Why My 10-Year-Old Daughter Wrote a Book About Disabilities and Adoption
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My daughter Mariah is 10 years old. We met her for the first time when she was 4 years old and living in a Ukrainian orphanage. She had been there her entire life. Mariah was born prematurely and as a result has cerebral palsy. In Eastern Europe, children with disabilities are often not valued as members of society and their parents are encouraged to abandon them at the hospital. Mariah had spent four years without proper nutrition, therapy, intervention, or a family. At the time of our embassy visit in Kyiv, she was 4 years old, unable to walk or stand, and weighed 24 pounds.
Adoption is entering into a child’s life and embracing everything about them that they’ve been carrying alone. As a parent, its not easy to jump into a book that’s already 12 chapters in the making and figure out how the story needs to go. We fumbled along for some time with the best ways to help Mariah. Part of figuring out how to help her was to first figure out what she needed help with!
During our years of trying to get Mariah the appropriate services in the Special Education system, she experienced discrimination, a lack of understanding from staff and peers, as well as massive damage to her already fragile self-esteem from being punished often and singled out for behavior caused by her physical and emotional differences.
We made the choice to homeschool two years ago, and as a way to help Mariah process all that has happened in her young life, I encouraged her to write about it. I told her that if she wrote a book, I’d help her edit and publish it, so write she did!
Owning her story and becoming a published author has been a wonderful thing for Mariah. This is something she did that is 100 percent hers. She plans to continue writing about life with cerebral palsy because she wants to explain what makes her different, but also show what makes her the same. She says differences in her abilities often cause her anxiety when meeting new people. She wonders how they will view her. Writing this book has empowered her to feel like finally she is able to affect what is happening in her life, and life isn’t just happening to her.
Mariah wants to see this book in school libraries, and as required reading for staff and students to help educate about adoption and disabilities. She hopes that if kids see this book in the library, they’ll choose to read it and gain a better understanding of how to be a friend to peers who might struggle with being different. She wants school staff to read her book to gain a better understanding that not all disabilities are visible. Dyslexia, dysgraphia, anxiety, visual impairments and PTSD are common diagnoses among both adopted children and children affected by cerebral palsy. These invisible disabilities were largely ignored while Mariah struggled for years. She hopes to raise awareness of the devastating impact that ignoring learning disabilities can have on a child. As she puts it, “I wrote this book for kids like me.”
Mariah’s book “Gotcha – An Adoption Story” is available on Amazon.
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