New Video: About UOD’s Growth and First Online Unit

We are very excited that UOD has completed a marketing/informational video about our strategic growth initiative. This video includes general information about UOD and the urgent need to increase our reach to more schools and communities, as well as a description and preview of an online version of our Autism unit. 

Here are links to the video on both YouTube and Vimeo. 

Vimeo –

YouTube –

We welcome you to share this video with anyone who could be interested in supporting this project, and to send us your comments, suggestions and ideas. Please email Director of Development Patricia Salic at [email protected] or call our office at 617-559-6075.

Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver Headlined UOD’s 40th Gala

Tim 1 sm

Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, addresses crowd at UOD 40th Gala

Over 250 people came together on April 12, 2018 in Newton, MA, to celebrate the first 40 years of Understanding Our Differences’ history and hear about the exciting vision UOD has for the next 40.

Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics and son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, delivered the keynote address and received a Leadership Award at the Gala. Shriver spoke movingly and inspired the crowd as he connected UOD’s work with an exciting worldwide movement to foster inclusion.

Since 1996, Timothy P. Shriver, PhD, has grown Special Olympics into a respected global organization, serving 5.6 million Special Olympics athletes in 172 countries, transforming it into a movement that focuses on acceptance, inclusion and respect for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Before joining Special Olympics, Shriver was and remains a leading educator focusing on the social and emotional factors in learning. He co-founded and currently chairs the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the leading research organization in the field of social and emotional learning.

A graduate of Yale University, Shriver earned a master’s degree in Religious Education from Catholic University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Connecticut. He resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and five children.

UOD Welcomes Summer Intern


Nathan Persampieri

We’re so pleased to welcome Nathan Persampieri, rising senior at Newton North High School, as our summer intern. Nathan is part of the pre-employment program sponsored by Easter Seals Massachusetts and is working on a project with us to design and implement a high school disability awareness campaign. He hopes to launch them at both Newton high schools in the fall.

Nathan’s overall goals are to make a difference and serve the community and people with disabilities through disability advocacy. He has already led an event called “Beyond Kindness” at Newton North High School through the NNHS Center for Civic Engagement, and hopes to do more this year. He certainly lives his core values of Inclusion, Diversity, Kindness, and Making a Difference.

He’s got great ideas and we are lucky to work with him this summer (and beyond)!

Matching Gift Challenge Will Double Your Donation

We’re excited about a challenge UOD has received from an anonymous donor. Between now and August 31, we need a total of $10,000 in donations from people like you. If we raise that $10,000, we will receive a $10,000 matching gift from our generous donor.

This challenge match will allow you to double the value of your donation and also assist UOD in reaching our ambitious program and financial goals for 2019. The need for disability awareness education is greater than ever, and UOD is responding by moving our ten disability units online, starting with Autism. 

When you donate to UOD, you are connecting to an organization that provides the knowledge and teaches attitudes essential for our increasingly inclusive 21st century world. This is especially true now – when people with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the U.S. Your support for Understanding Our Differences’ comprehensive disability awareness program is a vital way to demonstrate that inclusion and respect matter!

Your gift will ensure that we “make the match!” Please be generous. Click here to double your gift!

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.


Andrew Solomon Speaks About the Importance of UOD

Far from the tree banner

Acclaimed author Andrew Solomon spoke in Newton on Monday, June 17, 2013, about his book, Far from the Tree. It is a magnificent work about extraordinary families of individuals affected by cognitive, physical or psychological differences. This thought-provoking book affirms the values of empathy and acceptance for people of all abilities, and its themes fit extremely well with UOD’s mission.

We at Understanding Our Differences were thrilled that during his talk, Andrew directly addressed and endorsed the value of our program.


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.



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