September 3, 2008
Special bond sparks idea
by Kelly Mitch
Area author's book on special needs children adoption raises money for Humane Society
Autism can be difficult to discuss with children and others with learning difficulties. That is why Sandra J. Gerencher of Bethlehem decided to write her first book "Second Chance," which discusses how adoption as well as a shelter dog.
Gerencher was inspired by her own life - she adopted her son Terry, who is now 13 years old, five years ago. Terry has a genetic disorder called Fragile X Syndrome, which means he has autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mental retardation and depression.
When Gerencher adopted her first shelter dog Chance, she noticed a special "bond" between the two of them.
"He would talk to the dog," Gerencher said. "He would ask if they had a good day, and he would talk about his own day."
Gerencher, a special education teacher in the Bangor Area School District, has spent 25 years working with children and adults with special needs. She noticed during her search for ways to discuss disabilities that there are very few books for children and adults with disabilities who have childlike disabilites.
"Children like that are my inspiration," she said.
In "Second Chance," the dog Chance explains to the character Ryan about adoption.
"In it, a dog talks to a boy with autism and explains about the wonders of adoption," Gerencher said. "I wrote it simple so that a child could read it. It's geared toward children in fourth grade and up."
Terry is the inspiration for the character of Ryan in the book. The main character Chance, the adopted shelter dog, also came from real life, along with the other shelter dogs, which Gerencher has adopted along the way.
"Over the past 10 years, I've adopted about seven dogs," she said.
Gerencher said she feels so strongly about the bond between her son and the dogs that she plans to donate 5 percent of the book proceeds to the Humane Society.
"My goal is to not make money off these books," she said. "As an educator and mother, my goal was to help children understand that there are kids with special needs that need to be adopted."
The book, which is published by Tribute Books, is the first of three in a series Gerencher is writing. She said the second book, which will be on disabilities, would be out in October. The third book will be about death.
"There is nothing out there to explain death to a child or adult with a childlike capacity," she said.
Some of the proceeds from the second book will go to autism research.
Gerencher plans on attending many book signings this summer at book stores, as well as shelters. Her book is also available at www.barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.
For more information, visit ChanceTheShelterDog.com.