Kristen DeBeer believes in her son so much that when she couldn’t find a book to speak to him about his learning disabilities, she wrote her own, spelling out her message of belief loud and clear.
Jack, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Renaissance Expeditionary Magnet School in Castle Rock, was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade and dyslexia three years later.
“When he was first diagnosed, we were really looking for something to kind of help him understand how he was different,” DeBeer said. “There are books for kids that are about ‘I have ADHD, what does that mean?’ but as time wore on, probably about fourth grade when he was diagnosed for dyslexia, that’s when it became more apparent that his self-esteem was being affected because he was different.
“He was getting a lot of feedback at school that he wasn’t trying hard enough and yet we knew he was trying really hard. … There wasn’t a book that I could find that had that social and emotional aspect we were looking for.”
So, in 2010 DeBeer wrote the manuscript for “I Believe in You: A Mother’s Message to Her Son with Learning Differences.” She met an illustrator, Elizabeth Santy, who worked at Knippenberg Patterson and Associates — a Denver clinic that specializes in the treatment of ADHD and dyslexia — and two years later she had a published book.
Jack had no idea his mother had been writing the book and she waited to surprise him with it until after it was completely put together and published.
“I was surprised my mother had written a book and that it was about me,” Jack said. “It’s very special to me. … It kind of relieves you of your pain. You say, ‘oh, I’m not special, I can’t write, I can’t read.’ But the book makes you say, ‘I am very special,’ and I think other kids like me will realize that once they read the book.”
The book highlights numerous issues children with learning challenges face, and while addressing them on the left-facing pages in short rhymes, the right-facing page spells out “I believe in you” in a refrain that carries from page to page throughout the 29-page book, which is geared for kids who are starting to figure out they are different.
“It’s around first grade that kids start to figure out who is in the advanced reading group and who is in the less advanced reading group,” the Highlands Ranch author said. “That’s when their social and emotional needs really start to become apparent and they place a lot of their social values on kids that are like them.”
DeBeer sees the book as a tool that kids can really benefit from, to learn that it is OK to be different, and that just because one doesn’t fit in doesn’t mean they aren’t special and doesn’t mean they don’t try hard or aren’t smart or talented.
To learn more about the book or order a copy, visit www.sbpra.com/KristenDebeer.