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Boca Raton woman using words to empower people living with developmental differences

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 1:21 PM EST
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At the Unicorn Children's Foundation it's okay to be different. In fact, those who break the norm are welcomed with CEO Sharon Alexander's open arms.

“We’re really one of a kind hit it’s really helping people with developmental differences who are so often isolated disconnected and not included in our community,” said Alexander.

The organization is dedicated to assisting kids and adults with developmental or learning disabilities navigate everyday life and careers. For adults officially diagnosed with autism later in life like Katie Santoro it’s part of her identity.

“It was such a relief and I understood myself better,” Santoro said.

She's now able to seek out her own assistance through places like the Unicorn Children's Foundation.

“Now I’m open about my autism at work,” Santoro said, “So my boss knows that I have autism. I get the opportunity to disclose and then I have an advocate someone who can advocate for me.”

As the Junior Board Chair for the Unicorn Children’s Fund, she’s now an advocate for women with autism and others with learning or developmental disabilties. For Santoro a big part of that is getting people get more comfortable using the term developmental differences as opposed to special needs.

“It implies it focuses on the disability and at the unicorn cf we don’t like to focus on the disability we like to focus on the abilities that people do have,” said Santoro.

Alexander said Santoro has the same needs as anyone else.

“Just because they have some differences doesn’t make them less than, we’re actually more alike than we are different,” said Alexander.

Embracing diversity equity and inclusion and changing the narrative on special needs; Santoro said it’s important.

“It helps to you know increase your self worth and be like my differences are good they’re not bad and they’re something to be proud of.”

And now, fully employed and happy Santoro is able to use her developmental differences to inspire others.

“I’ve worked there almost half a year and I have an incredibly understanding boss and I love that I’m an autism advocate,” said Santoro.

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Scripps Only Content 2021