Group launches new pin campaign to celebrate special needs

Holly Simon, the Chicago mom powerhouse behind the I Am Who I Am not-for-profit organization, hopes no mother will ever hear doctors tell her they are “sorry” her child has special needs.

The organization began with the idea of celebrating kids with special needs, providing baby blankets to newborns and organizing events for families. It has since expanded its mission to include all people who do not fit into a tidy box.

With that in mind, it has launched a new pin campaign, Get to Know Me, that Simon hopes will spark conversations between the person wearing the pin and those they encounter.

“We are so quick to judge someone just by their looks. … Our kids have a voice and as parents we do, too. We want people to ask questions. We all catch the stares and the whispers; we just want to be understood,” says Simon, the mom of a son with Down syndrome, Nate.

She says she knows children with special needs often struggle to make friends. She hopes the pins will help others gets to know the kids with special needs.

“We want to teach acceptance, inclusion and understanding,” Simon says. “… If we teach kids that our kids with different abilities are more alike than different, then maybe, just maybe, we will see a change.”

Simon is a monthly guest on the Patti Vasquez radio show, which airs on WGN 720 at 11 p.m. weekdays and Sundays. Vasquez is a mom of two, one with special needs.

“We all want the same things for our kids, to be understood, included and loved. Sounds simple? Unfortunately we have a long road ahead,” Simon says.

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