Lake Zurich author signing ‘special’ book Monday
Laura Matuszewski of Lake Zurich shows her book, "A Special Friend," to Laura Choi and her daughters Katie and Ellie. Matuszewski is a special education teacher at Isaac Fox School and authored the book about a child with special needs. | Alyssa Schuene
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:15AM
LAKE ZURICH— Author and special education teacher Laura Matuszewski found a void in the school curriculum last spring that she’s hoping her new book will fill.
A teacher at Isaac Fox Elementary School, Matuszewski wrote “A Special Friend” last spring to teach children in general education classes how to understand and communicate with their special needs classmates.
Matuszewski’s book has already sold more than 200 copies locally since its release three weeks ago.
“I was trying to help special education teachers when I wrote the book, because there really wasn’t much out there to explain to your general education students why the others were only coming in the classroom for one subject here and one subject there,” Matuszewski said.
Written from the point of view of a student with an unspecified disorder, the book is also intended for parents trying to teach their children the same message.
“A Special Friend” allows both parents and teachers to convey the importance of communication between the students through its discussion topics, lessons and pictures. It is additionally intended to teach younger children that students with disabilities could benefit from their friendship.
Because all children with special needs are different, the character narrating the story isn’t labeled as having a particular kind of disorder. Matuszewski explained that leaving the specific disorder out of the equation enables readers to apply the book’s lessons to all types of situations.
All illustrations were drawn by 9-year-old Mikayla Crow, who was recently a student in Matuszewski’s third-grade class. Crow, who has autism spectrum disorder, has expressed an interest in becoming an artist to some of her teachers.
“Anytime you ask Mikayla what she wants to be, she always talks about being an artist; so I thought: ‘what a great way to view herself as an artist, and to really be living that dream,’” Matuszewski said.
Matuszewski has been dedicated to helping her students succeed since she began teaching at Isaac Fox. She was a reading specialist aide at May Whitney Elementary School prior to that, helping students that were struggling.
“The way that I look at it, these children never asked to have these needs or to have this hard of a time learning these things—they were born into it through no fault of their own,” Matuszewski said. “I have all the patience in the world for kids that are just doing the best they can with what they’ve been given.”