Mum’s mission to shine a light on diversity

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23 March 2023

Jack and GabrielleThe mother of a neurodiverse child has penned a funny and heartwarming book based on her son to help create awareness about diversity and inclusion.

World Autism Understanding Day (Sunday 2 April) aims to create acceptance and celebrate life on the autism spectrum, and Gabrielle Bassett shares the same objective with her first children’s book, Jack’s Best Day Ever. Jack, 11, attends St Paul’s College, Balwyn, a special school operated by VMCH, as well as a mainstream school through dual enrolment. His mum Gabrielle says she’d love to see her book on shelves in schools to help foster understanding among his peers.

‘School is a time to really focus on encouraging inclusive behaviours and acceptance of everyone’s differences’, Gabrielle said. ‘The book was designed so a child can just have fun with it and read it for the entertaining story that it is. Or they can sit down with parents or teachers and have a chat about what it means. Why is Jack flapping his hands? Why is he covering his ears? Why is he eating the same thing all the time? It’s designed to break down that stigma in a fun and inclusive way.’

The colourful and vibrant picture book is a beautifully written tale about the blossoming friendship between two children with disabilities, their preferences and how they experience the world around them. Gabrielle said she’d always wanted to write a book, but lockdown was the catalyst to kick-start her dream. ‘Lockdown really shone a light on students like Jack’, she said. ‘It was a huge challenge at the time, as he struggled to engage with the online content and couldn’t learn independently. I also realised during this time that on my own bookshelf there was no diversity, no representation of the whole community. When children see versions of themselves, it makes them feel seen, loved and accepted for being their true selves.’

Jack’s principal, Timothy Hemphill, described Gabrielle’s book as a beautiful tribute to Jack. ‘Jack is one of the real characters at St Paul’s – a born conversationalist’, said Timothy. ‘Interacting with Jack is always a joy for me and for everyone around him. The depiction of St Paul’s College in the book makes me feel extremely proud that Jack in the real world and in this wonderful book has places where he can grow, learn, discover and achieve. St Paul’s College is fully committed to celebrating diversity and differences with respect, kindness and fun, and Gabrielle’s book joyfully does the same. I have no doubt that many children and families will fall in love with this story.’

Gabrielle said she’d love to pen another book in the future featuring her ‘kind, gentle and helpful’ Jack. ‘Jack is such a creative individual with a very funny sense of humour ... he’s basically writing the content himself.’
Jacks Best Day Ever