THE first time Samantha Warne met Fletcher Garrett, she knew they had an instant connection.
Such was the bond between them, Fletcher has served as the inspiration for her upcoming book, A Friend Like Mine.
The book humanises people with disabilities and shows they should be treated no differently to anyone else.
Ms Warne said her friendship with Fletcher, who has cerebral palsy, motivated her to write the book after noticing people with disabilities were under-represented in children’s literature.
“I really like reading to him and I just realised the more books we were reading together, I hadn’t really seen many resources or a lot of texts available to kids where the main characters are young kids with disabilities,” she said.
“I thought it would be cool if there were other support workers out there, or teachers, families, that wanted to start a dialogue about kids with disabilities or interacting with members of the community with disabilities, it would be cool to have more resources available to them.”
The East Victoria Park resident said the main challenge was writing for a younger audience while also dealing with delicate, mature themes.
“One of the challenges of writing this book is being able to create a text which was able to start a dialogue without minimising the experiences of individuals with disabilities too much. Because it’s a children’s book, I didn’t want to over-simplify to a point it was patronising.
“The different characters Fletcher interacts with in the book, it’s in the sub-text they might be living with a disability, but their disability is never explicitly mentioned.
“I wanted to try and showcase people with disabilities, it’s a part of their identity, but it’s not the only thing which makes them who they are, they have other strengths, there’s other parts of them which makes them the person they are and those strengths should be celebrated.”
To aid Warne’s efforts to get published, Directions Disability Support Services in Maddington, where the pair first connected, helped fundraise for the book,
Warne said she bonded with Fletcher, who attends Hammond Park Primary School, almost instantly during their first meeting and she soon realised how alert and smart he was.
“You could tell by his facial expressions, he’s so alert in the way he looks around the room, he understands everything which is going on around him,” she said.
Warne said she was hoping to run workshops in schools about the importance of inclusivity to accompany the book.
A Friend Like Mine is currently in the illustration phase and will be released soon.