Skip to main content

Millcreek Journal

Principal’s new book shows children how to embrace the beauty of differences

May 05, 2021 08:59AM ● By Katy Whittingham

Reneé Stirling DeHaan, assistant principal at Wasatch Jr. High in East Millcreek, authors a new children’s book titled, To Be Different is Beautiful. (Photo credit DeHaan)

By Katy Whittingham | [email protected]

Reneé Stirling DeHaan is the author of a new children’s book titled, “To Be Different Is Beautiful,” based on her experience growing up with physical disabilities. An assistant principal at Wasatch Jr. High in East Millcreek, DeHann drew upon her education background to complete the book.

“While working as a special education teacher for children with severe physical disabilities, I wanted to read books to my students about other children with disabilities,” DeHaan said, but she was unable to find books telling a story about having a disability from the individual’s point of view. 

In addition to creating a firsthand perspective children could relate to, DeHaan said she also wanted to celebrate accomplishments among those with physical disabilities. 

“I wanted to show what they have accomplished and the coping skills they develop along the way,” she said. DeHann knows the struggles and triumphs well. The Salt Lake native was born with two digits on each hand, a club left foot, and a missing right foot. 

“To Be Different Is Beautiful” is the first of a three book series and introduces spunky Demi, a young girl out to show the world she is different. Born without a foot and with a shorter leg, Demi accepts her differences as beautiful. She is anxious to show her friends what her artificial leg can do. Through her fun personality, Demi explains to the reader how her physical disabilities do not limit her functionality. 

“I want to help students realize they can overcome some of their disabilities in real life by having a role model and example,” DeHaan said.

She hopes the book will empower students to talk to other children about their disabilities and learn how to play and interact with others on the playground and in their communities. 

“To Be Different Is Beautiful” is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A “Different is Beautiful” Facebook fan page shares updates, related content, educational materials, and information for contacting DeHaan for school visits and events. The social media community is dedicated to acceptance, education and support for individuals with physical disabilities.