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Dolly Gray Award - Information and Procedures

Purpose of the Award

The Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) in collaboration with Special Needs Project sponsor the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award to recognize effective, enlightened portrayals of individuals with developmental disabilities in children's books. Every even year, an award is presented to an author and illustrator (if appropriate) of a children's picture book and/or a children's chapter book.

Selection Committee

The President of the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD), in consultation with the Executive Director and the Board of Directors, will appoint the members of the Selection and Review Committee, Publicity Committee, and Presentation Committee. These members will serve for a term of two or three cycles.

Consideration is given to include a wide range of members on the Selection and Review Committee. Representation may include, for example:

  1. DADD Awards Chair (2 cycles)
  2. Chair of the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award (4 cycles)
  3. Chair of the Selection and Review Committee (3 cycles)
  4. Publicity Chair (3 cycles)
  5. Presentation Chair (2 cycles)
  6. Parent of an individual with DD (2 cycles)
  7. Teacher of students with DD (2 cycles)
  8. Children's literature "expert" (e.g., librarian, professor) (2 cycles)
  9. Visual artist or book illustrator, and/or children' book author (2 cycles)
  10. Member of the Board of Directors of DADD (2 cycles)
  11. Individual with DD (2 cycles)
  12. Non-disabled student panel (1 cycle)

Submission Procedures

Publishers are asked to donate 12 copies of each book to be considered for the award. Books are distributed to the Review Board be used in the selection procedure and copies are also donated to the host city of the DADD biennial convention. Books to be considered for the award can be sent to the chair of the award:

Tina Taylor Dyches, Dolly Gray Award Chair
340-F McKay Building
Department of Counseling Psychology & Special Education
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602


This award is given biennially in conjunction with the CEC-DADD conference. All books considered for the award must be submitted at least 3 months in advance of the conference. The deadline for the 2012 award is October 1, 2011. The award will be presented in January 2012.


Books eligible for consideration include:

  1. Children's books that include a main or supporting character with developmental disabilities. Developmental Disability is defined as follows: This condition occurs before a person is 22 years of age and limits him/her in at least three of seven major life activities (e.g., receptive and expressive language, self-care, and economic self-sufficiency). Developmental disabilities may include people with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, dyslexia, severe emotional disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and other multiple disabilities; however, for this award, developmental disabilities must align with the mission of the CEC Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (e.g., if the character with a disability would likely be served by DADD rather than another CEC division, then its inclusion is appropriate).
  2. For the picture book award, the book must be recognized as a picture book written for children in story format. Biographies written in story format are included.
  3. For the chapter book award, the book must be recognized as a fictional chapter book (generally a novel divided into chapters) written for children or young adults in story format. This includes easy readers, juvenile fiction, and young adult fiction. Biographies in story format are also included.
  4. The book must be published in English with an initial copyright date within a predetermined two year period prior to the award date (e.g., 2010-2011 awarded in 2012). If a book was published/copyrighted at the end of an award cycle year and therefore not included for review, it may be considered for the current award.

Books that are not eligible for the award include:

  1. Non-fiction books (i.e., books that present factual information not in story format) and books that are intended to primarily teach about a disability (rather than to present a story).
  2. Books published through vanity press.
  3. Books that present the character with developmental disabilities as an inanimate object, animal, or other non-human.

Evaluation Criteria

The Selection and Review Board Chair will arrange for the books to be disseminated to each member of the committee. The members will independently review and rank each book and evaluate it in terms of the selection criteria that follow. The Chair will collect the independent ratings and rankings, and determine the winners. In the case of an unclear winner, the Chair will conduct a conference call with members of the Selection Committee in order to reach consensus.

The following criteria will be used to evaluate the books. The greatest weighting will be given to sensitive portrayal of character(s) with DD. The literary quality of the text and the quality of the illustrations are also considered.

  1. Portrayal of Character with DD

    1. Personal Portrayal
      1. Portrays characteristics of DD accurately (e.g., abilities and disabilities are consistent with descriptions from IDEA, DSM IV, and/or ICD 10; abilities/disabilities are consistent throughout the story; if label is used, it is accurate and current).
      2. Describes the character(s) with DD as realistic (e.g., not superhuman or subhuman; avoids miraculous cures).
      3. Character(s) with DD are fully developed (e.g., credible, multidimensional, shows appropriate change or development throughout the story).
      4. Portrays more than the disabilities of the character(s), such as the abilities, interests, and strengths of the character(s) (e.g., avoids undue emphasis on the disability; characters have unique personalities, interests, and struggles that may not be related to the disability; characters experience success as well as failure).
      5. Emphasizes similarities, rather than differences, between characters with and without DD (e.g., similar physical and personality characteristics are described with equal emphasis).
      6. Uses nondiscriminatory language that avoids stereotypic portrayals (e.g., does not use language such as suffers from, afflicted with, stricken with, confined to a wheelchair). This criterion includes the use of person-first language (e.g., uses language such as person with mental retardation rather than retarded).
    2. Social Interactions
      1. Depicts character(s) with DD engaging in socially and emotionally reciprocal relationships (e.g., not always being cared for, but allowed to care for others; teaches and assists others) with a wide variety of persons (e.g., family, nondisabled peers, friends with disabilities, support personnel).
      2. Depicts acceptance of the character(s) with DD (e.g., character isn’t helpless against ridicule, teasing, bullying, abuse; character is not just tolerated, but a valued member of a group; is part of the “in” group rather than on the fringe or on the outside).
      3. Promotes empathy, not pity for the character(s) with DD (e.g., other characters act on their feelings to help in appropriate ways rather than just feeling sorry for the character with DD).
      4. Portrays positive social contributions of person(s) with DD (e.g., contributes to more than emotional growth of other characters).
      5. Promotes respect for the character(s) with DD (e.g., treated similar to others of same age, as appropriate; not “babied;” avoids condescending language and actions).
      6. Depicts various relationships between character with a disability and others.
        1. Character with a disability has primary relationship with: Friend; Sibling; Paid Personnel; Other
        2. Character with a disability is primarily a: Victim; Perpetrator; Protector; None
        3. Character with a disability is primarily: Dependent; Caregiver; Neither
        4. Character with a disability is primarily a: Pupil; Instructor; Neither
        5. Do other characters fear associating with the character with a disability?
        6. Do other characters experience feelings of guilt related to the character with a disability?
        7. What changes take place in characters without disabilities as a result of their interaction with the character with a disability?
    3. Exemplary Practices
      1. Depicts character(s) with DD having full citizenship opportunities in integrated settings and/or activities (e.g., school, church, neighborhood, work, recreation/leisure).
      2. Depicts character(s) with DD receiving services appropriate for their age, skill level, and interests (e.g., teaching strategies depicted meet the needs of the character; therapies needed are provided).
      3. Depicts valued occupations for character(s) with DD (if appropriate) (e.g., vocations of their own choice according to their abilities and interests; wages paid are comparable to those without disabilities in similar vocations).
      4. Promotes self-determination (e.g., character(s) are allowed to make decisions that impact their lives, solve their own problems, choose their own friends and activities as appropriate to their age and developmental level), where choices are similar to the types of choices given to nondisabled peers.
      5. The attitudes and practices portrayed are congruent with attitudes and practices for those with DD during that era (e.g., services available, treatment by others, terminology used).
    4. Sibling Relationships (if appropriate)
      1. Sibling(s) of the character(s) with DD experience a wide range of emotions, not just all positive or all negative emotions (e.g., pride, joy, respect, love, embarrassment, frustration, over identification, guilt, isolation, resentment, anxiety regarding achievement, fear of the future).
      2. Sibling(s) of the character(s) with DD have opportunities for growth that are not typical for siblings of children without DD (e.g., maturity, self-concept, insight, tolerance, pride, vocational choices, advocacy, loyalty).
      3. The sibling relationship is reciprocal, given the age and developmental differences between the siblings.
      4. The sibling(s) are not given unusually burdensome household and family duties, but engage in family work that is typical for children of the same age and gender that do not have a sibling with DD.
      5. The sibling(s) appear aware of the nature of the disability and its effects on the character with DD.
    5. Point of View
      1. The point of view, if told by the character with DD, is realistic (e.g., thought processes and language of a character with cognitive disabilities are realistic).
      2. The point of view, if told from a character without DD, is realistic (e.g., a brother/sister’s attitudes/perceptions about the sibling with disabilities).
  2. Literary Quality of the Text
    1. Engaging theme or concept is woven into the story.
    2. Plot is thoroughly developed, with reasonable storyline (including probable events that lead to resolution of a problem).
    3. Nondisabled characters are fully developed (e.g., credible, multidimensional, show change or development throughout the story).
    4. Description of settings enhances the story.
    5. Style is appropriate for the story and age-level (including use of language and dialogue).
    6. A main focus of the book appears to be to:
      1. teach about a disability,
      2. include a character with a disability whose presence does not or minimally impacts the story,
      3. include a character with a disability whose presence and disability impacts the story,
      4. include a character with a disability whose presence impacts the story, but the disability is irrelevant.
    7. Additional information is provided to help readers learn about the disability (e.g., author’s notes, internet addresses, professional organizations).
  3. Illustrations
    1. Portrays characteristics of DD accurately in illustrations.
    2. Portrays assistive/adaptive technology accurately, realistically, and contemporarily in the illustrations.
    3. Illustrations interpret the story well.
    4. Style of illustrations is appropriate to the story and age-level (e.g., representational, expressionistic, surrealism, impressionistic, folk art, naive art, cartoon art, photography).
    5. Plot, theme, characters, setting, mood, and information are enhanced through the illustrations.
    6. Illustrations represent quality art (rhythm, balance, variety, emphasis, spatial order, unity).
    7. Illustrations use color, line, shape, and texture artistically.
    8. Layout and design of illustrations and text are visually appealing.
  4. Other
    1. Aspects of the book other than the illustrations or text (e.g., overall design of the book) may be considered only as they contribute to, or distract from, the portrayal of the character(s) with DD, the illustrations or text.

Awards and Certificates

The author and illustrator (if appropriate) of the award winning book(s) will receive a plaque. Honorary winners (if awarded) will receive a certificate. All of the awards will be given on even-numbered years, in conjunction with the biennial DADD conference.

Award winners will be invited to both the DADD Biennial Conference and/or the April CEC conference to receive their award. Copies of the books will be available for purchase through the award co-sponsor, Special Needs Project, and, if agreed upon by authors and/or illustrators, autographed individually at the conference.


Once the awards are announced, press releases and other publicity (e.g., via CEC and DADD web pages and newsletters) will be disseminated. Links to the nominated and award-winning books will be made from the DADD web page to the Special Needs Project, sponsors of the award. DADD members will be encouraged to insert their reviews and ideas for implementing the books in the classroom on the web page.

DADD will provide bookplates indicating that the books were donated by DADD. Stickers will be provided to booksellers and/or publishers to be affixed to the cover of the book, indicating it was the Dolly Gray Award winner.

Revised 1/10/2012

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