UOD’s Disability Awareness Book Club

Join Understanding Our Differences for our Disability Awareness Book Club. It generally meets the first Monday of each month at Newton Free Library, 7:00 pm in Meeting Room A.

The purpose of the club is to engage in thought provoking discussion centered on books with a disability theme: fiction that portrays a character with a disability; nonfiction about living with a disability, and biographies, autobiographies or memoirs about living with a disability.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact our Program Director, Jenni Acosta via email. We welcome you to join these lively and thoughtful discussions. You may even come away with a new take on a book you’ve already read for another book club.

Upcoming Meeting Dates and Titles of Books:

Monday, May 6, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Nonfiction, Have Dog Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey, by Stephen Kuusisto

Have Dog

Monday, June 3, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Fiction, Census, by Jesse Ball


Books are available through the library or you can support UOD by purchasing through Amazon Smile!

Past Titles (2018-2019 academic year)

Monday, October 1, 2018, at 7pm in Room A

Nonfiction, Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair, by Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb

book cover that shows a young Syrian woman, Nujeen Mustafa, smiling







Monday, November 5, 2018, at 7pm in Room A

Fiction, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison

Revised Fundamentals

Monday, December 3, 2018, at 7pm in Room A

Nonfiction, The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal, by Jonathan Mooney

Short Bus

Monday, January 7, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Nonfiction, The Hands of My Father, by Myron Uhlberg

Hands of My Father

Monday, February 4, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Fiction, The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

Kiss Quotient

Monday, March 25, 2019, at 7pm in the Trustees Room

Nonfiction, Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life, by Harriet McBride Johnson

Too Late

Monday, April 1, 2019, at 7pm in Room A

Fiction, So Lucky: A Novel, by Nicola Griffith

So Lucky

Past Titles (March 2015-Spring 2018)





About UOD – A Radio Interview

UOD Executive Director Rebecca Lubens was interviewed recently about Understanding Our Differences on WNTN Radio 1550 AM, Newton’s radio station. The interview was conducted by host Paul Roberts on his show 1550 Today, WNTN’s weekly public affairs program featuring local news and issues.

Click below to listen to the interview podcast, which describes the history, mission and activities of Understanding Our Differences:



Kids Making A Difference

My Great Story
Recently 5th graders at Newton’s Memorial Spaulding School had the chance to meet some real-life video stars – Trent and Megan Briggs.  The students were learning about our Intellectual Disabilities unit, which features a special video called “My Great Story.” It is about the action Trent took to help eliminate the R-word from our vocabulary, on behalf of his sister, Megan, who has Down syndrome.

Trent and Megan visited the school in person, and shared their story. As a 9-year-old, Trent wrote to the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary, asking them to change the definition of Down syndrome to remove the R-word – and they did!

Students were incredibly enthusiastic to meet this brother and sister in person, and were captivated by Trent’s successful advocacy and Megan’s hip-hop dancing. At the end of their talk, students gathered around special “End the R-Word” posters and signed their names.

What a great lesson in kids making a difference.

To view “My Great Story,” part of UOD’s Intellectual Disabilities unit, click here.


Boston Marathon Runner Supported UOD

Matthew Stafford is a Newton resident and parent of two children in the Newton Public Schools who ran the Boston Marathon 2015 on behalf of Understanding Our Differences. Matt has seen first hand the positive impact that UOD has had on the students and the school community.

Here is what Matt has to say about UOD, “I am glad to have this chance to help UOD in their mission to bring their message to children all over. I am grateful that my children benefit from the impact of UOD on the culture of inclusion where they learn.”

Matt’s successfully raised over $10,000 for Understanding Our Differences. Click here to make an online donation through Matt’s fundraising page on CrowdRise.



Family Book Event A Success

Understanding Our Differences’ 3rd Annual Family Book Event on October 21, 2014 was a great success.  This year our guest Rob Buyea, author of Because of Mr. Terupt, was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 300 children, parents and teachers.

This special author conversation and book signing was moderated by Edgar B. Herwick III, of the WGBH radio show The Curiosity Desk.

Because of Mr. Terupt is a middle grade novel that explores classroom dynamics and the incredible impact that a teacher can have on his pupils. Mr. Terupt, the teacher, is especially wise about how much students with and without disabilities can learn from getting to know each other.

If you have ideas for a book and author for our Family Book Event in fall of 2015, please email us with your suggestion.

For our previous Family Book Events, Understanding Our Differences brought the following authors to Newton:
Fall 2012 – R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder
Fall 2013 – Sharon Draper, author of Out of My Mind



Successful Spring Benefit Held April 12th

Celebrating Our Differences held a successful and meaningful Spring Benefit on Sunday, April 12, 2015, at Community Rowing in Brighton, MA from 2:30 – 5:00 p.m.

We honored leaders in the field of Intellectual Disabilities, to coincide with our curriculum on that topic. Our esteemed honorees were:

· Jo Ann Simons, MSW, President & CEO, Cardinal Cushing Centers

· Mark Kelly, M.Ed., Director of Special Needs, City of Newton

· David Tynes, M.Ed., Physical Education Teacher, Horace Mann School, Newton; Director, The Cambridge Program



Congratulations to Youth Award Winner, UOD Diabetes Speaker

Congratulations to Hannah Gonzalez, speaker for UOD’s Diabetes unit and Newton middle school student, for this week winning the Irene Bickelman Junior Youth Award. UOD nominated her to win this award, “presented to an individual in elementary school through eighth grade who has earned the respect of his peers by demonstrating qualities such as leadership, citizenship, and good human values.” The Newton Parks and Recreation Commission and the Newton Health and Human Services Youth Commission annually present this and several other city-wide Youth Services Awards at a ceremony at City Hall.

Hannah has done an incredible job as a Diabetes unit speaker, educating students across Newton about the condition. We truly appreciate her knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm. (She is pictured here with UOD Operations Director Deborah Glickman.)


Hannah was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October of 2011. She is very outgoing and does not let diabetes interfere with the rest of her life. Hannah loves playing soccer and laughing with her friends and siblings. Her hope for her future is to become a dolphin trainer. She got very excited when she heard of the dolphin trainer, Robyn Cox, who also has type 1 diabetes! Hannah hopes to educate as many kids as possible about type 1 diabetes.

HOW TO: Making Honorary or Memorial Donations

Thank you for your interest in making an online honorary or memorial donation to Understanding Our Differences. We use PayPal to process charitable donations. To make your gift, first click on the large blue Donate button on the Giving page or home page.

After completing the requested PayPal information, click on the “Review Donation & Continue” button.  On the next screen, click on the “Add special instructions to the seller” link, and, in the box that appears, please type in the following information:

State what type of donation you are making, whether In Honor Of or In Memory Of. If you are making an In Honor Of donation, please include the honoree’s name and address. If you are making a Memorial Donation, please include the honoree’s name, and the name and address of a family member to be notified.

When you have typed this information in the box, click on the “Donate $ USD” button at the bottom of the page. Your donation will be complete and UOD will be notified of your intentions for your gift.



May A Busy Time of UOD Celebrations

On Sunday, May 4, Understanding Our Differences celebrated its 35th Anniversary with a Gala featuring renowned father-and-son marathoners Dick and Rick Hoyt as keynote speakers. This was Team Hoyt’s last year with the Boston Marathon, and we were delighted to honor them, along with our esteemed, long-time UOD volunteer leader, Linda Hiller.


Just two weeks later, on Friday, May 16, we held our annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at the Scandinavian Living Center in Newton. Newton city officials, and Newton Schools leadership, joined UOD board and staff to acknowledge the hard work and dedication this year of our many volunteers. Dr. Edward Mulligan and students of the EDCO Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing received the Katie Lynch Inspirational Speaker Award, presented by foundation head Joan Lynch.



Family Book Event – Fish In A Tree

4th Annual UOD Family Book Event
Oct. 20th

Great minds don’t always think alike! That was the message of the children’s book, Fish In A Tree, featured at Understanding Our Differences’ 4th Annual Family Book Event with a disability theme. Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt talked about and signed her New York Times bestselling novel, about a girl with learning disabilities who discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label.

The many parents, students, teachers and librarians in attendance agreed that the event was a great success, and that the author connected in a very thoughtful way with the audience.

As one parent wrote after the event, “The night was so moving and and meaningful to my family. I was so impressed with the author, and really enjoyed hearing her speak.”





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