Differently Abled
by Sandra Lee Reynolds
Writers Republic

"The more Sierra speaks up, the more people will listen. Then, they can embrace her differences. Acceptance is the key."

It was the first day of a brand new school year, but Sierra wasn't too thrilled. This year would only be like every year. She thought to herself, "They always call me disabled, and never let me play." As her Mom drove her to school, it was a beautiful sunny morning, but Sierra was dreading the day. When they arrived, she saw two girls her age playing hopscotch, and she really wanted to join them. Despite hearing mean words regarding her disability from one of the girls, Sierra was determined to show them she could play, too.

"Playing!" writes Reynolds. "Now that was something Sierra knew all about. She loved to play with Mom, Dad, and Curtis, her big brother." Taking her first jump, she landed on her knees and cried as the second girl declared, "You're disabled, you can't play hopscotch." When young Sierra shouted that she was "not disabled, I'm just different than you. I'm differently abled. I like to play too," the girls realized they had never looked at it that way. Her Mom explained that Sierra, having Down's syndrome, absolutely could do things—it simply took a little longer and more effort for her to learn. This led the girls to apologize to their classmate and offer to teach her how to play hopscotch during recess. In fact, they enjoyed watching Sierra as she took "great pride in her gains." Her first day back to school ended up being a great one. Fearful because she was afraid she would not fit in, she realized that people listened when she voiced her concerns.

Sierra is a real young lady and the author's daughter. Important life lessons can be shared with young children by reading this book, such as not allowing a disability to hold one back in life. Determined to be included in the fun school recess activity of playing hopscotch, Sierra displays bravery in voicing her feelings, using the very effective term "differently abled." In fact, if one really thinks about it, all people—young and old alike—are quite literally abled in differing ways. Children who read Reynolds' book, or have it read to them, will learn that just because Sierra has Down's syndrome, that in no way means she is incapable of doing the very same things all other boys and girls enjoy doing. Every child has inherent worth, the same basic needs and desires, and deserves to be treated with dignity. This book's message of acceptance and embracing of differences is clearly communicated through a true-to-life story, accentuated with bright, appealing illustrations. As the author herself writes regarding this story, "everyone learned that extending kindness, patience, and acceptance is the key to humanity."

The book is dedicated to Reynolds' daughter, Sierra, and son, Curtis. The cover (as well as an inside page) features a beautiful photograph of the two children smiling as they enjoy the scent of a flower as yellow as the floppy straw hat on top of Sierra's head. The author writes that the two "taught me that continually moving through life's challenges will create value, and embracing one's differences is the key to acceptance, which brings happiness." With eighteen years of personal experience raising a child with Down's syndrome, Reynolds mentors other children with disabilities in her free time. She specializes in "spreading acceptance," encouraging people to embrace others' differences.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

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