Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! We have a very special treat for you all today. MCA was able to sit down with our honoree Belinda Adams to speak with her about her new award-winning book, I’m Different & That’s OK with Me! I’m Different & That’s OK with Me is a story about personal acceptance of one’s learning differences, whatever they may be! Parents can help their children understand, and even celebrate, their “differences” through this story and by using thought-provoking statements that remind children of their special traits that make them uniquely wonderful. Keep reading to find out more about Belinda and her award-winning story, I’m Different & That’s OK with Me!
MCA: Hi Belinda, thank you so much for joining us for this interview today, and a huge congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! Books such as I’m Different & That’s OK with Me are so important for young readers to see, because they teach such an important lesson of not only self-acceptance but acceptance of others who may be “different” than themselves. Can I first start this interview by finding out a little bit about the author behind such a special book?
Belinda: I am the author of 15 books, including 5 children’s picture books. I am a special education teacher who works with young students with social and emotional needs. Throughout my teaching career, I’ve worked as a special education teacher and a general education teacher, for many years with more than 30 students in my classroom vying for my attention. With nearly 20 years of teaching experience working with at-risk students of all ages, I know firsthand how children learn best in the classroom. I also built upon my experience of getting my own son successfully through school to help my understanding of young minds and trying to bring out the very best in all of my students. In addition, I use my training as a certified trauma professional to understand the body’s reaction to strong emotions and discover personal strategies that help bring children back to a calm state to become ready to learn. I know that students who don’t feel welcome, cared for, and happy in the classroom will have a difficult time accessing the curriculum and being the happy, young students, they are meant to be. I have degrees in Psychology, Special Education, and Elementary Education. I live in the Midwest with my husband, Scott, and our two dogs, Suzy Q and Murphy.
MCA: Wow, that is quite a career you have built for yourself! It is amazing that you could apply all your professional knowledge within your personal life for your son, and now use that combined knowledge for this amazing children’s book! What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
Belinda: With regards to writing, I’ve been writing in one shape or form since leaving high school. During my career in marketing, I wrote newsletters, articles, and proposals for new contracts. While staying home with my son, I wrote for two newspapers, providing them with a weekly editorial column on topics of interest. I “authored” my first book, a children’s book, while obtaining my second college degree in education. Mom’s Gift is a story told from my son’s perspective about the changes and insecurities that occurred when I returned to college, and how we worked together to stay close during that time. As an educator working with at-risk students, I was inspired to journal their stories by their perseverance to learn, even despite their traumatic backgrounds and homelife. Their stories became my first published book, Can You See Me?
MCA: That’s a wonderful backstory into how you became a writer, thank you for sharing that with us! What was your inspiration for writing I’m Different & That’s OK with Me?
Belinda: Following the popularity of Mom’s Gift, I wrote another story from my son’s perspective, I’m Different & That’s OK with Me. My son was the inspiration for this story – his honest desire to understand and accept the qualities that made him different than other children. This book, as well as the first book, were published when my son was a young man who had grown to appreciate and accept the qualities that make him uniquely “him.”
MCA: As author Shannon Ables once said, “What self-acceptance does is open up more possibilities of succeeding because you aren’t fighting yourself along the way.” Can you tell us more about some of the key lessons found in I’m Different & That’s OK with Me?
Belinda: The key lessons found in I’m Different & That’s OK with Me include: Encouraging and fostering open communication with children about their special needs; Offering honesty, support, and resources to assist children to be successful in school and life; Reminding our children (those with special needs and all others) of their unique qualities help foster self-esteem, independence and happiness.
MCA: Those are all valuable lessons to be learned and make I’m Different & That’s OK with Me an excellent tool for parents, educators, and caretakers! What kind of response from readers have you received?
Belinda: I’ve heard from readers that children of all ages enjoy I’m Different & That’s OK with Me, either as a read-aloud or as an independent reader. I’ve been told that children are drawn to the colorful illustrations and the ever-changing expressions on my son’s face. The message is clear for children: “I am great and wonderful just the way I am.” A quote from a parent: “I’m Different & That’s OK is beautifully written and illustrated to share the views of a child in special education.”
MCA: Why are books that highlight children with special needs so important?
Belinda: Books that highlight children with special needs are important because they shed light on the issues these children face, both in school and at home. When children understand and accept their “special qualities,” they are empowered to pursue their dreams and find success. In addition, books that highlight children with special needs also provide a means of communicating their challenges to other children, such as siblings and classmates. The more books that are available about children with special needs, the more resources that are available for parents and others.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Belinda: As the last page reads, “All kids just want to feel good about themselves and have fun with their friends and feel special just the way they are. When it comes to those things, I guess, I’m not so different after all.”
That is the most important lesson.
MCA: That it is indeed! Thank you for giving us such an insightful interview, Belinda. We hope to hear from you again very soon, please keep us posted on what’s next for you in your writing career!
You can learn more about Belinda Adams and her award-winning book, I’m Different & That’s OK with Me by visiting her MCA Shop pages.
You can also follow Belinda on Amazon to hear first about her new books!
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