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By Melissa Ford
Shanna Philipson is an author, entertainer, artist, mother, illustrator, educator, speaker, and Oak Parker (as well as a great conversationalist)! Her recent book, The Beaker Kids, features five chemistry beakers “who want to show you a fast, fun, and flexible way to understand social and sensory differences.” I met with Philipson to discuss how she uses these visual metaphors to help kids, parents, teachers, anyone to appreciate the unique differences in each other and how to work with the emergent strengths that we all possess to live happy, healthy lives!
Q: What inspired you to create The Beaker Kids?
A: The Beaker Kids began as a little cartoon I wrote for my daughter on a return flight from Washington D.C. It had been an exhausting trip, and we looked and felt every inch of ragged. But my daughter’s age and language impairments made it difficult for her to tell me her feelings, and I knew the communication challenge was making her even more agitated --something no parent wants to experience in a confined, public place like an airplane. So I drew my first cartoon, a little girl whose beaker was so full she didn’t know what to do with herself! The transparent beaker was an intuitive choice because I knew a picture that showed emotional and sensory “fullness” would be a thousand times more effective than a bunch of bwah-bwah-bwah feelings talk.
Two years later The Beaker Kids has grown into a cast of six characters, a comic book, stickers, poster and a Laboratory Manual with all kinds of practical activities and fun games for families, teachers and therapists.
Q: What’s your background?
A: I’m an artist, a former high school and college teacher, and a mother to a child with developmental delays. I spent many years in youth leadership development, too, where I had fun with older students learning about personality traits and leadership types. Are you an “apple” leader? --that sort of thing. Later, when I became a mother, I used those ideas when I felt too many people were looking at my daughter’s limitations rather than her true strengths. I needed a bridging language.
Q: So is this just a “special needs” book?
A: No! The Beaker Kids are for everyone! Beakers respect the diversity of everyone’s daily experiences and help us talk about what feels “good”--and what doesn’t. Everyone has a beaker, you know.
Q: How does it work?
A: The Beakers are flexible. The comic book introduces the cast; the Lab Manual gives you tools to talk about them. One fourth grader made a “tree” out of her family’s beakers and had a blast talking about them. You use what works for your needs.
Q: Where are The Beaker Kids?
A: Come see us at www.beakerkids.com! Learn more --buy a book.
Q: Do you speak to groups?
A: Absolutely. I don’t have a classroom anymore, so I’m always looking for new students! Parents, teachers, anyone who needs a good laugh --I’m available, and so are The Beakers. firstname.lastname@example.org
Philipson's book is clever, creative, and the perfect tool to open up conversations so we can have compassion and understanding for each other. I'd recommend this book to any parent wanting to help his/her child become the full expression of who s/he is.
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