Book Review: "How Katie Got a Voice"
by Joleen Fernald, MA, CCC-SLP
Pat Mervine’s book, How Katie Got a Voice is a treasure in many ways. Katie is a new student at an elementary school where everyone has a nickname based on their gifts and strengths. Katie, whose disability is not specifically named, uses a wheelchair for mobility and is unable to speak. Therefore her peers, who want to include her by giving her a nickname, are unable to determine Katie’s affinities and are stuck in a quandary as to what to do.
“How Katie Got a Voice” has many purposes including as a teaching tool for children and adults alike. As a way of educating about the value of accepting others who are different and explaining self-determination and advocacy from a disability rights perspective, this book is a marvelous resource. A discussion guide is available on www.patmervine.com, along with a Reader’s Theater version of the book, Katie’s Disability Etiquette video, and other instructional materials.
The book is written for children in upper elementary grades (grades 3 – 6). There is a lot of writing on each page, which would be difficult for younger readers. I read the book with my two daughters, ages 12 and 10. The anticipation of Katie’s nickname built as we read each page. They asked wonderful questions about Katie throughout the story and seemed to enjoy the discussion about respecting those with differences at the end of the book. As a speech language pathologist, I can see using this book to help others learn about children with communication disorders.
As a speech language pathologist I sympathized with Katie that she is in fourth grade before “receiving her voice” (i.e. augmentative communication device). This situation is all too familiar and though this story is fiction, many children and families find that access to AAC is delayed for a multitude of reasons. Ultimately, the purpose of the book is to help foster a sense of acceptance and belonging, which the story does well. It’s a great addition to any speech and language pathologist, educator, or parent’s library.
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Featured Book Reviewer: Joleen Fernald, PhD, CCC-SLP
Joleen Fernald, CCC-SLP has a PhD in infant mental health and developmental disabilities with the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders founded by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. She has a special interest in the social emotional development of young children. As a speech-language pathologist, Joleen works with children with a variety of communication disorders. She has partnered with Easter Seals NH to begin an assessment and treatment clinic specifically for selective mutism, a social communication anxiety disorder and is the immediate past Chair of the Selective Mutism Group, a non-profit organization specializing in the advocacy of Selective Mutism awareness. Joleen enjoys public speaking and has presented nationally on the topics of childhood apraxia of speech and selective mutism. To learn more about Selective Mutism visit the SMG website at :www.selectivemutism.org. To learn more about Joleen and her work, please visit her website at: Joleen Fernald.com
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