I was 52 and a well-established children’s author when my partner and I had our first child, Jordi. It soon became evident that he couldn’t sit up like the other kids, or crawl when they started to crawl, but it wasn’t till he was nearly two that he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. At first it was a terrible blow to us, but eventually Jordi did crawl, then walk (albeit awkwardly). His movement problems did not make him any less open, enthusiastic or affectionate, and the warmth of his personality melted hearts everywhere.
I really do believe that those movement problems had a positive effect on Jordi. Unable to run around with the other kids, he read avidly, and it soon became apparent that his literary abilities were exceptional. At the age of six he won a national poetry competition and began dictating stories which showed not only great originality but also a highly developed sense of how to tell a tale. We put these stories on a website, www.jordiblake.co.uk, which now features his latest work in progress, a novel he is writing at the age of nine.
These days Jordi usually has three or four books on the go at any one time. He’s read just about everything I’ve written, and first came to understand his condition through my story collection “Oshie”, about a boy with CP who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football. I got that idea from Jordi, who wakes at 6:00 am every Sunday so as not to miss a moment of Match of the Day, and recently featured in Cardiff City’s programme advertising their community football sessions. For many years Jordi was adamant he would become a professional footballer, but now has a more realistic ambition: to become a professional writer. In this I am absolutely confident he will succeed.
Last year I wrote a comic novel for juniors, Thimble Monkey Superstar, about Jams Cogan, a boy with CP, and the lovable anarchic monkey who comes to live with him (there’s also a miserable failed writer dad, but we won’t talk about him). I tried hard to write a chapter of Thimble a day, knowing that Jordi would be rushing home from school eager to read it. He is the best possible audience, not only because he laughs so much, but also because he gets so involved in the story and comes up with dozens of ideas. He even sang the theme tune which we put up at https://youtu.be/7Qje4_vht0c.
Thimble Monkey Superstar aims to entertain, and Jams’s disability is just a fact of life rather than the subject of the book; he uses a walker but is not defined by it. However we do use Thimble events to raise awareness of CP, and therapy centre Bobath Wales helped greatly with the book launch and feature it on their website http://www.bobathwales.org . We’re planning an event at Bobath for World Cerebral Palsy Day on Oct 5 (see www.worldcpday.org and #WorldCPDay).
So far response to the book has been fantastic. In my experience most schools do not teach enough about disability and I do believe Thimble will prove a great place to start.