Itsy, the Titanium woman in Evil Speaks, is chinked in battle—even her hair.

Raj says, “I’m chinked too,” and reveals the purple dagger-shaped birthmark running down the side of her face.

Benny adds, “We’re all chinked.”

My own “real life” heroes are not superstars. They are people who overcome tremendous real life obstacle. Their stories are below:

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  • Sam, a “high-functioning” autistic student, taught my class that inclusion does work. Once the students learned about autism and Sam’s struggles, they began to nurture him, encourage him and help him socialize. Sam’s mother said, “This is the first time in his life he’s ever had friends.” Sam had his first birthday party with those friends. I still tutor Sam. He is about to graduate from a 2-year college and has applied to a 4-year university.
  • A very good friend of mine, Karl, grew up being bullied for having a cleft palate. He needed surgery and speech therapy. He made his way to Yale, and is now a college professor. You can read about his story in Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal
  • One of my favorite professors survived a stroke. He lost the use of one arm, had to use a cane to walk and half of his face sagged, but that didn’t stop him from teaching. His enthusiasm and dedication to his students never waned. The students admired his spirit. We learned more than literature: we learned about compassion and inclusion.
  • A women who suffered brain damage after a drunk driver struck the car containing her and her parents (her parents were fine) walked with her guide dog past my classroom door, and I got to know her. Before the accident, she was a teacher, but now, she could not work due to seizures. I invited her to give a presentation to my class about her condition, and she showed the students how her guide dog helped her each day. It gave her such joy to be in a classroom again and teaching others. It took a year for her to learn to sew, and she uses this talent to make and donate dog kerchiefs to PawPals, who provided her assistance dog. This organization provides more than dogs–it provides independence and hope.


  • “Roughly half of adolescents with autism, intellectual disability, speech impairments and learning disabilities are bullied at school . . . . That’s significantly higher than the rate of bullying faced by typically developing students, about 1 in 10 of whom are victimized by their peers.” (Disability Scoop).
  • “Most teenagers struggle with their self-image, but teens with learning disabilities are particularly vulnerable. They’re aware they have more learning difficulty than their peers, which can lead to feelings of embarrassment, failure, low-self esteem and worries about the future. While teens and parents may avoid talking about learning disabilities at all, many teens benefit from learning more about their differences.” (VeryWell).
  • October is the official National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many varied contributors of America’s workers with disabilities. The theme for 2016 is #InclusionWorks. To obtain materials and help spread the message, click on the link above.