Hello Deborah and welcome to The Phil Factor. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for my readers. For those of you not familiar with her work, Deborah French is an educator, advocate and parent. She is the parent of two special needs children who have enriched her every day and inspired her book A Brief Moment in Time. I’m going to be honest here. Usually as part of my homework before interviewing an author I read at least one of their books. Since Deborah only has one book, one that I’ve been aware of for about two months, you’d think that homework would have been easy. I’ve been aware of her book and what it’s about but I’ve been afraid to read it; afraid that I would probably cry my eyes out from start to finish with sadness, happiness, and inspiration.
PT: Ok, now that I’ve confessed, would you mind telling my readers about A Brief Moment in Time?
Deborah: A Brief Moment in Time tells my story of raising my two children with special needs. I have deliberately chosen to narrate the story in a way that enables the reader to experience the journey as I did, making it an honest and heart rendering memoir. It has been suggested by many of my readers that my book be sold with a box of tissues!
PT: Most people are aware of the discrimination that children with special needs endure. Could you talk a little bit about some of the social challenges you’ve faced as the parent of two special needs children?
Deborah: Unfortunately Phil, people fear what they don’t know and therefore do not understand. As a family we have learnt that there a those who we feel comfortable with and there are others that with whom, we restrict the time we spend with them because of their reactions to our children. It has certainly been a painful process to learn and nine years on, people’s negative reactions still hurt but we have learnt to cope by laughing rather than crying. What’s most interesting to note, I have felt most saddened by my children’s disabilities when I have been exposed to the prejudiced attitudes of others. In our own home I barely notice the disability.
PT: Was writing A Brief Moment in Time a catharsis for you, a way to reach out to others, or a little bit of both? And how did you manage to find the time while raising two young kids that may keep you a little busier than most?
Deborah: Writing my story began as therapy for me. Whilst the process was deeply painful, it allowed me to embrace and understand feelings that I had buried long ago.
Once ASD Publishing decided to publish my story, it became something else entirely; an opportunity to educate people who fear those with disabilities. A Brief Moment in Time also sheds light on the pain and angst that engulfs the families of children with special needs. As far as finding the time, once I started writing I couldn’t stop. It is amazing how 24 hours can be ‘stretched’. I became acquainted with hours of the day I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager.
PT: Of all the things you’ve learned since becoming the mum of a boy with autism and a girl with Down’s Syndrome, what has been the most surprising?
Deborah: That disability teaches you patience and happiness in ways I never thought possible. Plus, I do believe that now parenting two children with special needs and twin girls, there should be an additional meaning added to the English dictionary to describe the unlimited capabilities of the term ‘multi tasking’.
PT: Wow! Four kids is a challenge in any household. Like I always say, once the kids outnumber the adults you’re in trouble. Could you speak a little about Sensory Processing Disorder and how it can impact a day?
Deborah: Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a very challenging disability because of the nature of its symptoms. Many children with SPD are unable to identify and verbally express their needs. Their reactions therefore are often misinterpreted as behavioral problems compounding their issues further. Examples of the impact SPD can have can be seen in children’s daily behavior to include: Hypersensitivity to loud noise, certain tastes and smells of food, an inability to sit still and clumsiness. Adults with SPD describe their symptoms as often painful and uncontrollable. If a child displays any of the symptoms above, parents need to visit an Occupational Therapist in their area for an assessment and guidance on the best course of action.
PT: You’ve also developed a dance and movement group for children with special needs. I can imagine that would be challenging and rewarding with any group of children. Can you talk a little about that?
Deborah: For the past year and a half we have been running a baseball team and more recently established a dance group for children with special needs.
The biggest challenge each week is to ensure that the children leave feeling that they were successful in their interaction in the group. We do this in the baseball game for example by not keeping score and in our dance class the songs played have a slower tempo ensuring the dancers can keep up with the movement changes. All of which ease the pressure to ‘succeed’ in a specific way.
Every week is different. At least two participants will have tantrums for different reasons but that is merely part of their adjustment to the rules and boundaries when participating in a group activity.
What I can tell you is that it is impossible to describe how rewarding it is to be part of these groups. For example each week I have the privilege to watch a young boy with Cerebal Palsy; who is almost blind, non verbal and in a wheel chair, squeal in delight as his father holds a baseball bat and helps him hit the ball and run the field whilst we stand and cheer. Such moments need to be seen to be fully appreciated.
PT: Lastly, is there a sequel, next book, or other project in the works for you?
Deborah: In the past month so much has happened with my children and their respective schools that my husband asked me when am I planing to write the sequel? That is most certainly a possibility, but not yet. There are many more lessons to be learnt before then unfortunately. As for more immediate projects, we shall see what the coming year brings.
Deborah, thank you again for taking the time to interview for #ThePhilFactor. You can find more about Deborah online at deborah-french.com and you can follow her on Twitter @SpecialEd4Mums. She is also on Facebook and you can find her book A Brief Moment in Time in all the e-book stores.
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