LEMONT – Kate Ryan and Heather McCarthy know how difficult it can be for children with special needs to fit in with other children.
So, the two Oak Lawn teachers have come up with a customizable book that highlights what makes a child with special needs the same as their peers, while acknowledging his or her differences.
The project is called Someone Special Uniquely Personalized Books, which Ryan and McCarthy hope to have running by the summer.
“[The book is] a great talking point for teachers or parents about why you should be nice to people, even if they look or act differently than you,” said Ryan, a Lemont resident.
The idea for the book came from McCarthy, whose daughter, Maya, has propionic acidemia, a rare condition that prevents the body from processing certain proteins.
When Maya was starting school, McCarthy did not want her to be treated differently from the other students, but wanted people at the school to be aware of her condition.
Her solution was to create an illustrated book featuring Maya.
The book started by talking about who Maya is and the things she likes, and then transitioned into what her condition is and why she cannot share snacks with other students.
Ryan, who teaches with McCarthy at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, heard about the book, and the two thought it could be a good template for other books.
“We were thinking, if this book could help Maya, this could help so many other kids out there and parents who have anxiety about sending their kids off to school,” Ryan said.
They plan to create a website where parents can customize their own book, with their child’s interests and condition. At the moment, they are still in the fundraising stage.
With all the different special needs children can have, Ryan and McCarthy want to allow parents to be as specific about their child’s condition as they need, as well as use the terminology they want.
They also eventually want the stories to cover more social situations than going to school.
Ryan and McCarthy started to turn their book idea into a reality through networking and social media.
Through connections, they found people who would design their website and print the books.
However, they need to raise money to pay for these services.
Ryan said the goal of the books is to help educate and encourage an understanding of children with specials needs, including with the child who is the subject of the book.
“[The kids] are more like [each other] than they are different,” she said.