By Donna Sigurðardóttir, founder of I am UNIK
My daughter’s future is bright. She is thriving at school because they are meeting her every need with an admirable flexibility, thoughtfulness and respect. All of which has been achieved with close cooperation between home and school, something that I believe are key factors in improving a child’s quality of life. Why? Because, on one hand we have the child’s parents, who are experts in the child and on the other hand we have the teacher, which is an expert in teaching methods and goal setting. When these two respect each others roles and take the time to listen and work together, magic happens!
Our teacher’s mentality is priceless. They have so much respect for my daughter and they put every effort in customizing her curriculum and learning environment to her needs. As an example I could mention that she always arrives late for school. Is that okay? Imagine this; she arrives into an empty school building and is exposed to minimum sensory input, which means that her stress levels are low and she gets a good start of the day. Otherwise it would take her teachers about an hour to unwind her after a chaotic school start and a maximum sensory input. That kind of a solution requires flexible thinking and caring.
Another important factor is that we always assume she is trying her best and we look at her reaction and behavior as a form of communication. If she refuses to work on a certain project and acts in a negative way, we assume that she has some form of difficulty solving it. If she denies participating in some activities, we accept her refusal for now and then we try to figure out what is hindering her. We work on receiving her approval for the longer run. We don’t give up and we do not look at her diagnose as a label. We look at it as guide to a better quality of life and we believe that she can do anything she wants. Sometimes we just need to work harder in finding the appropriate solutions.
Achieving this level of close cooperation with our school was achieved by in-depth information about how my daughter experiences the world differently, how she reacts to different things and how the teachers can help. You see, I decided to write a book about my daughter a few years back, describing her challenges and her strengths. This book was so well received and well appreciated by the school staff because, even though they had worked with many other children on the autism spectrum before, they had no knowledge of working with her. And this is key!
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” says Dr. Stephen Shore, world-known self-advocate and international speaker, and these words are so true. This particular book about my daughter had a great impact on her teachers. They became more understanding and more willing to cooperate with us, the parents.
Because this book had such a positive impact on our life, I decided to expand this idea and after one year of research I opened an Icelandic website called egerunik.is, where other parents or people on the autism spectrum can make their own personalized books. This has been a great success in Iceland and has received many awards and nominations (link: https://iamunik.com/about-i-am-unik/recognitions/). I therefore wanted to share this program and I have now opened iamunik.com.
A little bit about how the program works: after logging in you choose from a wide range of prewritten passages that best describes the child and you can always adapt these passages if needed so they fit perfectly. All the passages are written in a personal and positive way and they have been proofread and approved by a large group of advisors that consists of autistic people and professionals (link: https://iamunik.com/about-i-am-unik/consultant-team/). After selecting the passages, you can upload personal pictures and choose illustrations for the book. You now have made a caring book about a child that will help others to understand; teachers, classmates, family members and so on. Many have also used this opportunity to sit down with their children and create a personal book together – not just for others to understand but also to increase self-awareness and to create an open discussion and acceptance about the fact that it’s okay to be different.
This is a new program to the American market, and in honor of the International Autism Acceptance day in April, I would like to offer anyone interested to try this out for free. You may find more information about the gift code on the website (link: https://iamunik.com). It is my sincere hope that this program can help fight stereotypes and increase acceptance. What do you think?
Iamunik.com is a webpage that has the mission to promote increased acceptance for those with ASD by making it easy for them to introduce their different perspective on life. It contains a program to create customized books about Autism or ADHD. Adalheidur Sigurdardottir (Donna) is the founder and also a mother of a 12-year-old girl on the autism spectrum. These last three years Donna has dedicated herself to the world of autism and it has now become her passion to help open the eyes of society for the fact that it’s okay to be different.