Oxford Brookes Inclusion Conference

On Friday I attended the Oxford Brookes Inclusion Conference and shared my message of literacy for all, selling a lot of my books and leading a seminar with Mummy and Sarah for Teach Us Too. Nothing gives me greater joy than hearing teachers say they will look at the education of children with PMLD in a different light.

If you know of any good ways to get my message out then please leave a comment below or email Teach Us Too via their contact page.

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Blog Tour Bonanza

What a week!  When I approached bloggers to be part of my tour, I could never have imagined what would happen because of it: 44 new Twitter followers and connections, a proposed magazine article and, most exciting of all, an invitation to lead a seminar at Oxford Brookes University’s Inclusion Conference for trainee teachers.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me on the blog tour, and particularly to the bloggers for their wonderful reviews.

Book Blog Tour

Today is the start of my Book Blog Tour, and I am very excited and honoured to be featured by seven different bloggers throughout the week.  For my grandparents and anyone else who is unsure what a Book Blog Tour is:

What is a Book Blog Tour and how does it work?

Every day this week my book will be reviewed on a different blog, along with two questions I have answered about a theme from the book.  As the links to the reviews go live I will update them below so you can click on the blog name and see the review.

Monday 7th January:

Elly Chapple at: Can Do ELLA

Last year I met Elly at FestABLE, where she invited me to talk as part of the seminars she was leading.  Elly is the mother of Ella, who like me has been labelled with PMLD, but believes firmly in ‘can do’ rather than ‘can’t’, and is working tirelessly to #flipthenarrative for children in special needs education.

Questions I have answered:

  • How have parents reacted to Teach Us Too?
  • What would you say to someone thinking of starting a literacy journey with a non-verbal child?

Tuesday 8th January

Tanya Marlow at: Tanyamarlow.com

Tanya is an author, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality, and is a campaigner for those with chronic illness, disability and M.E.  Through the Association of Christian Writers I came across Tanya and I also really enjoyed her article in The Guardian: Don’t tell your child not to stare at disabled people – we are already invisible enough.

Questions I have answered:

  • What is the message you would like the wider public to take from your book and campaign?
  • What can the church do better to support those with disabilities?

Wednesday 9th January

Linda Hill at: lindasbookbag.com

Linda is a self-retired ex-English teacher, educational consultant and inspector, who runs an award winning book review blog.

Questions I have answered:

  • Why do you think children are so captivated by Michael Morpurgo’s writing?
  • How has Michael Morpurgo influenced you as an author?

Thursday 10th January

Jo Swinney at: joswinney.com

Jo is a Christian writer, speaker and editor, and I am looking forward to meeting her in March.

Questions I have answered:

  • We understand the faith element has been contentious in some areas of the media. Why is it so important that you keep Jesus in your story?
  • What difference has prayer made to your journey?

Friday 11th January

Lucy Rycroft at: lucyrycroft.com

Lucy writes about Christian adoption and parenting.  Head to her blog on Friday to be entered into the draw for a free signed copy of Eye Can Write.

Questions I have answered:

  • How important has family been to your story?
  • Can you describe the relationship with your sisters?

Saturday 12th January

Shaz Goodwin at: jerasjamboree.co.uk

Shaz is a part-time Inclusion Lead at her local school and blogs about books.

Questions I have answered:

  • What have been the most effective ways that people have included you?
  • How easy is it for you to include friends in your life?

Sunday 13th January 

Wendy Jones at: wendyhjones.com

Wendy has worked as a nurse and in academia, and is a Scottish writer and runs the Association of Christian Writers.

Questions I have answered:

  • How do you answer people who say: Why do you think God gave you this condition?
  • Today is the 9th anniversary of your transplant.  What would you say to someone unsure of signing the donor register?

Happy New Year!

As one year draws to a close and another begins it gives a chance to look back and reflect on 2018 and look forward to 2019.  And what a year 2018 was!  With the airing of the My Life programme in February and the publication of my book and launching of my charity in July, three big projects I had been working on came to fruition.  Each of those projects are opening new avenues and creating new opportunities as I look forward to 2019 with enthusiasm and anticipation.

The first excitement is my Book Blog Tour, which starts on Monday.  Join me and my book as we are reviewed by different bloggers every day next week.  Each blogger will also feature two questions and answers which I have written on themes covered in my book.  Do head over to the blogs to read the reviews and see what I have shared.

Lambeth Palace – Guest Carol Service

Last night I was privileged to attend the Lambeth Palace Guest Carol Service, which was a beautiful reflective Christmas celebration.  Archbishop Justin asked me to share a thought for the occasion, which my sister, Susannah, read delightfully; I was so proud of her.

Here is the piece I wrote which she read:

‘Stories have always been a large part of my life; stories I have grown up listening to, stories my imagination has inhabited, and latterly stories I have written. This year I have had the privilege of sharing my story with a wider audience, and in turn have been rewarded with hearing the stories others have shared with me.

When we share our stories, we give an insight not just to the polished outside appearance, but also a sense of the struggles and difficulties on the way.  Through them we can learn from each other, what binds our common humanity and the differences that make us all unique.

Christmas gives us a chance to look back over the year, and as I look back over my extra-ordinary year, it is not so much the big events that I look back and cherish, but the people who have shared some of their story with me. People like Anne, who wrote to me and said that although she had been very involved in church, she had lost her faith 17 years ago when her father died.  After reading my description of the Garden, Anne realised that God is there, helping and guiding her every day.  She ended her letter ‘thank you for sharing your faith and restoring mine’.  It is humbling that God uses our stories in this way.

Then there was Mya who is non-verbal and, like me a few years ago, labelled with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties.  Mya communicates with a blink for yes and a stare for no.  As Mya’s mother read my story to her, she would sigh at the common misperceptions we both experience.  When her mother had finished she asked Mya if she would like to learn to read and write.  Her affirming blinks were rapid and enthusiastic. Now, Mya has started a literacy journey of her own.  Recently she spelled out ‘I can’.

And at Christmas time we celebrate the greatest story of all.  God the author also became God the character as Jesus came to join our story.  He entered the mess and complication, participating in our common humanity and demonstrating a radically different way to live – God’s loving way.

But the story didn’t end 2000 years ago, and it doesn’t end every year when the decorations come down.  When we invite Jesus to share our story, our lives become woven with the greatest story of all.’

 

 

Rising Star Award – runner up

On Tuesday evening I was honoured to attend the DSC’s Social Change Awards at the House of Lords.  In a marquee on the terrace overlooking the Christmas lights on the banks of the Thames, we talked, met and exchanged ideas about running charities.  Meeting and chatting with Beth Rowland, the winner of the Rising Star Award, was one of the highlights of the evening – a very deserving winner and beautiful person.

Below is a picture of my runner up prize: a wonderful cartoon by Grizelda, cartoonist at Private Eye.

DSC prize

 

 

 

Out and About

Meeting people is so much fun, it is one of the things I enjoy the most; and over the next few days I have a few opportunities to chat with people.

Tomorrow I am visiting a couple bookshops in Bath: Toppings at 10:45 and Mr B’s Emporium at 11:30.  If you see me in Bath please do say hello.

On Saturday evening we are very honoured that Sherston Community Choir are giving some of the proceeds from their Christmas concert to Teach Us Too.  Do come along and support them if you can; I will be there and will bring some books with me to sell and sign.  Christmas sorted: music and present shopping in one!

Rising Star Award Nomination

Earlier this week I was astonished and honoured to find out that my work for Teach Us Too has been shortlisted for the Rising Star Award from the Directory of Social Change.  The Rising Star award is for young people who have had a major impact in their organisation / community by achieving positive change themselves or by engaging others to bring about concrete results.

Having Teach Us Too acknowledged in this way as a recognition of what we are striving to achieve is an amazing endorsement.   Please read the amazing stories of the other people shortlisted for this award and vote for one of us here

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Remembrance Day War Horse

What an incredibly moving and highly charged performance of War Horse yesterday in London. What a way to commemorate 100 years after the armistice. As the bells tolled and the poppies fell on the cast, we stood to remember all that the play stood for; the horror, terror and waste; but also our common humanity and hope in the face of adversity.

Image from War Horse Facebook page

In This Light

Before this year I hadn’t been to a book launch – now I’ve  been to two in three months! On Thursday I was honoured to attend the launch of In This Light, a book compiled of thoughts for Christmas by the archbishop of Canterbury and 49 other contributors (including a small piece from me).

Reading my copy of the book has been inspiring – stories and messages of kindness, hope and peace abound within its pages from a diverse spectrum of people ranging from celebrities to a man acquitted from death row.

It is indicative of the kind of person Archbishop Justin is, that in a room of household names, he chose the unknown non-verbal 12 year old to say something.  Indicative of the principles of the baby born that first Christmas that the weak are elevated, those on the margins of society given a voice, those excluded enabled to contribute.

Along with Eye Can Write, this book would make a perfect Christmas gift.

Here is a prayer I wrote for the launch:

Father,

Thank you for bringing us together, as we celebrate the publication of this empowering book. May it help spread the love that you instil within us all, through the beautiful messages of hope, peace and your great unfathomable love demonstrated in sending Jesus.  Within these pages we are also made aware of those in need: the lonely, those caught up in conflict and the broken-hearted.  Draw near to them Lord so that your light may penetrate their lives this Christmas.

In Jesus name we pray,

Amen