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I Loved Them For That

Author Interview
Darlene Pscheidell Kwarta Author Interview

Once There Was a Child is a fun and touching account of your time as a special education teacher. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I wanted readers to realize how difficult my kids’ lives were and that they worked hard to do things that most people take for granted. They blossomed in the school environment because the staff, and especially the principal, stressed a “go for it” attitude. Sometimes my kids succeeded, and sometimes they didn’t, but they never stopped trying. They attempted things that no one had ever given them the opportunity to try—joining clubs, going on Outdoor Education, climbing a tree, rolling down a steep grassy hill, joining a lunch table with “regular kids” or going to a school dance when they couldn’t hear the music. I want my readers to give people who are “different”, disabled, handicapped, or whatever you want to call them, a chance, to accept them and respect them. They will be thankful for what THEY have learned.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to work with special needs children?

Have a great sense of humor. It will get you through the times when you wonder if McDonald’s hires burned out teachers. (They do). But then one of my kids would look at me and ask, “Teacher OK? Teacher sad?” and would give me a hug. I realized that they had shown concern, and an awareness of someone’s feelings. Maybe they couldn’t multiply or divide or understand a story they were reading, but they had shown that they understood and demonstrated kindness and compassion, and I loved them for that.

What were some ideas that were important for you to share in this book?

It is important to first think of handicapped and disabled people as PEOPLE who need to feel friendship, acceptance, and tolerance. Regular education teachers, family members, community organizations, etc. are grateful to learn how to interact with special needs people. My kids wanted to feel that it was THEIR school too, and were grateful and happy when they were given that chance.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

What special kids and adults have to offer a “regular” person. Give them a chance to do so. You might just make yourself a good friend.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

“Hey, it’s Darlene. I got the job!”
“Great! How many other teachers applied for that position?”
“Just me! I guess no one else was up for the challenge of a multi-handicapped class of junior high kids, but I am.”
“Uh, Congratulations, I think.”
“Thanks, I’m going to love it!”
And she did.

As a child, Darlene always felt like an outsider and was drawn to others like herself. She learned sign language from her deaf neighbor, Joe, and was the only person in the neighborhood who could communicate with him. The Helen Keller story inspired Darlene. So did the movie Teacher Teacher, which is about a teacher with many demons who works with a severely autistic, lonely young boy. Those teachers brought both of these children into a world they might never have known or become a part of. That’s what Darlene wanted to do. In her first book, ONCE THERE WAS A CHILD, Darlene Kwarta chronicles her journey with children who were often forgotten.

Once There Was a Child

Once There Was a Child is a fun, yet deeply touching account of Darlene Pscheidell Kwarta’s time as a special education teacher. She describes the daily trials and triumphs of working with America’s ‘forgotten’ children: those living with disabilities, experiencing abuse or being passed around within the foster system. Darlene gives a unique perspective into the minds of her small group of students as they navigate school life and the outside world. She leaves the reader pondering how the system could be improved for these children, as many of the problems she encounters are still ongoing today.

Although the book is short, it takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute I was laughing and the next my heart was sinking. I only wish that the book had been longer, so I could have gotten to know the children’s backstories and personalities in more detail. I learned a lot from Darlene, particularly about the psychological aspects of such a job, and I would love to learn more.

I would definitely like to read more from this author, whose attitude towards her students should be an inspiration, not only for anyone working within this field, but for anyone who ever encounters a child with special needs. Darlene doesn’t preach about how you should treat these children, rather relays the information through short anecdotes. She manages to convey the thoughts and feelings of those who cannot speak, and delivers this to the reader in a comprehensible and personable manner. The combination of informal language and short, manageable chapters make this book an easy and enjoyable read, despite the emotional topic.

I would recommend Once There Was a Child to anyone who is interested in learning more about, or improving their attitude towards, children with special needs.

Pages: 69 | ASIN: B0BFBVJZSW

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