September 20, 2012
By Margaret Clevenger
Two years ago, when Molly Taylor was reading a popular children’s book to her best friend’s daughter, she saw that the child could not relate to the story.
“Emma has cerebral palsy and it was so glaringly obvious that she couldn’t do anything in that book,” Taylor said.
After an unsuccessful search to find books targeted for children with physical challenges, Taylor decided to write her own, just for the little girl, Emma Collins.
“I typed it out and printed it on computer paper,” Taylor said. “I read it to Emma for the first time in their living room and she loved it. So I folded it and kept the text of the book in my glove compartment and read it to her whenever I could.”
Taylor had never written anything for publication before, but submitted the story to a publishing house. “I felt the Lord speaking to me,” she said. “Something told me that this needs to go further.”
Within a couple of months, Tate Publishing, a Christian book publisher, called to say they were interested in publishing her book.
Taylor sent dozens of photographs of Emma, who is now 6, and her older brother Houston to Tate Publishing’s art department.
“That was my opportunity to make it extra special for Emma,” Taylor said. “The girl in the book looks just like Emma.”
The little girl in the story wears splints on her legs and uses a walker to help her navigate the hallways of her school.
“Special Shoes” was officially released July 24, and Taylor had an opportunity earlier this month to read the story aloud to Emma’s class at the RISE Center.
“I handed out copies of the book to all the children in the class and Emma sat in my lap as I read,” Taylor said. “And one little boy said that he had shoes like those in the book.”
Taylor said during a school break in 2010, she took care of Emma while her mother, Favor Harless, was at work. “I knew their life was hard but I didn’t realize how difficult,” Taylor said. “There were things that I took for granted with my own kids like how I can hug my little girl, give her a kiss, and she can scoot on down to her classroom. It took Emma twenty minutes to get down the hall to her classroom.”
Since that time, Emma has shed her walker and canes and now walks with splints to support her legs.
That’s a huge contrast from what Harless was told to expect when Emma was born.
“My water broke at 19 weeks,” said Harless. “That was on a Friday and the doctors didn’t expect the baby to survive. But on the following Monday, they did an ultrasound and they were shocked to find out that my amniotic fluid had filled and the sac had sealed up. The doctors were amazed.”
With bed rest and care, Harless carried the baby until 28 weeks, still short of a full-term birth, but enough time for the fetus to develop.
“We knew Emma had problems when she was born, and when she was fifteen months old, she was diagnosed with diplegia cerebral palsy,” Harless said. “It means she was affected from the knees down. The doctor said that she would probably always need a wheelchair or a walker. I was devastated.”
In Feb. 2010, Emma had extensive surgery to reconstruct her legs, and on April 21, 2011, she set aside her canes.
“She wanted to pass her canes on to another child who needed them,” Harless said. “She has balance issues, but she is getting around wearing her splints. Sometimes I’ll hear a thump in the house and she’ll call out ‘I’m okay.’ She’s very tough.”
Taylor was excited to find out that her book would be published, but trepidation set in when she discovered she would be expected to promote it.
“I felt I could not speak about this,” she said. “I am not the mother of a child with a disability, and if you are not in that world, you can say the wrong thing.”
She found a life coach, Barton Cutter of North Carolina, who was in Tuscaloosa with his wife, who was involved with an art project at the Bama Theatre.
“Barton has cerebral palsy himself,” Taylor said. “He told me that cerebral palsy is like a phone line with a bad connection. The information is fine; it’s the connection that is bad.”
Cutter told Taylor to approach her talks as what she is: a mother of children who may be curious about their counterparts who have a disability.
“He told me that we should not discourage our children from asking questions when they see a child who looks different,” Taylor said. “We should open up our children to it, and that will help normalize it.”
“Special Shoes” is available online at www.tatepublishing.com.
The paperback is 24 pages, aimed at ages 6-10. Cost $8.99.
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