I Am Going to the Renwick Gallery! A new Ability Guidebook for people with autism.

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It is always an awesome day when I get another Ability Guidebook finished! This February I was in Washington, D.C. to attend the NEA Foundation Gala and took the opportunity to get pictures for several books.

Many thanks to Precious Crabtree and Kristen Record. The three of us were NEA Global Fellows together in Peru and this is not the first time I’ve dragged poor Kristen off to pose for a book.

In July I have the honor of speaking at the Lincoln Memorial during the Save Our Schools rally and march and in 2017 the NNSTOY conference will be in Washington.  It is my hope by the end of these visits that I will be able to do books for all of the Smithsonian Museums!

I lament that the West Coast does not have a Smithsonian Museum, in fact, more than lament it, I protest it! The National Mall offers free museums for Native American History, African American History, the Holocaust Museum, that National Gallery and more… all free to all comers.  But all those free museums are lumped in a few acres  almost 3000 miles away from Portland.  As much as I’d like to make books for, say, the Smithsonian Museum of Northwest Culture in Portland, Oregon, I’ll hope that day comes some day and in the meantime I will create books for the Smithsonian Museums we do have.

So, without further ado:

Ability Guidebook_ I Am Going To The Renwick Gallery

Brett Bigham is the 2014 Oregon State Teacher of the Year and was awarded an NEA National Award for Teaching Excellence in 2015.

Explore Rome and Visit the Macuteo Obelisk! A New Ability Guidebook!

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Ability Guidebook_ I Am Going To The Macuteo Obelisk

It is always fun when I get a new Ability Guidebook finished! I am inspired because I have had a volunteer step forward to translate the books into Italian!  You cannot Imagine how exciting it was to get that email!  I am writing these books for Italy knowing that only a few English speaking tourists might ever need them.

But I knew that once the books were in English, if I could find someone to translate, they could then be a valuable tool for people with autism who live in, or who are visiting Rome.

My hope is that I will inspire some people in Italy to step forward and make some books of their own! Even now my friend Bill Pierce is visiting Vienna taking pictures to create some additional Ability Guidebooks. Some of Sam Sennott’s students at Portland State University chose to make a book instead of doing a final paper. These are more awesome people stepping up to help create a permanant library of supports for people with autism! (And a support for teachers who are taking their younger students on field trips to these important cultural destinations).  I am thrilled to have Bill join me in this project and the students of PSU as well!

If anyone has decent pictures of the Vatican Museum entry I sure could use them….mine turned out pretty poorly.

Brett Bigham

2014 Oregon State Teacher of the Year

2015 NEA National Award for Teaching Excellence

I Am Going To The Rose Festival!

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.

Rose Festival Ad

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!

I Am Going To The Rose Festival

I Am Going UP on the Portland Aerial Tram! Ability Guidebook

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.

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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!

I Am Going Up On The Portland Aerial Tram!

It’s Time To Visit The Supreme Court!

supremecourtpicThis 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

Ability Guidebook I Am Going To The Supreme Court

Why I Spent A Saturday Making a Map

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.

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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.

THE PANTHEON-2

An Ability Guidebook for Rome! I Am Going To The Minerveo Obelisk!

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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.

Ability Guidebook_ I Am Going To The Minerveo Obelisk!