5 minutes with… Jade Chapman, Author of ‘Understanding Oscar’
This week joining us for ‘5 minutes with…’ is Jade Chapman, mother to Banjo, Oscar and George and first-time children’s book author of ‘Understanding Oscar’.
Firstly, I have known Jade for a while, but it wasn’t until our eldest children started attending childcare together that our friendship flourished. Banjo and Dylan were great mates, they gravitated towards each other, little did they know they had more in common than they realised. They were both siblings of neurodiverse children, Oscar and Dax.
I remember when Banjo and Dylan started school together, we were so excited they were in the same class. Jade and I would sit outside the Kindergarten classroom with George, their 3rd son, waiting for the bell to ring. We would laugh, I’d cry, and we would talk about the future, our children’s future and ours. I still remember the day Jade told me about an idea, an idea to write a book to help Banjo and other children understand Oscar and others who are Autistic.
And here we are three years on. Dylan and Banjo are in year 3, Oscar and Dax are in year 1, little George is growing up way too fast and ‘Understanding Oscar’ the book is a reality. A story written initially to help Banjo and George understand and accept their brother Oscar’s different way of interacting with the world, it is now able to help educate other families and siblings, both with and without neurodiverse children.
I had the honour of attending the launch of ‘Understanding Oscar’ and the pleasure of sitting down with Jade to discuss all the important things.
Firstly, can you share how did the idea of this book come up?
In the early days, after receiving Oscar’s autism diagnosis, I remember searching high and low to find a good book/resource to read to Banjo – to help explain what autism was, along with why it affects different people in different ways.
After choosing a book that resonated best with our family, I was disappointed when I could not purchase our own copy. You see, this book belonged to our local Special Needs Toy Library and when I contacted the publisher direct, I was informed it was no longer in print.
It was then I had the idea of creating a book, from our own experience, which Banjo could share with the educators and children at the same childcare centre he attended with Oscar.
When ‘My little brother, Oscar’ was well received by the centre as a whole, along with family and friends, my husband made the suggestion, ‘You should turn this into a book.’
Can you tell us a little bit about Oscar?
Oscar is my beautiful middle son. He has big blue eyes and a smile that can melt anyone’s heart. He’s also a fan of exploring nature, swimming in the pool and food.
Oscar was diagnosed with autism at the age of 15 months after my husband and I had concerns over his development. Some key signs we noticed, not long after his 1st birthday, was his eye contact became minimal, he stopped answering to his name, he also stopped babbling and clapping his hands.
What has the response been like from family and friends, in particular Banjo and George?
I have been blown away by the positive response (and support) I have received from family and friends. Banjo and George especially both love and are so proud of ‘Understanding Oscar’. In Banjo’s words, ‘The book shows other children with autistic siblings that they are not alone, and it is ok to be different.’
I know it has been quite a journey of learning and understanding, how is Oscar going?
It has certainly been challenging for Oscar but I must say his strength and willingness to get through every day, interacting nonverbally in the world around him, is nothing short of inspirational.
He attends a mainstream school but in a support class where he gets the extra help he needs, and weekly speech and occupational therapy sessions help assist in his development, at his own individual pace.
He certainly has to work much harder than his brothers and for that my husband and I are just so proud of him!
Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you would become an author of a children’s book?
Absolutely not. However, having seen first-hand how valuable education can be in helping children like Oscar be understood and accepted for who they are, I felt compelled to share our story. By doing this, I hope to reach out and help all families with children who have special needs, as well as highlight the importance of acceptance and inclusion.
What is the take-away message you would like children (and their parents) to have when they read ‘Understanding Oscar’?
I would love, quite simply for children and parents to have discussions about difference. I hope these conversations will not only raise awareness but also promote acceptance of all children who are different, not less.
What’s next for ‘Understanding Oscar’ and Jade Chapman the author? Will we see another book?
With ‘Understanding Oscar’ being released my main focus, for now, is to promote my book nationally and then hopefully venture beyond our shores.
Will you see another book? It’s too early to say. But never say never …
Understanding Oscar is available to purchase at www.understandingoscar.com
A note from Reframing Disability about language:
We here at Reframing Disability use person-first language when referring to people with disability, as referenced in the People with Disability Language Guide (https://pwd.org.au/resources/disability-info/language-guide).
However, we recognise that in the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as “Autistic,” “Autistic person,” or “Autistic individual” because they view autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity, as referenced by ASAN (https://autisticadvocacy.org/about-asan/identity-first-language/)
There are alternate opinions held throughout the community and many people embrace identity first and/or person-first language. The most important thing for us to do is respect each individual’s choice of language that they prefer to use about themselves and adapt as necessary.