As many already know, the mission of the MCBD is to promote diversity in children’s literature. However, neurodiversity is often overlooked, which author Sivan Hong is determined to change. Her series of books were created to help neurodiverse children feel represented in the books they read. Her Super Fun Day Books highlight neurodiverse kids positively and work to normalize what it is like for them in the classroom.
The term neurodiverse is a concept that confirms that all brains are wired differently. However, there is a subset of brains that are wired even more differently. Neurodiversity includes ADHD, autism, dyslexia, Tourette’s, and many more. Neurodiversity is just another kind of diversity that makes the world a better place.
As a mom to two neurodiverse kids, and someone who is also neurodiverse, Sivan noticed a distinct lack of books that show other kids who had had these same neurodiverse challenges and strengths.
“My son needed to wear headphones in class to help with his sensory issues. I wanted to find a picture book that showed a child who needed headphones like him,” Sivan shared. “It became harder for him to feel comfortable wearing them because he felt different. Early on, I saw a need to create books for kids that facilitate the conversations that show that it is completely OK to need a fidget toy, a special chair, or like my son, need to wear headphones in class. I saw a need to create books with characters that help kids see themselves within the pages and think, ‘Hey, that’s me! I am OK, and I’m not the only one who has these needs in life.’”
Sivan shared that she purposefully included a tool called Social Stories in her Super Fun Day Books. A social story is a tool used in Special Education that is a specifically designed set of steps that will help a neurodiverse child navigate things that they may find scary. Good examples of situations include going to a playdate, the first day of school, taking a trip, and much more. These social stories provide kids with a deliberate social structure that will help them understand what to expect and ease their fears in the process.
As her son grew older, social stories became an excellent tool for helping him feel comfortable with day-to-day challenges and new experiences. Her son’s teachers welcomed these steps, and many of these superhero educators are represented as characters in the Super Fun Day Books.
“As I created this deliberate structure in the form of steps for him and saw how well they helped him, I realized that these situations with the companion steps would make great children’s books while helping to fill the gap of the lack of neurodiverse characters in picture books.”
Sivan shared that another mission of her book was to eliminate the stereotype that a neurodiverse child is a white boy. “Neurodiversity impacts all kinds of kids,” Sivan noted. “Many people have the stereotypical idea that an ADHD child is always a white boy. Neurodiversity is not limited to one race, gender, or socioeconomic class. This false assumption made me even more determined to include neurodiverse characters of color in my books.”
Sivan has written and illustrated three books in The Super Fun Day Books series, including Benny J. and the Horrible Halloween, George J. and the Miserable Monday, and her most recent book that was released on August 11, 2021, Emily D. and the Fearful First Day. Emily D. and the Fearful First Day follows a neuro-atypical girl on her first day of school. The story will help kids identify and share their worries, and its bright illustrations are deliberately simple. Each of Sivan’s books is created with very specific needs in mind as well.
“I know that some kids with ADHD and autism can get distracted very easily and lose focus on the story, and this includes my kids. With this in mind, I created illustrations, a storyline, and fonts designed with neurodiverse audiences. I purposefully kept the illustration extremely simple and only included the illustrations that ‘needed’ to be there. The fonts are straightforward as well. They were chosen because I wanted to help kids with dyslexia to be able to follow along without getting frustrated. I have also made sure my books are all available in audiobook form to represent the readers who have trouble sitting and reading a story.”
When not writing, Sivan enjoys being a wife to her wonderful husband and a mother to their two exceptional children. They have a dog and cat and live a quiet and contented life in their home in Westport, Connecticut. Her professional career spans over two decades in several industries and professions, including holding esteemed positions as a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and former partner at The Bridgespan Group. She also loves to offer her time and expertise to others, and she currently serves as a Trustee on the Boards of the Westport Public Library, the Rita Allen Foundation, and the ASPCA.
All of Sivan’s books are available via her website and on Amazon. Parents, Teachers, and Educators can connect with her via Facebook and Instagram as well.