Three years ago I contacted the Rose Festival to suggest to them that they create some events that were more accessible to people with special needs. Because I work so much with people with autism I knew that there were quite a few people who were never able to visit Cityfair at Waterfront Park. With the combinations of crowds, noise, music and carnival rides it was more than some of my students could handle.
The Rose Festival has been awesome and for three years they have opened early one day during the weekend and allowed visitors free entry to the Walk on the Wild Side Animal Safari and the Kidzone. This finally allowed people with sensory issues a chance to visit the lions, skunks, lizards and snakes without any noise or crowds. I never dreamed the Rose Festival would be so amazing and every year is better. This year they are doubling the amount of time for the special needs day.
June 3 from 9-11 there is free entry to Cityfair for people with special needs and their families. Come see the animals and then walk around the carnival area. At eleven the rides will start running so maybe you can stay and try a ride or two!!
Below is a link to an Ablity Guidebook on how to attend the event. Print it out or pull it up on your phone. We look forward to seeing you at the animal safari!
In the following months I will be sharing fun ideas for parents and teachers to use inspire their students both in the classroom and at home.
I’m thrilled to be able to start posting the original sets of Ability Guidebooks focused on my home city of Portland. This was the beginning of the whole project and where they saw their first amazing successes helping people who had difficulties getting out into public.
I have partnered up with Portland State University to have students make more books for our community. I’ll be sure to let you know when the student written books are up online!
But for today, I’m proud to say, we are going UP on the Portland Aerial Tram!
This book is all about perseverance! In 2014 Mike and I were in D.C. for the White House Honoring Ceremony. It was an amazing week and we took every spare minute to meet with elected officials during the visit. We had a few minutes in between meeting Senator Merkley and Senator Baldwin and we decided we had time to make a book!
It was pouring down rain as we ran from the Hart Senate Building to the Supreme Court. There was over four inches of standing water in the street! We splashed through, raced into the Supreme Court and quickly squished our way throught the building taking pictures as fast as I could.
Needless to say, the pictures turned out pretty terrible and I didn’t have the shots I needed to make a book.
Nine months later I was awarded the NEA National Award for Teaching Excellence and Mike and I found ourselves back in D.C. I had my chance to get those pictures I needed to complete a Supreme Court Ability Guidebook! Again, the weather was none to cooperative. February snows kept us from our photo mission.
Last October I had the honor of being part of Kevin Jennings book tour for his book “One Teacher In Ten In the New Millennium.” He had accepted my essay “Teacher of the Year” for publication and I was able to travel to D.C. and L.A. for book readings. During that trip I was finally able to get the last pictures I needed at the Supreme Court.
So, finally, at last, with great happiness I present
When I write an Ability Guidebook I do my best to take all of my own pictures. But the one thing I am always lacking is maps. Most maps are copyrighted and the ones that have been generously shared online, often don’t have the information I need.
Maps are an important way for people with autism to get an idea of where they are going on an upcoming journey. I know my books are better when they contain a map.
In April I needed a map of the Acropolis and found several online maps that I could publish, but, oddly enough, none of them had the restrooms marked on them. They were a mix of ancient architecture and modern viewpoints but they lacked the information my book needed. I could have doctored up somebody else’s map but that didn’t seem right. And so I spent a Saturday creating a map of the Acropolis.
Now I’m the first to acknowledge I am not a graphic artist. But sometimes need pushes us to work outside of our comfort zone. I needed a map with dark bold lines (for our friend’s with visual issues) that was simple in that it contained only the necessary information. That map didn’t exist and so now it does.
That last sentence is important to me. “That map didn’t exist and so now it does.” That is how I feel about my books. They are supports for people with autism and other neuro-diverse people. Some of those people need a support like this to get out into the world. That support didn’t exist so now it does.
What I’m doing didn’t exist so now it does.
That’s how I’m contributing. That’s how I’m leaving a mark. I’m setting an example, doing some of the work and trying to inspire others to jump in and contribute. This week Dr. Florian Sohn translated “I Am Going to the Parthenon” into German. That support didn’t exist for German speakers so now it does.
And that is why I spent a Saturday drawing a map of the Acropolis. That’s why I spent this Saturday drawing a map of the Pantheon. That’s why I will probably spend next Saturday drawing a map of the Roman Forum. Because I want change and I’m willing to work to make it happen.
This is a very simple Guidebook on how to visit the Minerveo Obelisk near the Pantheon in Rome. Most tourists would visit the Pantheon and then wander by the Piazza della Minerva to see Bernini’s elephant with the ancient Egyptian Minerveo Obelisk mounted on top. For our tourists with autism (or Italian kids on a field trip) they might need a more simple outing for the first attempt.
The trip to see the Pantheon and the trip to see the Minerveo Obelisk are the same. The obelisk, however, can be seen without entering a building and without too much difficulty. The visit can be done in a taxi to simplify it even more if the need be. If the visit to the Minerveo goes well, the next visit could be to the Macuteo Obelisk or to the Pantheon itself. Once the stress of the trip is out of the way, each additional trip becomes easier and easier.
This is a very exciting day today! My dear friend Dr. Florian Sohn of Passau, Germany has translated “I Am Going To The Parthenon!” into German!!! I have known Florian since 1990. I had just been robbed and was having a meltdown in the Copenhagen train station. This young West German from Passau helped me calm down and we’ve been friends ever since.
Florian is no longer a 19 year-old West German, he’s now a something-something year-old German Doctor who flies a plane and still has a heart of gold.
Florian has opened some doors for people in Germany who have autism. These books have a single purpose. Open a door for somebody. Help them get out into the real world. I’ve seen estimations that there are over 200,000 people with autism within the three major German-speaking countries (Switzerland, Austria and Germany). That means there are 200,000 families who dream of vacations and visiting amazing places like the Parthenon. Add those to the 800,000 people in English-speaking countries who have autism and think of their family vacations. Why can’t the Parthenon be within their grasp?
In a perfect world the airports would all have a book, and the metro would have a book and there would be supports like this for every step of the way. But this is the start. There is a book for the Portland International Airport http://www.mrbsclassroom.com/uncategorized/39/ so I am doing what I can.
And today, with Dr Florian’s help, we’ve Start den Ball ins Rollen. (See, I can speak German when I need to!)
One of things I believe most firmly in is that our kids with special needs have got to get out into the real world and participate more. I realized with my own students that some people need different supports than others. Some of my students with autism needed to know in advance what was going to happen. If they knew in advance where they were going and what was expected of them, then they were successful. That is why I created these Ability Guidebooks.
But not every person with autism is the same and no two outings are the same. Sometimes a teacher or parent needs to try some smaller, easier outings to get the ball rolling. That is why I sometimes make Guidebooks for outings that are hardly more than driving by in the car. “I Am Going To Willamette Falls”, for instance, is not much more than an explaination on how to safely get out of your car at the viewpoint to look at the falls. Visiting Portlandia is similar.
This Guidebook to visit the Arch of Constantine is one of those low-impact outings. You could read this book and drive by the Arch for your first attempt, the second you could get out and take a picture from the road and on a third you can park and take a walk around the Arch. The goal is a successful visit. That might take a few attempts with some people. But each visit is a step in the right direction and one victory gives you a foundation to build on.
The next outing, say to the Colisseum, would build on the skills learned from the first book. First, the student understands the formula (first the book, then a visit) and each outing following that formula will become easier and easier. With each success the student has learned that they can go new places. Each new place is a victory and the stepping stone to the next destination. As their confidence grows, the needs for the books diminishes. Before you know it, going places is as simple as getting in the car.
I am very please to announce, “I Am Going to the Arch of Constantine!”
If you speak Italian (or any other language and can translate, I’d love to hear from you!)
It is my hope that people who speak other languages will step up and translate some of the books into their own language. This book, for instance, may be of great assistance to an English speaker with autism who is visiting the Pantheon. I know that only a handful of people might need such a support. But I am more than happy to make this for a handful of people. In my classroom I was making these for one person in particular at first. I saw how much it changed their world and so I am willing to keep creating the books in the hopes that it will open up someone’s world. I want there to be a tourist, somewhere, who needs this book.
But, honestly, what I am truly hoping to do is inspire others. I’m hoping and Italian speaker will see this and translate it. THEN we have a whole different audience. In Italian this book becomes and opportunity for every person with autism in Italy. This book might mean the difference of some kid who is neuro-diverse getting to go on a field trip with the rest of his class. In Italian, this book can be a tool for every kindergarten or first grade teacher taking their class to the Pantheon.
And then if we ad German and Dutch, French and maybe Hungarian, then we are opening up a world. And those translators might be enlightened and encouraged to create their own books for their own city’s. My friend Florian from Passau is translating some now into German. Mike has translated several into Spanish. There are now books for Oregon and Washington, D.C., Peru, Italy and Greece.
I’m trying to make the world a bigger place for people with autism. I think it is working!Ability Guidebook_ I Am Going To The Pantheon!