Tackling disability awareness with children’s books
Emma reports about the "No Limits" project from the YSI awards
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A group of students from a school in Co. Dublin are tackling disability awareness through a series of children's books.
Four 5th year students from St. Joseph's College in Lucan, Co. Dublin, have taken action to educate young children about disabilities prevalent in today's society as their YSI action project. After coming second in the YSI awards last year while in TY, they are back to take part a second time to spread their message and improve awareness. They wrote and illustrated children's fairy tale books - their books focus on disabilities such as Down syndrome, epilepsy and being wheelchair bound. The main characters each suffer from the disabilities mentioned, acting as an inspiration to children who are also dealing with these disabilities.
Including children through fairytales
The inspiration for this project came from personal connections – a cousin with epilepsy, and a father confined to a wheelchair. They decided on this project after realising that while Disney fairytales tackle a wide range of subjects, such as race and skin colour, but disabilities are not one. There are no princes or princesses with epilepsy, or Down syndrome, and no princesses’ or princes are wheelchair bound. There were no characters that act as an inspiration to young children battling the same issues. They decided to change this. They set out to “improve the underrepresentation of disabled children in literature” and to educate young children, while also making them feel included. Children go to bed each night with fairytales, and the only books to exist about the topics are not child friendly – they merely explain the condition in a blunt, hard hitting way. This needed to change. Children needed a character like them to look up to, and to show that they can accomplish what every other child can – their disability makes them no different, and it doesn’t have to hold them back.
Representing all children
They explained to me at the YSI awards in Croke Park last Tuesday the 8th of May, that while epilepsy is not as visible as Down syndrome or being confined to a wheelchair, it is still a prevalent disability in today's society. Epilepsy is a disability that needs to be talked about, people need to be educated about it properly due to the fact that there are many misconceptions about it out there. They felt that they needed to represent all children with disabilities, whether it be a visible one or a hidden one.
The books themselves were written by the four students, and illustrated by another student from the school who was in 6th year.
For each book sold, 10% of the price of the book is given to their chosen charity that deals with the disabilities they are raising awareness about.
For me personally, this project really stood out. As an avid reader (and a lover of Disney) I find it a very valid point that disabled children are underrepresented in children's literature. As someone with connections to people suffering with epilepsy, I believe that people need to be better educated about the subject, especially children dealing with it who may be embarrassed to tell people for fear that they would be misunderstood, or would be frightened.
I think they done a marvellous job, and I wish them every success in the future.