Coloring book helps kids with disabilities feel included

Pictures depict children with disabilities as well as those without.

The Liberty Twp. woman created “Popping Wheelies,” a coloring book of children with physical and hidden disabilities as well as children without disabilities.

Nuenke, whose son, Chris Harmon, lived with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, said she realized in 2007 that there very few stickers depicting kids with special needs.

“I believe that all children enjoy seeing fun images of kids that look like them,” she said. “I don’t draw for disability awareness, I draw for the kids themselves who live with disability, disease or conditions that can sometimes set them apart from their peers.”

However, disability awareness is a wonderful secondary outcome, she said.

“I know from experience that raising a child with a disability can sometimes feel isolating,” Nuenke said. “It’s a challenge full of joy and I want to focus on the joy with my art.”

Nuenke’s son died in 2011 at 25 years old, but that didn’t stopped her commitment to creating coloring books, which initially were offered online via a business that closed in January.

She started offering copies of the book for free to anyone who wrote to her, Nuenke said. To date, she’s give away about 400 of the books for free and they will not be reprinted, she said.

Nuenke said she always draws by hand and each drawing takes about an hour to complete.

Her website — Poppingwheelies.net — went live this month with more than 240 of her coloring pages that anyone can download and print for free. Drawings are grouped into seasons, as well as categories such as school, sports, playtime, music, dress-up, party, friends and around the house.

“Next is getting all of the sticker images onto the site and hopefully reaching kids all over the world with the simple reminder that each one of them is a unique, beautiful gift from God no matter what they look like or what they can or cannot do,” she said. “I like to say that spreading a little understanding and joy with Popping Wheelies is my passion.”

Nuenke said she hopes her drawings help people see that “kids are kids no matter what their ability or disability.”

“My son enjoyed lots of activities and had a lot of interests,” she said. “Many of these interests could be shared with his typical friends and that is what we want children to see.”

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