Being a differently abled mom, I know firsthand what it is like to feel different. Right before my high school graduation in the year 2000, I was a passenger in a head-on collision, leaving me an incomplete quadriplegic. After years of physical therapy, I regained movement, and now walk with forearm crutches. I slowly learned how to navigate the world, held my head up high, and gradually blended in with everyone else in society once again.
It was not until I became a mom, that it dawned on me; I apparently did not look like the other mothers at drop-off at preschool. Curious little children would come up to me and ask about my forearm crutches and leg brace. They had so many questions. What were they for? What did they do? Was I still able to do “mommy-related” activities? And then the inquisitiveness turned into empathy and relatability. One little girl had a story about her brother needing a cast and a brace because he got hurt. Another child had a grandma that walked with a walker to help her balance just like me. They had so much to ask and say, and needed this opportunity to chat away!
I came up with the idea of starting presentations for local preschools and elementary schools on different abilities. I purchased eighteen- inch dolls with doll-sized wheelchairs, forearm crutches, canes, hearing aids, insulin pumps, and eyeglasses. I even got a plush miniature seeing-eye dog with a harness. We would have conversations about different abilities, adaptive equipment, as well as friendship and kindness. At the end, I would read a children’s book which educated readers on different abilities, but this particular book emphasized how the children in the story were different, and unable to take part in the same activities as their peers. I felt that children needed to read a story with empowering characters! A story that would bring children together, where kids could have the discussions like I had with the sweet preschoolers at drop-off.
Here’s a freebie to spend quality time together as a family. Download it HERE!
I wrote Violet’s Victory (coming November 2022), in hopes of empowering children to persevere despite the challenges one must face. Violet’s Victory is an autobiographical picture book about a young girl who uses forearm crutches to walk. Sports Day is coming up, and she longs to take part in a track and field race and keep up with her classmates. She cannot walk fast enough and feels defeated. Violet discovers a piece of adaptive sports equipment, called a handcycle, and trains diligently. In rain or shine, Violet practices on her handcycle. It is hard work! In addition, she realizes that her friends with different abilities might find it hard to navigate Sports Day too. She takes a stance in making the event more accessible for all. Violet hires an interpreter for children with hearing impairments and orders programs in Braille for friends with visual impairments, amongst other accommodations. On race day, we see Violet victorious not only with her determination to race on the track, but also the way she takes a stance in making her school event inclusive for friends and succeeding.
Violet is such an important character not only because she is a female in sports, but she is also a figure of empowerment in many ways. She shows young readers that even though someone may be different from you, they can still do the same things as you. Violet is persistent and perseveres, ultimately winning her race. Violet is also an advocate for her friends with different needs and is victorious in creating an environment that is accessible to all. She is a hero for these reasons and empowers children to do better for themselves and for others.
I hope Violet’s Victory promotes social awareness and empowers children to have discussions on acceptance and diversity. The more these conversations are acknowledged, the more our children will exude inclusiveness. It is my wish for Violet to be representative of the differently abled girls and children who yearn to take part in a sport or daunting tasks and face it with confidence. It is no coincidence that Violet has lavender hair, and different vibrant hues of purple are depicted throughout the story. Purple is symbolic of strength, and Violet represents the strength that is so inspiring to all readers. My hope is that each young reader feels the fortitude of Violet’s energy. It would be a dream come true if each child embodies her vigor, her courage, and her kindness; and says, “Yes! I CAN do that too!” And the power of such a character in a children’s book is my kind of literary hero.
Valerie Goldstein is a children’s book author, writer, social worker, wife, and mother of three children, ages ten, eight, and six. She has been an avid reader and writer since she was a little girl. In the year 2000, Valerie was a passenger in a motor vehicle accident, leaving her an incomplete quadriplegic. After attending Stony Brook University for her undergraduate and master’s degrees, she found solace in her writing.
In addition to being a children’s book author, Valerie has written various works on different abilities, differently abled parenting and female empowerment. She has been featured in Woman’s Day, Long Island Parent/NY Metro Parents Magazine, Scary Mommy, and ADVANCE Healthcare Network for Occupational Therapy Practitioners, amongst others. She also conducts presentations on different abilities for children and takes part in public speaking engagements. Valerie was recently awarded Stony Brook University’s Top 40 Under Forty for her work in civil service and activism. Her favorite pastime is visiting local libraries and bookstores with her children, enjoying the theater, and handcycling on the boardwalk.