Seats celebrates the beauty of self-love, the power of rest, and the necessity of accessible seating in public spaces. Includes narrative description of art for those with low/limited vision.

A Day with No Words (Age Focus: 4 – 8 Years)

A colorful and engaging picture book for young readers shares what life can look like for families who use nonverbal communication, utilizing tools to embrace their unique method of “speaking.” The American Library Association Booklist starred review boasts, “The story is written from the boy’s first-person perspective — a clever choice in that it gives readers a direct look into his mind and reinforces the book’s crucial statement that nonverbal people have as many words and as much intelligence as anyone else.”

Adult’s titles

Caring for Young Children with Special Needs

This easy-to-use guide gives a quick overview on many topics related to working with young children with special needs. Learn about inclusion in early childhood programs and disability law, as well as typical vs. atypical development. The quick guide also covers several specific disabilities/special needs and provides definitions, common characteristics, and practical strategies for adaptation.

Naturally Inclusive: Engaging Children of All Abilities Outdoors

Dr. Ruth Wilson explores the great potential of connecting young children with special needs to the natural world. Drawing on her knowledge of research and her decades of work with children in nature, she weaves together advice, real-life examples, and testimonies from educators and families on the healing, nurturing power of nature in the lives of young children with diverse abilities.

Incredible Years: Helping Preschool Children with Autism (2-5 Years): Parents and Teachers as Partners

This book provides parents and teachers of children on the autism spectrum (2-5 years) with strategies for promoting children’s optimal social, emotional, language, and academic competence. The author presents a variety of nonverbal and verbal strategies to help for caregivers to choose from in order to enter in children’s attention spotlight and expand their interest and joy in relationships with others. The book includes sample adult-child social and emotion coaching scripts for interacting with children and suggestions for modeling, imitating, and prompting social behaviors and joint activities.

Loose Parts for Children with Diverse Abilities

Award-winning author and educator Miriam Beloglovsky advocates for play for play sake and invites early childhood educators and families to see children with diverse abilities’ strengths, recognize them as capable, competent and creative, and listen to their powerful voices. This book addresses the importance of play while providing appropriate accommodation to support young children with diverse abilities

Every Child Can Fly: An Early Childhood Educator’s Guide to Inclusion

Jani Kozlowski, experienced trainer and technical-assistance provider on inclusion and disability services, dispels the myths and shows that implementing high-quality inclusive practices in your program is easier than you think! Throughout Every Child Can Fly, Kozlowski explores the defining features of high-quality inclusion and shows readers how to provide access and support for children with disabilities. Learn how to help them feel included through strong family involvement, peer relationships, individualized teaching practices, collaborative teaming, ongoing evaluation, and staff professional development.

Other resources

Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports – Help Me Connect ( Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) is a flexible range of mental health and rehabilitation services for children and youth (birth – 21 years) who need varying levels of intervention services in their homes or elsewhere in the community. CTSS combines therapy with skills training to support children in reaching their appropriate developmental and social functioning levels. Individual goals are set so children and families are able to see measurable progress and services are delivered using various treatment modalities that are child/family specific. Find services in your area.

Refer a Child – Help Me Grow MN: Help Me Grow provides resources for families to understand developmental milestones and learn if there are concerns. This helps families take the lead in seeking additional support or referring their child for a comprehensive, confidential screening or evaluation at no cost.

Boundless | Rochester’s NEW Fully-Inclusive Indoor Playground ( Boundless is an incredible 40,000-square-foot facility that provides year-round indoor play, activity, and social space for kids and adults of all abilities. The indoor park is a project years in the making by local non-profit SEMCIL (SE MN Center for Independent Living, Inc). “Run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities, full inclusion, and community participation is the foundation of the work SEMCIL does.”

Your Kids Will Love These Epic Minnesota Playgrounds | Explore Minnesota: Children of all abilities will find several inclusive playgrounds around Minnesota.

Early Childhood – Learning Center – PACER Center: Through more than 30 projects, PACER provides individual assistance, workshops, publications, and other resources to help families make decisions about education and other services for their child or young adult with disabilities. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center® provides resources designed to benefit all students, including those with disabilities. Check out Pacer’s page on early childhood resources and services.

By Jennie Walker Knoot