Editor’s note. This story comes from the Jerome Lejeune Foundation.
As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, Gail Hamblin is determined to make sure her son, Calvin, and those like him are able to live their best lives. Raising Calvin, she realized that there was a critical gap in children’s literature on Down syndrome – and she was determined to fill it. She explains:
There were books to tell other people this person has Down syndrome, and that sort of thing. But there wasn’t anything on the market that was, “OK, we have Down syndrome, but that’s not who we are. Yes, it’s a part of us but that doesn’t totally define us. We’re human; we should be loved, too.” I wanted something that was going to cross all of those barriers.
Gail used her experience as a special education teacher to craft the perfect book. Using Kickstarter to raise funds, Gail enlisted a high school friend, Jenny Kopp, to illustrate it. Called More Alike than Different, the tale follows Arthur, a dog with Down syndrome, as he explores the world and discovers who he is. Hamblin hopes the book will be a useful tool for parents to explain what Down syndrome is, and reduce bullying by raising awareness among kids about Down syndrome.
The book has also been translated into Spanish, and an activity book has been designed to accompany it, with coloring pages, mazes, and more.
Hamblin is excited to see how her book is reaching people and wants to continue to encourage other families of those with Down syndrome. Though many of her plans have been put on hold with the challenge of coronavirus, she hopes to write additional books and develop a podcast for parents of kids with Down syndrome. She says:
I’m further along in my journey — I’m not to the teenage years or anything, he’s only 8 — but there’s a lot that I’ve learned along the way that if I could find it and listen to it when I was going through those things, it would have been helpful.
Meanwhile, she’s enjoying her work as an assistive technology manager for the University of Delaware, as well as spending extra time with her three children, who are finishing the school year at home:
I’m grateful for every day that we have together and that we’re healthy and we’re happy. Yes, we’re getting through each day, but I want to make each day good if we can.
I tell myself, “They’re healthy, they’re happy, just do what you can.” I would say that it all comes back to my faith and God … that’s where I draw my strength.