Writing with Grace: A Journey Beyond Down Syndrome

Judy McFarlane

Writing with Grace
Editions:Paperback: $ 15.92
ISBN: 1771620250
Pages: 208

When Judy McFarlane is asked if she will help Grace, a woman with Down syndrome who dreams of becoming a famous writer, she realizes she holds deep, unacknowledged fears — that Grace will be a dull-eyed young woman who can’t read, let alone write, or that she might become agitated, even lash out. But the idea that Grace wants to be a writer, a dream McFarlane gave up when she was young, captures McFarlane. She helps Grace write her book and travels with Grace to give a copy of the book to her grandfather. Writing with Grace is the inspiring and informative story of the journey Grace and Judy have taken together. It relates the often-dark history of Down syndrome and tells a universal story of moving from a deep fear of the “other” to seeing the world through the eyes of another person. With honest introspection and keen insight, Writing with Grace delves into what it takes to face one’s own prejudice and what it means to live a full life and believe you are worthy.

Reviews: J. Kuriappilly on Amazon wrote:

Very empathic and compassionate outlook towards people with disabilities. Thought provoking and and realistic events will open your eyes and question your own self worth and how we each one can make the difference in the lives of the many who are challenged in different ways but at the same time human being just like you and me who loves to be loved and to love.

Cathryn Wellner on Goodreads wrote:

Judy McFarlane's honesty, combined with good writing, kicks this up to five stars for me. I have felt that same quandary, unsure how to keep from putting my foot in my mouth when I mean to be friendly and open. When asked to work with Grace, a young woman who aches to become a famous writer and who has Down syndrome, McFarlane faces her own demons.

The result of her decision to say yes is this wonderful book, a memoir that explores the broader issues of not only Down syndrome but also of being a society that truly embraces what everyone brings to the human rainbow. My mind feels larger for having read it.

Posted in

Wrap Your Heart Around It: A Memoir About Learning to Love the Life You Have

LynnMarie Rink

Wrap Your Heart Around It
Editions:Kindle: $ 9.99Paperback: $ 11.21
ISBN: 1618688480
Pages: 192

Grammy-nominated artist and television professional LynnMarie Rink spent her whole life running from the one thing that could save her–herself.

When TV production professional and Grammy-nominated artist LynnMarie Rink and her husband finally decided to start a family, her worst fears were realized when the doctor told them their baby would be born with Down syndrome.  With humor and untamed honesty, Wrap Your Heart Around It is a memoir revealing LynnMarie’s unique take on some heavy topics like depression, Down syndrome and co-dependency. She shares her belief that we are all special needs adults and that we all have wounds and behaviors that can either hinder or help us. LynnMarie’s strength and conviction shows the reader that they too can discover what keeps them stuck in their destructive patterns, understand why they feel they can’t get let go of fear and hurt and move forward in their own lives, how they can untangle their messes, and live in the now.

Reviews: Hanna Sturwold on Amazon wrote:

A powerful and truthful look on life. While reading, I couldn't help but connect to countless experiences that Lynn has gone through. While writing, her humble honesty shines through as she reveals her true feelings, emotions, and experiences. Because of this, readers are able to connect with her. This is the power that successful storytelling holds. It takes a strong person to be able to share her life, her imperfections, perfections, and wrong-doings and right-doings of people who have entered her life. Truly beautiful. A must read.

Becky on Goodreads wrote:

raw, truthful, and witty.

Posted in

Wonderfully Made: A Memoir Of Unexpected Joy

Sabrina Moyer

Wonderfully Made
ISBN: 1492902047
Pages: 172

The last thing I thought about when I was expecting was special needs. The last thing I accepted after my youngest was born was that he had Down syndrome. In the months that followed, the last thing I wanted to do was accept the bleak outlook that he had been so innocently born into. I rejected the medical literature that prepared me for a lifetime of endless suffering and heartache and I searched high and low for the testimonials, the happy endings, and the inspiring true stories of other parents who had been down this same road. This is a story about my journey.

Reviews:C A Stancombe on Amazon wrote:

As the younger sister of a wonderfully made person, thank you! I cannot tell you how much your memoir meant to me. We lost my sister last year at 47 1/2 years. My parents were told she wouldn't live to 2, then she wouldn't go to school, then she wouldn't graduate, then she wouldn't hold a job. She surpassed all of those "won'ts, can'ts, and couldn'ts, wouldn'ts". Just thank you so much for sharing your love and joy.

Janine on Goodreads wrote:

While the author made some good points, I didn't think this book was particularly well written. The author many times referred to her son as special needs. No child is special needs, the child is a child. It's a hot button for me...

Posted in

Windows Into Heaven – Stories Celebrating Down Syndrome

Stacy Tetschner, Michelle Tetschner

Windows Into Heaven
Editions:Paperback: $ 14.95
ISBN: 0615221238
Pages: 140

Windows Into Heaven brings the stories of 30 different families that have been blessed by having someone with Down syndrome in their lives together to celebrate their amazing experiences. These stories give the reader positive insight into what someone with an extra chromosome can bring into their life, whether that reader be a new/expecting parent of a child with Down syndrome, someone seeking additional insight into Down syndrome all that Down syndrome is, or a person that is simply looking for uplifting and inspirational stories. Though children and adults with Down syndrome have intellectual disabilities, this books highlights the endless joys and possibilities they bring to the lives they touch.

Reviews: Scott Halford on Amazon wrote:

I know an OB/GYN who gives this book to all of his patients who have a Downs baby. His stories (told in generic terms because of confidentiality!) are ones where mom and dad go from sorrow and despair to hope and acceptance; even to sheer joy - and the book is a huge ingredient of moving them to that. If you or someone you know is touched by the beauty of a Downs baby, this is the book you give. This is the window into that world that we would all be so lucky to be touched by.

Tiffany J. on Amazon wrote:

I just started reading this book today and I am already almost done. I love everything about this book. I found myself crying tears of joy. It also helped me to realize how special I am that God chose me to be Raymond’s (the son of the authors) teacher. I would definitely recommend this book for parents, teachers, siblings, friends, therapists, doctors, etc.

Posted in

WILingness: How My Son’s Little Extra in Life Changed Everything

Christie Taylor

Editions:Kindle: $ 2.99
Pages: 132

My son, Wil, was born with something extra special; an extra copy of his 21st chromosome. In other words Wil has Trisomy 21, the most common type of Down syndrome.

When I first received the news that my newly born baby's tiny body carried this extra special chromosome, I didn't feel as if something was given to him, I felt as if something was taken away.

I was surrounded by sympathetic looks in my birthing room and handed folders full of definitions, statistics and new doctors. This information was meant to be helpful, yet felt completely overwhelming at the time.

Soon a social worker walked into my hospital birthing room with yet another folder. A royal blue folder. She didn't hand it to me, though. Rather she held it up for me to see the front cover. A close-up picture of a blond girl, approximately five years old, with large bright, blue eyes stared at me. She was breathtaking. The almond shape of this little girl's eyes told me she had Down syndrome.

"Isn't she beautiful?" The social worker asked me gently. I nodded my head yes as tears stung my eyes and spilled down my cheeks.

The little girl on the folder was not a number or a statistic. She was a girl with blond hair and blue eyes who also happened to have Down syndrome.

The folder full of statistics and doctors' numbers were very helpful and have been well-used over time. Yet first and foremost, my child is a boy. A lively, blond-haired blue-eyed boy.

A boy that plays soccer, basketball and baseball. A boy who loves to sing. A boy whose favorite ice cream is a vanilla shake and would eat hot dogs all day if I let him. A boy who both adores and antagonizes his older twin sisters, who both adore and antagonize him back. And, he also happens to have Down syndrome.

The stories in this book are meant to bring that blond-haired blue-eyed boy up close and personal to you. So you may see the boy in front of the statistics. The boy who happens to have a little extra chromosome than you and me. His little extra has made this world a better place. It's quite extra-ordinary, actually.

Posted in

Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith

Jeffrey M. Gallagher

Wilderness Blessings
Editions:Paperback: $ 9.99
ISBN: 0827243081
Pages: 206

From the emotional and poignant blog entries posted during his son Jacob's uncertain birth, trying surgeries, and first year of living with Down syndrome, author and pastor Jeffrey M. Gallagher reflects honestly and candidly on disability theology, God's place in tragedy and hardship, how the church welcomes (or not) people with differing abilities, and the joys-the wilderness blessings-that Jacob's life has given him.
Appealing to pastors, people of faith, readers interested in disability theology, parents and family members of those who are differently-abled, those who are interested in issues of inclusivity and acceptance, and those who struggle with understanding how God speaks and where God moves during difficult times, Wilderness Blessings: How Down Syndrome Reconstructed Our Life and Faith is a unique book that gives a pastoral and parental perspective into the reformation of a life and faith that have been blessed by the addition of a child with Down syndrome. After reading this book you may look at life and blessings from God in a new way.

Reviews:Kimberly Ripley on Amazon wrote:

As the grandmother of a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome, I eagerly read this book, assuming I would find some parallels between the author and me. What I found instead was a rekindling of my lapsed faith, and a deep respect for Jeff Gallagher as a writer, a pastor and a father. Those were bonuses, of course, to the exquisitely written account of his and his wife's lives before and after the birth of their precious Jacob.

The journal (blog) excerpts combined with narration make this a work of art. The raw human emotion exuded on every page are akin to a storytelling. I didn't feel like I was reading words. The narration came alive, and I felt like I knew this family and was part of their at-times harrowing ordeals. That's the mark of a brilliant writer.

This is a book for everyone to read. It isn't limited to those with a loved one with Down syndrome or other disability. This book awakens the human spirit and soothes the soul. I hope as Jacob grows this author will keep readers apprised of their lives as a family.

Della O'Shea on Goodreads wrote:

While this book is filled with insights by a pastor who never fails to inspire each Sunday, the following words from page 94 were especially meaningful to me:
'Well for me, prayers do not have to be in words, though they can be; they do not have to be in silence, though they can be that too; they certainly don't have to be well thought out and articulated; they don't even have to be understood by the person doing the praying (in fact, sometimes I think the best aren't). Prayer, really, is a state of mind. It is, as the Jewish authorAbraham Joshua Herschel writes: "an invitation to God to intervene in our lives...the opening of a window to [God] in our will'."
This is a comfort to one whose mind begins buzzing as I sit in church and hear the words, "Let us pray...." I imagine everyone around me being focused and intent as they silently talk to God, while my doubting mind simply wanders or fiercely erupts with questions "Is there a God? What does that mean? What should I say as a prayer?" When I put all the questions aside, I do recognize that unseen, positive interventions have occurred in my life more than a few times. I used to be fond of saying, "Oh I just fell into this [or that]" but now I believe that a guiding force has been, and is still, at work in my life, allowing me to receive what some would call grace. I also recognize that this happens when my state of mind is open like a window allowing a bright breeze to enter. If this, as noted above, can be called prayer, then I guess I'm not such a stranger to giving and receiving prayers.

Posted in

Why Not Them?

Lloyd M. Lewis

Why Not Them
Editions:Kindle: $ 3.99Paperback: $ 2.51
ISBN: 1947841602
Pages: 180

Lloyd Lewis's account of personal transformation and how he revolutionized a company by employing persons with disablities has a postive message that heals and inspires. More than just a story of personal triumph, or trials of a father and his son born with Down syndrome, its about the commitment to a dream, a community, and to advocacy for those in need.

Reviews:Domestic I. on Amazon wrote:

What an incredible story of a father's love for his child as he has a son with down syndrome and he realized there is nothing wrong with him and it is the world that is backward. The work he does to make things right for his son and others like his son is truly inspiring. I loved this book.

Mark on Goodreads wrote:

I try to read outside my normal go-to genre fiction categories several times a year just to feel the pulse of what else is out there, including what’s new in nonfiction. Lloyd M. Lewis’s book is definitely nonfiction and definitely outside my comfort zone, but once I started it, it was hard to put down.

It didn’t hurt that one of my favorite authors Corinne Joy Brown, “ghost wrote” the story. (Check out her own Hidden Star, an historically-based fiction about the camouflaged identities of refugee Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the colonial American Southwest.)

The focus of this book is the world of Down syndrome (DS) families and the trend to integrate DS individuals into the mainstream. Author Lewis tells a very personal story, starting with the birth of his own son with DS, also known as Trisomy 21 (so called because the condition is the result of an extra or sometimes partial third copy of chromosome 21), and the transformative journey he takes alongside his son.

It’s not always an easy read, but it’s never maudlin, and the journey reaches an (ongoing) triumph that’s satisfying.
It’s also educational for an era when inclusivity is a growing part of our cultural awareness. For example, I didn’t realize that one in 800 persons are born with the condition. At least passingly, chances are we all know someone from a family with a DS relative. But Lewis is not your average family member.

With a longtime professional background as a corporate financial analyst, Lewis put his skills to work by rising from consultant to CEO of a Colorado-based chain of thrift stores with the mission of providing employment to a high percentage of physically and mentally challenged individuals.

This book follows Lewis’s own journey alongside his son’s, and the father’s growing commitment to mainstream others besides his son into work environments that are holistic.

As a result, the book includes many vignettes on others in the thrift chain – both employees and dedicated managers – and along the way does an impressive job of personalizing this so-often overlooked segment of the population and their struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives.

I recommend the book. It’s an uplifting read even as it challenges readers to reassess what they thought they knew about those born with DS. Their spirit and their personalities may just surprise you.

Posted in

Why Me?: A Woman’s Search for Healing

Why me

Why me
Editions:Paperback: $ 24.00
ISBN: 0962788805
Pages: 207

Why Me is a moving account of a mother's unfolding awareness that turned what to many would appear a major tragedy - a son born with special needs - into her greates blessing, enabling her to give and receive unconditional love.

Posted in

Who’s the Slow Learner?: A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion

Sandra Assimotos McElwee

Whos the Slow Learner 1
Editions:Kindle: $ 9.99Paperback: $ 17.95
ISBN: 1478725907
Pages: 336

Sean McElwee was born with Down syndrome, and entered his neighborhood school as a general education kindergarten student with the supports, accommodations and modifications he needed to be successful. He was included in all aspects of his elementary school; learned to read, excelled in math, performed in Talent Shows and most of all made many friends. Elementary school was such a wonderful learning and nurturing experience—then the horrors of Secondary school began—and sadly never ended. Struggling to be included where the students were welcoming but the educational staff was ignorant of Inclusive Best Practices and unwilling to learn, Sean survived. High school educators limited his ability to participate by violating his Civil Rights multiple times; denying access to electives, sports and elections. Sean’s mother learned laws she never thought she needed to know, and tried teamwork, diplomacy, and finally became punitive with Compliance and Civil Rights Complaints. Who’s the Slow Learner includes creative examples of accommodations and modifications. Education Law unfolds in their story revealing the hard lesson that while Inclusive Education is the law, you cannot legislate attitudes. This is the first book that chronicles a student with special educational needs from preschool to high school graduation. It is a story of triumphs and successes; losses and failures. Not a “how to” book but the chronicle of “how they did it” as Inclusion pioneers forging the way. Written in the hopes that parents and educators can learn from the achievements and errors made on both sides.

Reviews: Kathy Mercado on Amazon wrote:

Excellent book—Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. Sandra McElwee has chronicled the life of her Down syndrome son, Sean, in a way that will guide and give understanding to parents and educators alike. She uses humor, grace, and perseverance to tell this true story of the struggle to have her son educated in a mainstream classroom. Through her experience she helps to educate readers on how to handle situations that can happen every day. It shows that being an advocate for your special needs child is never dull and keeps you on your toes. Also, her record keeping is amazing, and a guide for all parents with children that have IEP’s. I highly recommend this book for everyone. It makes for good reading for anyone. Who's the Slow Learner?, offers stories and accounts that give a much-needed understanding to the special needs child.

Ame on Goodreads wrote:

This "Down Syndrome Parenting" kind of memoir is more my style than the usual "pity me, why is my child different?" book that is typically written when the child in question is barely 2 years old (f*** those parents, by the way). Sandra McElwee opts to include Sean's IEP information for EVERY year of school from Kindergarten through High School, which is immensely helpful information. There are entirely too many inspirational quotes in this text, and it displays a few self-published elements, but the content is still invaluable to me. Rather than try to memorize the information year-by-year, I'm hoping to have this as a back-up tool as my own son progresses through the public school education system.

Posted in

Who’s The Slow Learner? Adventures In Independence

Sandra Assimotos McElwee

Whos The Slow Learner
Editions:Kindle: $ 8.99Paperback: $ 23.87

Sean McElwee has lived a rich extracurricular life. As a student, he played every sport offered, joined Cub Scouts, attended dances, and even dated a celebrity. Sean, who has Down syndrome, functions according to a combination of the “it’s easier to gain forgiveness than permission” principle and the Nike tag line, “Just Do It!” Who’s the Slow Learner? Adventures in Independence offers a series of poignant and often hilarious anecdotes about Sean and his parents as they support and facilitate Sean’s life skills education at home through extracurricular activities. Follow along as he learns housekeeping skills and money management and moves on through his transition program and community college classes. Sean’s antics will keep you smiling, while others may scare you as he exerts his independence—at times without his parents’ knowledge or permission. Riding the bus, creative spending sprees, dating, moving into a supported living apartment and back home, and obtaining his first paid job—these stories will both entertain and inspire. In this triumphant sequel to Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion, we follow Sean’s journey to independent adulthood as his parents give him more freedom and responsibility while learning what he is truly capable of achieving.

Reviews: J. Atkinson on Amazon wrote:

Part 2 of the series is just as entertaining and informative as the first book. Sean is a little older than my son, so some parts are fun to read and compare to our journey and some give me a glimpse into the future, as they share a lot of similar interests. Thanks for another winner Sandra!

Posted in