Are you a teacher or a parent looking for a resource to help foster understanding and acceptance of children with disabilities? Special Needs Book Review recommends a lovely children’s book written by a mother and daughter team. My Friend Suhana: A Story of Friendship and Cerebral Palsy by Shaila Abdullah and Aanyah Abdullah is a juvenile fiction book for kids ages 6-8. The team behind this book has to be congratulated not only on their wonderful book but also for their eye-catching and informative web site.
At the end of this post, we have updated it with two other children’s books Shaila Abdullah has written and illustrated since this first one. Read also our Review of A Manual for Marco: Living, Learning, and Laughing With an Autistic Sibling by Shaila Abdullah
Guest Post by Shaila Abdullah
Children’s Book on Friendships and Cerebral Palsy
My Friend Suhana
by Shaila Abdullah and Aanyah Abdullah
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be trapped in a body that refuses to follow the commands of your mind? Now imagine a 7 year old in that situation. In the child’s medical file, a single label sets the course of her life: cerebral palsy. Sitting in a wheelchair, she waits on the sidelines at recess. Around her, there is the sound of life being lived to the fullest––kids chasing each other, running, swinging high in the air, playing hopscotch!
Except for her! Her arms twitch. Yearning to connect, to reach out to another.
A child walks up to her and takes her hand in her hand. Her new friend kneels down and starts talking to her. Engages her in nonverbal play. Draws a face in the dirt with a stick! Laughs. The girl in wheelchair gets excited. She wants to smile but she can’t.
Her friend smiles for her.
I am happy to introduce you to my latest children’s book, My Friend Suhana, coauthored with my 10-year old daughter Aanyah Abdullah. It is a story about a little girl who forms a close bond with a girl who has cerebral palsy. The little girl finds that through her art, she can reach her special friend Suhana. My Friend Suhana is targeted for children ages 6-8 years. The illustrations were also created by me, with Aanyah serving as a creative director.
My daughter, Aanyah, is the inspiration behind this project. Back in 2011, when she was barely 7, she wrote an essay in class about her friendship with a non-communicative girl with cerebral palsy. The essay touched me deeply, as did the friendship between the two girls. Art, I observed, played a major role in strengthening their bond.
Around the same time, I noticed an alarming gap in children’s literature dealing with disability, especially those that encouraged friendships between mainstream children and children with special needs. I felt that a book like My Friend Suhana would be instrumental in providing tips and tools for both children and parents of special needs children who often find it hard to explain their children’s disability to other children.
Hailed as “Highly recommended for anyone in the position of mentoring a beloved child through the hard places of life” by critics, My Friend Suhana celebrates special friendships and ways of reaching children with disabilities. Dawn Cruzan, president of Camp Craig Allen for all abilities lauded My Friend Suhana for its message of respect, friendship, and support. “As a leader in advocating for the ‘most overlooked’ disabilities, which sometimes include nonverbal communication, this was outstanding in providing these differences,” she said.
My hope is that by reading this book, children would feel equipped to connect and bond with children with disabilities. Not all friendships need words to be perfect. Some are connections of the heart!
Excerpt of Children’s Book on Friendships and Cerebral Palsy – My Friend Suhana by Shaila Abdullah and Aanyah Abdullah
My friend Suhana is like no other girl I know.
She does not answer when I call her. She does not play tag or hopscotch with me, and she does not ride a bike. We have never had a play date.
But for one hour each week I get a chance to rock her in my arms and imagine that she is my special friend!
Suhana and I see each other at the community center where Mom and I help out at a special needs class. Suhana has cerebral palsy, which makes it tough for her to move and learn like other children.
And although she cannot stand, walk, talk, or play, I love her all the same!
Shaila Abdullah is an author and designer based in Austin, Texas. She is the author of two books: Saffron Dreams and Beyond the Cayenne Wall. The author has received several awards for her work including the Golden Quill Award, Norumbega Jury Prize for Outstanding Fiction, Patras Bukhari Award for English Language, Reader Views Award, Written Art Award, and a grant from Hobson Foundation. Several academic institutions have adopted her books as course study or recommended reading, including the University of California, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Indiana University, Boston University, California State University, and George Washington University.
Aanyah Abdullah is a creative and compassionate 10-year-old, who is drawn to children born with physical and mental disabilities. When she was in second grade, Aanyah along with her mother Shaila, started volunteering out at a local community center where they helped assist special needs children. Later Aanyah wrote an essay about her friendship with a girl in the class who had cerebral palsy. That essay is the inspiration behind My Friend Suhana. Aanyah dreams of establishing a special school for children with disabilities one day.
- Facebook Shaila-Abdullah-Author
- Twitter: @ShailaAbdullah
- Goodreads: Author, Shaila M Abdullah
- Web site Shaila Abdullah
- Web site My Friend Suhana
- Review of A Manual for Marco: Living, Learning, and Laughing With an Autistic Sibling by Shaila Abdullah
- A Manual for Marco: Living, Learning, and Laughing With an Autistic Sibling –February 2015 Amazon.com Amazon.ca
- Rani in Search of a Rainbow: A Natural Disaster Survival Tale – November 1, 2014 Amazon.com Amazon.ca