Living with Physical and Mental Disabilities
A primary value of literature is that it provides readers with experiences which, although not always ideal, help them understand their own lives and the world around them. Contemporary realistic fiction may not always present “the best” people or places but, in effective and well-written young adult realistic fiction, the stories are presented in nonsensationalized, realistic terms.
In realistic fiction novels, a number of characters must deal with disabling conditions. For example, in the classic Deenie (Blume, 1973), Deenie wears a back brace. Likewise, Mandy is blinded in an automobile accident in The Window (Ingold, 1996); and Joey Pigza faces the devastating effects of learning disabilities such as attention deficit disorder in a series of books by Jack Gantos. Young adults face the challenges of cerebral palsy in Ronald Koertge’s Stoner and Spaz (2002) and in Terry Trueman’s Stuck in Neutral (2001). In a classic work for mature readers, a crippling automobile accident forces star athlete Willie Weaver to leave his family and friends to rebuild his shattered life in Chris Crutcher’s The Crazy Horse Electric Game (1987). Some characters must deal, not with their own disabling conditions, but with disabilities in their families. In Norma Fox Mazer’s When She Was Good (1997), Em is finally liberated from years of torment by her mentally ill older sister.
In contrast to Em, some young adults must face their own mental illness including serious problems of depression. Carrie, in the classic The Language of Goldfish (Oneal, 1980), experiences emotional and mental illness; while Dani in The Game (Toten, 2001) must deal with a number of problems including physical abuse, a dysfunctional family, and a psychological struggle for her own survival. In Terry Trueman’s Inside Out (2003), readers see the torment in Zach’s life as a schizophrenic when he is taken hostage during a failed robbery attempt. After being directed to see a court-appointed psychologist following her friend Aimee’s suicide, Zoe learns to cope with her own depression, guilt, loneliness, and anger in Mary Beth Miller’s Aimee (2002).
© ______ 2006, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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