Blog Archives

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

Buy Now From Amazon

All Things Are Possible

Michelle Wagner Author Interview

Mickey on the Move Farming follows a young boy with Cochlear Implants that gets Aqua Cochlear so that he can now enjoy activities without fear of them getting wet. What was the inspiration for your story?

That all things are possible. It took Cochlear over 20 years to develop the Aqua device. When my son was first implanted he could not hear me or other children while swimming. He always feared getting his “computer ears wet in the rain and it took the fun out of a lot of summer activities. 

The art in this book is fantastic. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Jenny Phelps?

After first writing the book I reviewed dozens of artists’ drawings of our characters. Jenny Phelps was great right off the bat. She not only is an amazing artist she has a gift of portraying our emotions as well.

What is one thing that people point out after reading your book that surprises you?

Everyone has a lot of gratitude. So many people out there (still today ) have never heard of the cochlear implant. It is educating not only for children, but adults as well. For people that do know what they are, typically do not know what an intense surgery is or how long it takes to activate and recover.

Will there be more Mickey on the Move books, and if so when will they be available?

Yes, absolutely. Mickey is a super passionate and curious 14 year old. He is always exploring, eager for a new adventure and loves sports. I think it will be a very long series following him into his adult years. 

Author Links: Instagram | Facebook | Website

He and his mom take pride in farming and gardening together, doing everything from raising chickens to growing delicious fruits and vegetables in their backyard orchard.
Mickey, who was born with deafness in both ears, has overcome obstacles to fully enjoy the great outdoors.
His Aqua Cochlear implants allow him to hear and appreciate the beautiful sounds in nature without the worry of weather dampening his day!
Join Mickey for another adventure!

Mickey on the Move Farming

A young boy is born with deafness in both ears, he wants to do all the things that children with hearing do though. His family gets him Cochlear implants but they can not get wet. He enjoys life on the farm and his dad’s wine vineyard helping out, especially helping with the chickens. However, things like swimming and playing in the rain are impossible because his implants will get broken if they get wet. Keeping his ears dry can be challenging when there are things like sprinklers, water for the animals, and unpredictable rain storms.

Then one day he gets Aqua Cochlear and his life changes! These new implants can get wet! Now he can play in the rain, go swimming, and no longer has to worry about getting his ears wet. Being on the farm has never been so much fun.

Mickey on the Move Farming by Michelle Wagner and illustrated by Jenny Phelps is a touching story about a little boy that has his life improved with Aqua Cochlear. This picture book explains to children what a Cochlear implant device is and does so in a way that is easy to understand for even young kids. The simple explanations accompanied by the creative and colorful illustrations will help children to understand what the Cochlear device is. Mickey goes on adventures many children enjoy from fishing and swimming to playing in the rain.

The thing that parents and teachers will love about this book is that it explains how special needs children are still normal kids. They sometimes have the medical equipment to help them do the things other children do. It does not mean they do not desire to have the same fun and adventures as their classmates and friends. This is a wonderful way to teach inclusion and diversity to younger elementary-age students.

Pages: 38 | ASIN : B0B33N3TGF

Buy Now From Amazon

Once Upon a Blog: Then and Now

Once Upon a Blog: Then and Now by [Hallmark, Shelley L.]

Shelley L. Hallmark began her blog after she published her first book back in 2011. Once Upon a Blog is a collection of those blog posts that share her struggles and how she remains positive. Hallmark is a single mother of a special needs child and writes short, positive, and honest accounts of her life. All of her posts share how she maneuvers life and the lessons she embraces along the way. Reading the blog posts provides a sense of connection, for the struggles you relate to and those you can’t, Hallmark is still giving her personal motives, hardships, and balance in a way that encourages the reader.

The book is well organized, laying out the blog posts with their dates and titles. Each post is easy to read but heartfelt. I found the book to be a beautiful read, the honesty of the author made this feel stronger, inviting readers to connect on a deeper level. To open up your life in this way is a brave and I appreciate the feeling of being let into someone’s world; like listening to a friend talk about their life. I truly loved the positivity that this book exudes even while discussing real life struggles that pull at the heartstrings. Hallmark writes in a way that makes the reader feel like she is writing to them, aned for them, which strengthens the connection between writer and reader. This book is a well written memoir of one woman’s life. It’s a memoir delivered over six years through blog posts, and compiled in this novel for easy consumption. I always appreciated the advice delivered as it was gentle, but still resonated with truth. I greatly enjoyed reading this book and feel like I have benefited from it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a true story that is full of love, life, and wisdom.

Pages: 342 | ASIN: B07C2JZRK6

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Real Feelings and Emotions

Kim Nugent Author Interview

Kim Nugent Author Interview

Did I Say Never is the emotional journey you took when you became a step mother to a special needs child. What was the inspiration that made you want to put your experiences into a book?

Truthfully when I began to reflect on our journey, I just kept thinking I wish there had been a book to help me. If we can help one family or a teacher or a caregiver by sharing what we learned, it was worth putting pen to paper.

I appreciated your candor and openness in the story, and it helped me fully understand your struggle. Was there anything that was difficult for you to write about?

Yes, any time I had to write about Brooks being injured or going back to the hospital was painful even at an older age of consuming nuts and bolts at the sheltered workshop. It literally makes me cry.

Do you find that there is a common misconception people have about special needs children?

Maybe not common misconception but as far as we have come in the area of disabilities, we have a long way to go. People feel uncomfortable around people who are different from them so they tend to avoid getting to know them. Special needs children have real feelings and emotions but they may express them differently.

I felt like this book was about family, devotion, and working through struggles. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

First, I truly want readers to use the book as a resource guide and ponder the questions for their family to consider what is best for them. Second, I hope they look at the milestones proactively and develop a plan for what they want as a family. Third, look for the angels in your life that can help. Finally, realize you are not alone even though there will be many days you think you are all alone.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Did I Say Never?: A Stepparent's Emotional Journey with her Special Needs Son by [Nugent, Kim]

Dr. Kim Nugent is the best-selling author of Did I Say Never. Kim shares her personal 32 year spiritual journey, a true story, filled with sorrows and joys, challenges and tears that unfolded during her marriage and life as a step parent. The intention of the book is to provide ideas, questions, resources and heartfelt encouragement for parent’s to help their special needs child or adult so they achieve their full potential and improve the overall quality of their life.

Kim never thought she would marry again and for sure not to a man who had children.
Little did she know that her life would change –in unimaginable and dramatic ways, and this is where the story begins!

Did I Say Never is an emotional journey of love, frustration, and overwhelm. Kim step-by-step describes the details of each step she took on the path and talks about the Angels that appeared just at the right time to guide and uplift her.

While Kim does not have all the answers for you and your family, she knows the struggles, pains, joys and victories. Kim offers remarkable disability resources and questions for consideration for you, your family, teachers, and caregivers.

Have you ever felt completely lost, confused or extremely overwhelmed about what to do next with your disabled child or adult? Have you ever felt clueless as to what questions to ask next or what resources might be available to you? Then grab a copy and don’t let anyone stop you from “designing your life without limits”! Did I Say Never is a must read.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

Did I Say Never?

Did I Say Never?: A Stepparent’s Emotional Journey with her Special Needs Son by [Nugent, Kim]

Did I Say Never is the first-person account of one woman’s life as stepmother to a son with special needs and the many ways in which he has blessed her life. Kim Nugent’s open and honest recounting of Brooks’s struggles includes her introduction into his life, the battle to find facilities capable of meeting his needs, and her family’s own triumphs over even the smallest of Brooks’s accomplishments. Nugent writes poignantly regarding her stepson’s progress throughout the years and the dedication and persistence required to provide Brooks with the best possible carparee as he matures.

Life has a funny way of making us rethink all of our absolutes. Kim Nugent is no stranger to this phenomenon. Having declared she would never again marry and never needed to consider the ramifications of dating a man with children, Nugent finds herself falling headlong into a relationship with her soulmate–and his children. The author’s descriptions of her love for her stepchildren and the great lengths to which she has gone to fit successfully into the role of stepmother are raw and touching. Her experience is relatable, and she offers readers more than just a peek into the process which has dominated her life.

As a mother and a teacher, I can appreciate Nugent’s methodical approach to meeting her stepson’s needs and the joy experienced when he meets each milestone. The time, effort, and devotion she shows Brooks is astounding. Nugent shares with readers a step-by-step list of instructions for helping meet his needs. She, literally, leaves nothing unaddressed. From his most basic day-to-day needs to interpreting his attempts to communicate his feelings, Nugent takes into account any and every situation in which a caregiver or family member might need advice when dealing with her son. Her family’s pride and elation upon hearing Brooks’s first word is clear to the reader. You cannot help but smile as you read and feel the warmth emanating through Nugent’s words.

I highly recommend Did I Say Never to any parent of a child with special needs, any parent struggling to come to terms with a difficult diagnosis, or teachers seeking to better understand parents’ daily battles to maintain a daily routine while, at the same time, enriching their child’s life. Nugent offers something to readers most of us are incapable of imagining in regards to raising a child with special needs–the whole truth and nothing but. Parents and teachers alike will welcome the honest delivery and upbeat attitude from Nugent.

I am giving Did I Say Never, by Kim Nugent, 5 out of 5 stars. Watching Nugent on her journey of self-discovery and seeing her stepson overcome some truly overwhelming circumstances makes for a wonderful reading experience. Not to mention, Nugent provides readers with an extensive and meticulously detailed list of needs and behaviors helpful to any caregiver or family member.

Pages: 150 | ASIN: B071XDJZK6

Buy Now From Amazon.com

High School Life is a Tornado

S.L. Mauldin Author Interview

S.L. Mauldin Author Interview

Life Sliding follows Gavin, the popular kid in school, as he is sent to camp Lift Me Up to help special needs children. What served as your inspiration while you were writing this book?

Like myself, lots of teenagers experience alienation in their high school life, which is a challenging time of self discovery while navigating one’s way to adulthood. My inspiration is those in the trenches now and those who survived those years. Within the walls of education, there is so much more learning going on than just algebra. At times, high school life is a tornado. I believe most adults have forgotten what was at times, a nightmare. Trying to understand my experience as an outsider, I explored the story from the popular kid’s prospective, peeling back the layers to discover who he is underneath his vamped up exterior. Much later after my school years, I became friends with someone who was in the “in crowd” at my school. I discovered this person was not who I had imagined they were. As we find with Gavin, one never really knows what’s going on inside someone, the real person. How do people end up where they are positioned on the social ladder? Jacob expresses his thoughts on the matter to Gavin in a deep conversation at camp; Jacob understands.

What I found most interesting about Gavin was the slow emotional change he undergoes throughout the novel. What were some morals you wanted to capture while writing his character?

We live in a society that is highly judgmental and most are quick to come to a conclusion about someone without ever getting to know them. You can’t judge a book by its cover and you will certainly fall short trying to make a summation of someone by their looks, they way they dress or zip code they come from. If anything, we need more understanding.

Was there anything from your own life, in high school, that you put into this novel?

I was an outsider who experienced some of the issues mentioned in the story and simply observed others going through their own trials. Between algebra and biology, it’s all there – self-harm, bullying, relationships, sexuality, eating disorders, angst and so on, but mostly life happening.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My ya novel Always Here was just released in September 2017. I have an adult fiction novel tentatively titled Kudzu, which is in editing with no set release date and I am writing a New Adult novel titled Somebody Else.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebook | Website

Life Sliding by [Mauldin, S.L.]

As Gavin’s junior year comes to a close, he faces an inner conflict with his status as the most popular kid in high school. It’s not lost on his father, who sensed for some time that his overly indulged son needs redirection. Making matters worse for Gavin, his dad sends him away for the summer to assist at a camp for children with special needs.

Arriving at camp Life Me Up, Gavin is suddenly forced to dabble in a world less familiar. After his first uncomfortable encounter with a strange girl with multi-colored fingernails, who refuses to waiver his arrogant behavior, Gavin comes face to face with a person from the past, which leaves him uneasy.

Inevitably, three people clash and collide, but when tragedy strikes, they come to an understanding regarding their differences. Becoming a young adult, Gavin faces a summer of harsh lessons in reality. Once he crosses the bridge from a self-inflicted prison to the road to freedom, Gavin and his new friends implement a strategy to stir up the social order when they return to school in the fall.

Because of one jaded person jumping to conclusions, the plan backfires. Will they be able to survive the fallout of what they’ve put into motion?

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: