Author shares a lesson of kindness, respect with Rutherford students

October 05, 2018
Burcaw poses with Rutherford students

Rutherford students came together recently to hear an important message of kindness from a young man who knows a little bit about being different.

Author Shane Burcaw visited with second, third, fourth and fifth graders and shared stories of what it is like to live life in a wheelchair and rely on the help of others.  Burcaw is the author of a children’s book called, Not So Different: What You Really Want To Ask About Having A Disability. It’s a humorous book that teaches children about difference, while helping them find connections to people with disabilities.

Burcaw has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a rare disease that hinders the growth of his muscles and leaves him, as he describes, looking like a T-Rex with a giant head and tiny arms. During his visit at Rutherford he read from his book and shared funny stories about his daily experiences to help students relate to and appreciate others who may not look like them.

“It’s so important to remember that all of us are different,” Burcaw told the students. “Some are tall and some are short. Some like baseball and some like dancing. Some of us are in wheelchairs. But we all deserve respect and kindness. Do you agree with me?”

“Yes!” the gymnasium full of students shouted in response.

Burcaw was invited to speak at Rutherford because of his connection with a Rutherford fourth grader, Zachary Forcier, who also has SMA. The Forcier family had donated a copy of the book to the school’s library last year, and helped media specialist Natasha Thorager connect with the author for the visit.

“This puts a face to something the students might see in life,” said Thorager. “Sometimes what scares us the most is things we don’t know. As we read this book students were able to share similarities and differences. They began to see for themselves that in many ways Shane is the same as me.”