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A mother has shared her experiences of raising a daughter on the autism spectrum, with the aim of improving the way society treats people with mental and physical challenges.

Deborah Smith has written two booklets aimed at highlighting the lives of those with challenges and their caregivers, and will be hosting a book signing on September 17.

The two self-published booklets are entitled Challenged, with one focusing on children in the form of a story and colouring book and the other focusing on resources for adults.

Ms Smith, who was a corrections officer for 21 years and retired as a divisional officer at Westgate Correctional Facility close to 25 years ago to care for her daughter, said: “My inspiration for writing the book is my autistic daughter, Chelsea, who turned 34 on Labour Day.

“But it goes further than autism. It is to encourage folk to interact more with mentally and physically challenged persons and not just take a glimpse, which even I used to do before I had my daughter.

“The responsibility often falls on one person, one family member, but I want to encourage everyone to play a part whether it be financially or visiting and giving the main caregiver some free time, and to be more cognisant and aware of the needs of both persons — the challenged person and the caregiver.”

The children’s booklet also features other local families affected by mental or physical challenges. Ms Smith said that a caregiver has “awesome responsibilities”, especially those who care for loved ones with whom they live at home.

She added: “A typical day may run from 6am to 10pm for that caregiver having the child living at home with them. You might be up all hours of the night especially if that person has seizures or needs to be turned at night.

“My hope for Challenged is twofold — one that it will become read in every elementary school and foster positive interests regarding the everyday lives of persons with special needs at an early age, and two, that the self-esteem and confidence of children with challenges will be elevated when seeing their peers featured on the cover of a book.

“Maya Angelou said, ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’.

“In reading the booklets my hope is that you are not only encouraged but become more aware of the daily tasks facing challenged persons in our society.”

The book signing is at the K. Margaret Carter Centre on September 17 from 10am to 3pm where copies of the booklets will be on sale.

The booklets include an acknowledgement from Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, and will be on sale thereafter for $20 for both by calling 505-4469 or 336-8179.



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