We’ve hosted many special book launches in our time, celebrating authors from all over Australia. But one in particular is a little more special…
Special, by Melanie Dimmitt is the curious, casual and conversational companion for parents in the early stages of navigating a child’s disability. When Melanie and her partner Rohan found out their six-month old son Arlo was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, they thought their lives had turned upside down. And beneath the pages of Special, you’ll come to know that they did – for the better.
Mel writes: ‘When Arlo was younger, as we traipsed the footpaths of our suburb, I used to look at other mothers pushing prams and feel bitter. What could they possibly have to worry about? I would internally grumble. Nowadays, I look at them and wonder, what is their private struggle? And marvel at how, from across the street, I too am just another mother pushing a pram.’
Special was launched at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown last week. Led by journalist and author Amy Molloy, Melanie spoke with Joanna Avramides, mother to Tilly, who has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, and Jaynie Johnson, mother of Dare, who has down syndrome, and founder of the Lucky Mama Network.
The three mothers spoke of what it was like to find out the diagnosis (speechless), to their thoughts on the future (uplifting, inspiring and full of opportunities), and the importance of storytelling (to heal, to change ideas, and to facilitate connections).
They spoke of the taboos around disabilities, and dealing with other peoples’ expectations and reactions. In short, not caring is the best option, and changing the conversation around disability and inclusivity is one important (but challenging) task.
Amy closed the night with a reading from the end of Special, which sums up a lot learnt from the evening.
“The week of my writing this conclusion we trialed a modified pram for Arlo – a double, so that his sister can come along for the ride – that’s about as inconspicuous as a drag queen in a monastery. Our path continues to diverge off the main road and, in many ways, our challenges are only just beginning. I’m very aware that the ‘cute’ baby and toddler stage of parenting a child with disability is golden, and am grateful that this coincides with early years, at a time when we are most emotionally volatile. Yes, invasive surgeries, wheelchair discussions, schooling decisions and conversations with Arlo (and Odette) about his disability are coming. But I know I will handle them. I know I will be okay when things aren’t okay. I know I will be happy when things aren’t okay, because I am. I truly am – and not just during the big, breakthrough moments, but in all the non-moments, too. When Arlo laughs at Odette after she’s swiped her dinner clear off the table. When Rowan reads them both Goodnight, Mice!, as they nestle into the crooks of his arms. When Arlo gives me that look that only he and I share, and as I watch him thoughtfully taking in the world with boundless curiosity.
None of us are immune to life’s curve balls. Things will happen, and I’ve chosen to accept those terms. I’ve chosen to follow my son’s lead, look to our future with curiosity, not fear, and take comfort in knowing we will cope. We will freaking flourish.
And so will you.”
You can find out more about Special here.