Explaining Your Child’s Special Needs to Kids
Take two moms, Kate Ryan (on left) and Heather McCarthy (on right), friends who also happen to be teachers. Add their ingenuity and desire to teach children that special needs children are no different than anyone else. Mix in their aspirations as children’s authors with a mission “to spread the message of acceptance and kindness through personalized picture books.” What do you get? The formula for something really special!
Introduce yourselves and tell us more about your mission:
We are both moms and 7th grade reading teachers in the Chicagoland area. Working with children everyday has shown us the importance of acceptance and kindness at all ages. We want every child to know they are all different and that’s what makes them special and unique. We are on a mission to spread the message of acceptance, awareness, and kindness for all children.
How did you come up with the idea for your “uniquely personalized books?”
My (Heather) daughter Maya was born with a rare metabolic condition called Propionic Acidemia (PA). It affects the way her body processes protein. When it came time for Maya to go off to school I was concerned with how to keep Maya safe, happy, and healthy in school.
From my experience as a teacher, I knew how curious kids could be, and how difficult it can sometimes be to find the right words in certain situations. I created a book that included pictures of Maya, her hobbies and interests. Then the book went on to explain PA in kid-friendly terms. When I told Kate about this book and how much Maya, her teacher, and the other students loved it, Kate realized that millions of other children could be helped by a book like this. Someone Special Uniquely Personalized Books was born.
What special needs categories do you cover?
Autism, ADHD, food allergies, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, physical conditions, Diabetes, hearing and vision impaired, and neurological conditions. You can also personalize a story for any child wanting to go on a special adventure by choosing “Someone Makes a Friend”. We currently offer 15 different books that can be personalized.
How long have you been in business?
Just under a year.
Who is ordering your books?
Orders have been coming in from all over the country and even some international orders including England, Australia, and Canada. There are a lot of moms placing the orders but also generous aunts and grandmothers, friends and babysitters. Orders have also come through from teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and librarians. Some medical professionals have purchased books to use in their offices and hospitals.
In what ways are they using the books?
Parents use their books in a few different ways. One way is to read to their child with the special ability focusing first on how unique they are with the things they like to do for fun, then explaining their condition to them. Another way is using the book as a tool to explain to a sibling about why their brother or sister is the way they are. Others give the books to teachers, social workers, and librarians to be used in school so others can be educated on the special condition a classmate has. The book can also be used in a doctor’s clinic or hospital to help a child who has been diagnosed with a special ability.
*Editor’s note: In our Friendship Kit, Lisa Smith shares how she created a personal story about her son Tate to help his classmates understand his autism. You could do this using a Someone Special Uniquely Personalized Book!
Have you received feedback from them about the impact the books are making?
The feedback Someone Special has received thus far has been very positive. It’s very rewarding to hear from a parent who says they were less nervous sending their child to school knowing they had their book with them. It’s so humbling to receive pictures of a mommy reading the book to an entire gymnasium of students with her daughter on her lap looking so proud. We feel pure joy when our email box contains testimonials from social workers and teachers that were able to create thematic units using the books.
What’s your vision or dream for Someone Special Books?
At Someone Special Books, we want to be able to support children with special needs and their families in all aspects. We are more than a book company. Kate and I are your advocates, your support, and here to help in any way we can. Someone Special Books will be expanding their book selection to include children with heart conditions, cancer, and sensory processing disorders. We are also exploring e-books and creating social stories.
Do you have a proud moment, inspirational story, or moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
When Tori’s great grandfather Robert emailed us saying that we were angels on earth, we were deeply moved. Robert personalized a book for his great granddaughter Tori who has Cerebral Palsy. He said,
“There are angels living in this world who are helpful to children in many known and unknown ways. Sometimes these angels, like the people at Someone Special Uniquely Personalized Books, do not realize the immensity of the good they are doing in helping others. This is more than one book. This is a feeling, a hope, and a desire not only for my great-granddaughter with Cerebral Palsy, but for all children with different conditions as it brings to life how all kids are basically similar and how all parents and teachers are present in their life to make their life as normal as possible.”
We were also excited when we won the Mom’s Choice Award, the 2016 American Small Business Championship, and when we received 4 out of 4 stars from Able Play.
If our readers leave with only one message after reading this interview, what would you like it to be?
We are all more alike than we are different. It is important that we accept each other’s uniqueness and treat all people with kindness.
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