Danielle Levine attends Meadow Oaks, a school for "high-potential students with learning disabilities". In addition to chronicling her senior year in OCD, the Dude, and Me—a year that includes required participation in a social skills class, an introduction to the community and culture surrounding The Big Lebowski, and a new friendship that helps her begin to re-enter the world—Danielle includes her correspondence with her English teacher and her school therapist, both of whom end up being hugely helpful, and hugely awesome.
So it's fitting that for this guest post, author Lauren Roedy Vaughn chose to write about her favorite mentors in literature. Take it away, Lauren!
Dr. Robert Brooks is a clinical psychologist serving on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. He’s written many helpful books, and he lectures worldwide. He speaks often about the powerful role of “the charismatic adult,” (a caring mentor) who provides invaluable support. According to Dr. Brooks, nurturing mentors help struggling young people “gather strength.” In my book OCD, The Dude, and Me, Danielle Levine transforms, in great part, because of the presence of charismatic adults. I’d like to present a few of my favorite reads that offer characters whose lives are enriched or could have been enriched from such mentors. Stories of this nature inspire us to show up for the kids in our lives and affirm that the time and energy we give to them matters in the richest terms.
Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine
Caitlin Smith is a young girl with Aspergers; she sees the world in rigid, black and white terms, but that doesn’t protect her from the discomfort of loss. Faced with the challenge of trying to process her brother’s violent death, Caitlin needed guidance. Thank goodness Ms. Erskine wrote into being a loving father and a skilled school counselor who could serve that role well. They provide Caitlin with the closure she insightfully seeks.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda Sordino is unable to verbalize the trauma of being raped, and she retreats from the world and suffers outcast status. Her sensitive art teacher, Mr. Freeman, assigns a project through which she is able to find her voice and heal. Thank goodness for Mr. Freeman’s vision. His lesson plan was life changing. A powerful story told with authenticity.
There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, by Louis Sachar
The opening of this touching story reads, “Bradley Chalkers sat at his desk in the back of the room—last seat, last row. No one sat at the desk next to him or at the one in front of him. He was an island.” As a special education teacher, I was hooked from the get go. I think I said aloud, “Oh, someone please help Bradley Chalkers!” Luckily, someone does. The newly hired and controversial school counselor, Carla Davis, connects with Bradley and teaches him that he is not the monster he thinks he is. Through the tears, I cheered a lot during this read.
Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X Stork
I love a good story about a hero who is helped along the way. This book fits the bill. Marcelo Sandoval is seventeen and is described as having "a cognitive disorder." His father believes he needs to spend some time "in the real world," so Marcelo goes to work at his father’s law firm for the summer. Marcelo learns that "the real world" is complicated and fraught with hypocrisy. Through the support of Jasmine, his supervisor in the mailroom, Marcelo finds the strength to make a difficult moral choice. I’m so glad you weren’t alone while facing a moral crisis, Marcelo!
The Miracle Worker, by William Gibson
Perhaps the most iconic of charismatic adult stories. God bless the genius of Annie Sullivan. She gave Hellen Keller to herself and to the world.
Mr. Frumble's Worst Day Ever, by Richard Scarry
Mr. Frumbles suffers from a classic case of undiagnosed ADHD, and I worried about him (with good reason) throughout his entire day in this well illustrated story. Mr. Frumbles, the poor pig, did not have a moment’s peace from the time he woke up and put his bathrobe on backwards until he made it home in the evening and flooded his house while preparing for his bath. If Mr. Frumbles procures a life coach or a loving someone who can help him strategize and plan for his daily events, he may not have to end another day by saying, “This has been a really bad day!” I hope so. Poor, Mr. Frumbles. I’ve known lots of students who could relate to his mishaps.
The Stranger, by Albert Camus
This is a well-known and well-studied book in many languages. Recently, I reread this painful tale, and I kept thinking, “Meursault is on the autism spectrum. He is being dangerously misunderstood. A psychologist or special educator could explain, to him and to all involved, why his reactions seem out of place.” My heart broke page after page. The lack of a charismatic adult in Meursault’s life was literally a matter of life or death!