Friday, August 27, 2010

Author Maryanne Harrison

I am very lucky to get some fantastic people writing on this blog, sharing some amazing stories and making a difference in the lives and hearts of others, simply by touching them. I came across the amazing Maryanne Harrison when I was lucky enough to fall on her amazing and inspirational books that she is developing to educate children on accepting difference. Her Ted Books are truly a marvellous invention that really assist parents, teachers, carers and family members to teach children about the fact that on the inside we are all the same! Enjoy her blog post.

Maryanne Harrison

I am a children’s book author and advocate for people with disabilities. When I was three years old I lost most of my hearing after contracting measles, and then mumps, within a few weeks of each other. The doctors told my parents that I would need to be institutionalised but my parents refused, and sent me to Blackburn Primary and Blackburn High School.

It was when I was in my mid forties that the hearing in my right ear starting deteriorating further and my hearing aid was not working for me, so in September 2009 I received a cochlear implant. It was while I was recovering from my operation that I decided to put together a children’s book to try and teach, not only children, but parents on the importance of respecting differences. I had been working with primary school children on a disability awareness program and this also helped to inspire me to write the book.

People who experience hearing loss may also be unable to work and socialise therefore suffering from isolation and even depression. There are around 15,000 middle aged Australians who would benefit from a cochlear implant. This would mean that they could continue working if they so wished, socialise and travel. Having a cochlear implant will take a hearing impaired person from being extremely deaf to just having a minor hearing loss.

As a mother, author and a person who grew up with the challenges of a hearing disability, I understand how critical it is to educate and inspire children from an early age to accept and appreciate all people no matter how ‘different’ they may be; in fact differences are good!

Children generally do not notice when someone has a disability, it is only when someone else, usually a grownup, points it out to them. If my book can teach children and their parents to realise that being different is OK then I have achieved my goal. Everyone is different in some way, we all need to respect this and accept it. In order to build an inclusive community we need to be open to everyone living in our communities. This means not just in the accessibility of our communities but also in the way we welcome everyone into our communities. It is not accessibility that isolates the disabled; it is people’s attitudes. This is what I would like to see taught through my book. If we can change the way children think about the disabled then they will accept this is the way of the future and respect people who may be different in some way.

If teachers can use the book in the classroom to teach children about respect then they are also doing their bit to help educate future generations. Anyone can do what I have done; just put yourself in the shoes of someone who may be in a wheelchair, blind or deaf. Try to imagine what it would be like. Try wearing a blind fold, ear plugs or use a wheelchair to get around. You will soon develop a respect you would never have thought possible for people who live like this every day of their lives. Try getting your students to do any one of these things so that they can also see how hard it is.

My husband, Lindsay, and I are parents of three well adjusted children. (Tommy 17, Annalise 15 and Charlee 10). Lindsay has been behind me every step of the way encouraging and guiding me. His belief in me has been the main reason for me to have arrived at this point with the book – I would not have been able to achieve what I have so far without him. My family have been my strength, and I would most certainly not be where I am today – a published author – without their love and support.

A very good friend and mentor, Derek Barker from Barker & Barker Media in Melbourne, put me onto IDEAS. It is a fabulous link to information for anyone looking for resources to make life easier for the disabled.

At the moment I am concentrating on getting TED’s book out into the community. I have set up my own business from home (Ted Books and I am working hard on marketing and advertising the book in whatever way I can. I feel that I have been given a voice; the disabled do not need others to speak for them, we can speak for ourselves.

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