Mom Uses Kindness to Teach About Differences

Taryn Skees is a mom just like me. She’s a writer and a speaker who is passionate about the power of kindness.

But Taryn’s drive to spread the message of kindness didn’t come from a spontaneous act of kindness that transformed her life. It came from the birth of her son.

Taryn’s 9-year-old son, Aiden, has a rare craniofacial condition called Apert syndrome. He is one in 160,000, which Taryn knows makes him awfully special.

But it also means that along with cleaning up Cheerios and teaching her child his ABCs, Taryn has to teach the world to see her son the way she does.

“The first few years were trying and scary. Lots of appointments, therapies and surgeries. Through it all, we dealt with stares, whispering and unkind words about our child’s differences. I’m not going to lie, it hurt.

Eventually I decided that if I was going to give Aiden a chance at a normal life then I had to become his advocate. I made small ‘awareness cards’ that I handed out in certain situations where someone was staring or had questions. It had a link to my blog where they could read about Apert syndrome and ways to talk to their children about differences. Sometimes it broke the ice enough to start a conversation and allow me to turn a potentially hurtful situation into an opportunity to educate.

When Aiden started school, I brought in a little book I had made, ‘All About Aiden’, and read it to the class. I found that once kids knew it was okay to be curious and ask questions, they began to see Aiden as a kid just like them.

Once Aiden was in elementary school, I approached the school with an idea for a project to help kids of all ages who face any number of challenges from divorce to illness, ADHD to having to wear hearing aids. We called this the ‘Choose Kind Library’ and filled a small nook of the school’s library with a special area where they could find books on all these types of issues.

We decorated it with bright colors, printed special spine labels and provided bean bag chairs for kids to have a comfortable space to read. The message was inspired not only by my son, but by the bestselling children’s fiction novel Wonder by RJ Palacio.

I am on a mission to continue to spread kindness in any way that I can. We have found that it is not only impacting Aiden and his confidence, but it is helping kids understand that when it comes to disabilities, a little kindness goes a long way!”

For more information on the kindness Taryn, Aiden and her entire family continues to spread, please visit www.MoreSkeesPlease.com.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Friday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

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