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Erica Blit is a mom of two who sometimes feels like she's "living in two different worlds" — her 11-year-old son, Brandon, has special needs, while her 7-year-old daughter, Skylar, is "typically developing." Despite their differences, Brandon and Skylar spend tons of time together, and Erica was finding it difficult to explain Brandon's differences to Skylar and her friends, which is how she came up with the idea for My Heart Books, custom children's books that parents and kids can create about someone they love with special needs.
"There are many families like my own that have a child with special needs as well as other children that are typically developing," Erica told POPSUGAR. "It is sometimes difficult to bridge the gap between these two worlds. Many parents have told me stories of going to their local playground and children staring at their children and shying away from them. I thought to myself, 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if more children were familiar with different types of people? It would be such a kinder, happier world and families could feel more comfortable being in the community.'"
She added: "When my daughter's friends first met my son, who is developmentally disabled, they were hesitant to interact with him. Some children can unintentionally be hurtful when they are faced with someone who is different. After reading his story, they had a much better understanding of him and he became an instant celebrity. The children became proud to know him and wanted everyone to know that he was their friend."
"Parents are so excited to have a book specifically about their child and a way to explain them and build acceptance."
After Erica used her family's My Brother Brandon book in her daughter's school and with organizations they're involved with, she launched her company so other families can personalize their own stories, and the response from parents has been extremely positive.
"Parents are so excited to have a book specifically about their child and a way to explain them and build acceptance," Erica said. "Many parents have thanked me for giving them a way to talk to their child about their sibling and the challenges they may encounter. Schools and organizations have been thrilled that they now have a way to break down walls between communities. These books have provided the foundation for a dialogue about disability and inclusion within classrooms using someone the students actually know. They show children that our differences are not so far apart."
Scroll through to see a few sample pages from Brandon's book, and visit My Heart Books' website to personalize your own story.