Teaching Children About Disability: Books about Inclusion for Young Readers
Ben Trockman, among his many roles, is an author who not only tells the stories of others but also has a story of his own. Today, Ben is a passionate disability advocate, spokesperson, and City Councilman, to name a few, but his disability advocacy only began after he was unexpectedly “thrust into a world of disability” at the age of 17. A former motocross athlete, Ben sustained a spinal cord injury after a racing accident, resulting in him being paralyzed from the neck down.
Ben said, “I had not really spoken about disability or thought about disability prior to my injury. Suddenly, I was living a life where [disability] was a frequent word. I spent some time trying to figure out what it was and what life was going to be like to have a spinal cord injury.”
Disability Rights Advocate and Author: Ben Trockman
Following his injury, Ben graduated high school and continued on to college, where he studied public relations, all while taking part in physical therapy at Easterseals Rehab Center. Ben's journey with Easterseals began with physical therapy but soon turned into what he fondly calls a ‘lifelong love affair.’ Easterseals not only offers essential medical care and resources to thousands of individuals affected by disabilities across the U.S., but it also opened doors for Ben. He became both a local and national Easterseals ambassador and authored children's books centered around disability.
A Children's Book Series About Disability: My Itty-Bitty Bio
The My Itty-Bitty Bio children’s book series, created in partnership with Easterseals and Cherry Lake Publishing, is a series of over 100 books written about current and historical figures of diverse backgrounds who have left a lasting impact on the world. Made for young readers aged 5-7, the books highlight multiple people with disabilities including trailblazers and rights activists like Helen Keller, Alice Wong, Jason Benetti, and Judy Heumann.
Trockman wrote two books in the series, one about Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), the former U.S. president who was diagnosed with polio and used a wheelchair to get around, and the second book on BraunAbility’s founder, Ralph Braun, who changed the mobility industry for people with disabilities with his invention of the wheelchair accessible vehicle.
Ben said, “We were given the opportunity as writers to pick people that we wanted to write about out of a list. I feel like we don't talk about [Ralph Braun] enough. He was an entrepreneur… a visionary and he's someone that I have tremendous respect for.”
Each book in the My Itty-Bitty Bio series about disability is written by a disabled author and utilizes simple language for children to understand disability. But for Ben, the books are more than an educational piece for children; they start conversations among people of all ages about the importance of disability inclusion.
Ben said, “It’s important that we are calling out heroes with disabilities in our culture and for individuals far and wide to read about and learn about, because many times the FDRs and Ralph Brauns of the world don't get the limelight they deserve.” He continued, “It's important for our youth to be learning about these groundbreaking people who have fought through a lot to do incredible things.”
Why Does Disability Representation Matter?
Ben says authentic stories about disability are what drives action to create change for people with disabilities. He emphasized, “The disability rights movement is very young. I know that we still have a lot of work to do. [Allowing] writers, actors, and professionals [with disabilities to] get their content out there is incredibly important because we are the largest minority community in the world, yet the most under employed and we need our voices out there because you are not disability. I'm not disability. We are disability, our world lives it, and we need to understand it better so that we can function better as a society.”
The My Itty-Bitty Bio Series offers an excellent starting point for children to explore stories of disability, but Trockman emphasizes the ongoing need for progress. In fact, he is actively involved in driving this progress. Maybe one day there will be a My Itty-Bitty Bio book featuring his own story.
Ben is currently running for re-election for City Council in Evansville, Indiana, and he serves as a Project Manager at Change for Balance, a strategic communications agency specializing in non-profit and disability organizations. He also works with both local and national organizations, sharing valuable insight and personal experience to help create inclusive environments for individuals with disabilities, both within workplaces and in broader societal contexts. Want to learn more about what you can do to create a more inclusive world for people with disabilities? Learn more about the state of inclusion by reading our news from The Driving Force. People with mobility challenges and their caregivers can also join The Driving Force today.