Wombat Books Blog

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Wombat Books talks to Debra Tidball about Mental Illness

Wombat Books talks to Debra Tidball about Mental Illness

Q: Could you tell me first about how you became a writer and in particular a children’s author?

A: As a social worker I discovered that I found a special pleasure in the writing aspects of my work – thinking through issues and crafting my thoughts as words into reports, letters etc. Then when having my own children I developed a deepened appreciation for the special beauty and power of picture books, so I started dabbling with this form of writing and undertook a Masters degree in Children’s Literature, and haven’t looked back since.

Q: Could you tell me about how your particular book works through young kids and their experiences with dementia in their relatives/older friends?

A: “When I See Grandma” gives different scenarios that show both with words and pictures (including a subtext) how children can connect with an aging (and in this case, unresponsive- apparently ‘sleeping’) grandparent through everyday experiences that children enjoy.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to teach children about dementia and the effects it can have on those who are close to the person affected?

A: Watching the decline of someone you love, or being towed around to unfamiliar places to visit people who seem unresponsive can be confusing and overwhelming for young children. Sensing that their parents are also overwhelmed themselves and grieving can heighten feelings of being out of control. It’s important for children to have a framework for understanding what is happening in their family and be given tools to feel that they have some mastery over events.

Q: What do you hope children learn from the book?

A: That despite how things might seem at one point in time, older people have a rich history and they have a lot to share.

That they can connect with others across generational differences and despite barriers of age and incapacity.

Q: Have you been affected by the presence of dementia in your life i.e. a relative or a friend close to you? What about this experience changed or affected you?

A: My mother had early onset dementia and ended up moving into a low care, then high care aged facility. My children and I continued to visit her and it is these experiences that have formed the basis of the book.

Q:  Do you think that from this experience you realised the importance of learning about dementia from an early age? If not, what was the inspiration behind writing the book?

A: My inspiration was to encourage all people who are affected by having someone with dementia in their life to see beyond the illness to the person, and to think laterally about how to connect despite apparent barriers. It is especially for young children and their parents who visit aged care facilities, but I hope that it will also speak to all who have contact with the ageing in our society.

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