Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood New Friend

Fitting In: In So Many Ways, We are the Same

Fitting in: a topic that may be unspoken but surely crosses most parent’s minds at some point when they have a child with a disability or braces – maybe I should stop at “have a child.” This was, for me, a fear of the unknown when my child was younger. A fear, at its strongest, before she showed me her resilience and strength. I still wrestle with it from time to time but mostly, I learned that things will be okay.

That brings me to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a children’s show on PBS Kids. I am very proud of the writers for helping teach kids about diversity and inclusion. They teach that everyone is different in some ways but everyone is the same in so many other ways. Before I tell you more about the episode, Daniel's New Friend / Same and Different [HD], here’s the story about why it stole my heart.

At some point, nearly every child becomes aware of differences. If the difference is theirs, this may or may not be upsetting for them. It can be more distressing for parents who hope for their child to be able to fit in. Many children in orthotics require more medical attention than average. Watching them go through that intensifies the desire for them to fit in while confident in themselves.

Let’s go back to Ariana’s last birthday when she asked for a fish. We went to a pet store to look at them. A man, I’ll call “Ed”, greeted us with a friendly smile from behind the cash register. We said “hello” and slowly browsed. Ariana walked independently instead of being carried. She was wearing a cute dress with her braces outside her leggings, easily seen. Before we got too far, Ed stepped out from behind the counter and said to Ariana, “Hi there, I want to show you something.” From there, he bent down and lifted up his pant leg to show her his brace. Then continued, “I don’t normally show people my braces but wanted to show you that I have braces, just like you!” Ariana looked at me with the biggest smile, happy to have just met a friend. I asked, “Why do you have to wear braces?” and he told me that it is due to Muscular Dystrophy. I thanked him for sharing, we shopped for the fish and left after saying goodbye to Ed. That was that.

About a month later, the night of a school party, Ariana asked me, “Mommy, why do I wear braces and my friends wear only socks and shoes?” Caught a little off guard, I said, “Remember how you had a lot of casts to correct your (club)feet?” She shook her head yes. “Well, this is to keep them straight and to help you walk. Everyone is different in some way.” She said, “Just like Ed, the man at the fish store.” She wasn’t sad, just curious. I didn’t know until then that Ed made a lasting impression. I am grateful to Ed for giving Ariana someone to relate to.

Then, last week, she was watching an episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” from PBS Kids. To my excitement, a little girl named Chrissie was wearing braces and using arm crutches. The show’s lesson taught about braces, how they help Chrissie walk, followed by how everyone is different, yet the same. I already liked the program because I find it educational but now, they stole my heart. If you haven’t seen it, it could be an episode to watch with your young children. Ariana now often says to me, “I want to watch Christy [sic]”. It makes my heart happy that she has this character.

I think the more we can reenforce messages like this, the better. It is great for kids, like Ariana, to see children like them in media. It is great to teach all kids that others are different and it is okay to talk about it and ask questions. This is a lesson beyond braces. It celebrates differences but points out how much we really are the same. At the end of the day, we seek companionship and community.

On a parting note, I am encouraged by what I see at my daughter’s preschool today. Kids are kids. They play, boss each other around and, yet, hug each other with huge smiles after a weekend or vacation. The moment I heard most of the kids in her class refer to her as their best friend, I knew they saw her for her and the rest is just a part of her – lessons learned young and accepted.

You can watch this Daniel Tiger episode #133 (S04E03) on PBS Kids, Netflix, and Amazon. If you are not a subscriber, you can download a copy below.


Daniel's New Friend / Same and Different [HD]




A Wise Child Once Taught Me, Never Say Never

I thought my first “real” post was going to be the most helpful one, finding shoes that work over AFOs. Today, I realized another tip was more important and that as a mom, is probably the golden tip, the mother of all my tips:

The power of positive thinking. Remembering to never say never about a child’s future abilities.

Let’s go back to my daughter’s first days. This was a time of great uncertainty. I tried to find information about her condition, tried to know what to do and what to believe. Her future was in my hands.

When Ariana was 10 days old, my husband and I sat in the evaluation room at our local Children’s hospital – top rated in the country, and waited for answers and hope. The first stream of people entered, the resident and her student entourage (you know what I mean). I can still remember that moment. It went a little like this…

The resident, I am going to call her “Sarah”, began with the usual line of questioning. “So, tell us about your pregnancy”, she said. “Tell us about your family history”. Then, I went into all the not-so-glorious details about that when all I wanted to know was, “will she walk?”.

After the long line of questioning, in came the doctor. The door opened and it was as if the seas had just parted; a flock of doves were released all around him while angels sang. He was the “crazy professor with a bow-tie” type of doctor. The ONE with answers. After a while, he left the room and Sarah re-entered after their pow-wow in the hallway. I finally got to ask, “Will Ariana walk?” She looked into my eyes and said, “That’s the goal, but I don’t know.” She didn’t say “no”, but it was a very hopeless sounding, “that’s the goal”.

I went home, I often rocked my 5 pound baby girl in the middle of the night, dreaming of whether she would ever ride a scooter in the cul-de-sac like I saw the neighborhood kids often do. I shed a few tears at night, in high hopes and also completely enamored by her.

My family told me that she would walk, she would run. I tried to control their expectations as they were trying to give me the hope that the doctors failed to provide. They needed to be prepared that she may not do those things. The next year and a half was filled with doubt about her future abilities. I had fears, ones that she, one-by-one, erased.  These doubts were mine alone, never shared by my determined child. Today, at physcial therapy, she was told to run as fast as she could up and down the hallway.  To you, she may have been walking somewhat quickly.  To her, she was definitely racing.  To me, she was winning a marathon.

I am here to tell you folks, NEVER say “never”. NEVER say “can’t”. Children are amazing. I have spent the last 4 years, first being schooled by an infant who continues the lessons to present day, always with a smile. This week, I sat poolside and watched Ariana enjoy her swim lesson.  No one watching knew, the lesson was for us.

That is:  Everything is possible!  If this tiny girl could overcome such adversity with a smile, we all need to hold hope and believe. She changed my life forever and now, my purpose is clear.



Hi! My name is Christy.

I see so many parents who are new to orthotic (brace) wear, just like I once was, with the same questions. They have the same worries and frustrations. I will share with you what I learned over the years from my experience and from my circle of mom friends that is valuable to me.  Stress has definitely improved with the support, advice and knowledge of so many who had experience before me.

What do I aim to do?

Simply stated: I want to give tips to make  your life easier!  You have other things to worry about.

I guess that it’s true that not all people in orthotics are “special needs” but I think that orthotics in itself is certainly a special need that most people don’t have to worry about or deal with. My goal is to lessen the stress for those with orthotics. There are other things to worry about than going store to store trying to find shoes that fit. You deserve good night’s sleep without listening to your child cry in pain (or maybe it is you who lies awake at night in pain). So, I am going to provide you everyday tips for life affected by orthotic wear. I am pulling together resources to make your life easier, I hope. So, if you have something to add, comment below. We can get smarter together. Whether you, yourself, wear braces or you care for a loved one who wears them, I hope that what I share here will be a valuable source to you. If so, please share it with others who might benefit.

Have a question that isn’t addressed? Email me at Christy@AFOwear.com with your question. If I don’t know the answer, chances are, I know someone who does that can help provide you with the tips to answer your question!

Thanks for visiting . Subscribe to my blog for more updates on the most common questions.