The FASD Day Interview
Jill Bobula: “Our children’s series, WE ARE POWERFUL, came about because of a number of reasons. One of the main reasons was that my son was identified with Tourette Syndrome just shy of his 7th birthday. Before that, we didn’t have a clue what he had even though we had visited a number of health professionals including a neurologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and the list goes on and on. Our son, Spencer, not only has Tourette Syndrome, he is also affected by obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, ADHD and he has a sleeping disorder. I think the mere fact that he has so many conditions may have confused many people. The truth is that many children with Tourette Syndrome also suffer from co-morbidity disorders (ADHD and OCD the most common). In the end, through nutrition (vegetables, fruits, gluten-free, casein-free foods, fish, chicken, lamb), fish oil and supplements, we were able to control his behaviour (quite an extraordinary feat I must say). But through this experience, my sister Katherine and I realized there were very few resources available for children. And the stigma – the stigma attached to children’s mental and neurological conditions is unbelievable and heartbreaking. We want these children to know they’re not alone. There are parents who refuse to obtain treatment for their children because they don’t want to admit something is “odd” about their child’s behaviour. There are those parents who feel ashamed and do nothing. There are parents who feel it’s a big secret and don’t want to talk about “it”. It’s so very sad. 1 in 5 children in Canada and United States are affected by a mental and neurological condition. It’s time we created an environment of acceptance, tolerance and ofcourse, understanding. Not all educators are taught about these conditions, nor are they given the skill set to deal with affected children. We hope through our books to teach children, parents, educators, society in general, about these conditions and hopefully, create a paradigm shift in how we think and behave towards those who are affected.
2. How many books do you now have?
Jill: “We currently have 5 of 8 out on the market. Our 6th book, Anxious Annie, The World’s Greatest Thinker, Anxiety & Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is in production right now.”
3. It’s both you and your sister who write together, correct?
Jill:”That is correct. We collaborate rather nicely for siblings. She’s my oldest sister so I have to listen to her otherwise I get in trouble… No, it’s not difficult at all. The good thing about being sisters is we can be honest with one another without fearing we’ll hurt the other’s feelings.”
4. How did you find your illustrator?
Jill: “We could easily have had an illustrator who does his work on the computer – in other words, computer generated animation. But we wanted children to know that hand-drawn art was still something we valued (children are bombarded with computer-generated everything…). An old friend of ours, Rob Hall is an engineer with 3 kids and a very busy schedule. We knew Rob liked to draw and we asked him if he would be interested in drawing for our books. He jumped at the chance.
5. Why did you choose FASD?
Jill: “Katherine does a lot of consultative work and she has come across many families affected by FASD. I believe the prevalence is 1 in 100 children (same as Tourette Syndrome). FASD is also preventative. The more people know about the condition and its consequences, the less likely women might choose to drink during pregnancy.”
6. What do you hope children get from Forgetful Frankie?
Jill: “We think Frankie can teach affected children that they’re not alone. With this train of thought, we want children who do have FASD to feel as comfortable as possible with what they have and to know that they are worthy of love, support and respect like anyone else. Forgetful Frankie will be able to teach children about the condition so that when they’re at school, in their neighbourhoods or in the park, and they see someone behave a certain way, they may realize there’s a reason and not be so quick to judge other children. We want parents and educators to know there are ways of working and living with a child who has FASD. Generally, Frankie can help spread the word about FASD. Everyone needs to know what Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is and what it represents.”
7. What is Wildberry Productions?
Jill: “Wildberry Productions is our company which sells the books. Our last name is Bobula which in Slovak means berry (raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, etc). I was the Wild one in the family hence the Wildberry Productions.”
8. Is Forgetful Frankie widely available elsewhere – Indigo. Amazon?
Jill: “These books are available on Amazon. Some books are available at Indigo. We also sell them at our website www.wildberryproductions.ca”
9. What will you be doing for FASD Day, Sept. 9th?
Jill:”I’m at the F.A.C.E. conference in Toronto celebrating FASD. I’ve been asked to be at several events but I enjoy going to this conference because it talks about the latest research etc on FASD.”
10. Is Forgetful Frankie anyone in particular?
Jill: “All those kids out there that have FASD.”
11. Did you meet kids with FASD for the book?
Jill: “I’ve made presentations to children with FASD and talked to them about Frankie. They were very receptive and positive. I also talked about the co-morbidities of FASD including ADHD and autism.”
What Would You Like Everyone to Know About Fasd?
12. What would you like everyone to know about FASD?
Jill: “It’s a neurological condition that affects children in a variety of ways; cognitive, physical and emotional impairment and/or delays. There are some very positive ways of working and living with children who have FASD. There are also co-morbidities associated with FASD which may complicate things a bit as well.
Overall however, I think people need to understand that FASD is a condition which affects children. We, as parents, educators and the community at large have a responsibility to provide an environment that’s conducive to understanding, tolerance, acceptance, support and plenty of love.”
13. Thoughts on your next book?
Jill: “It’s a WINNER! Anxious Annie gives us a real good understanding of what it’s like to live with anxiety and OCD. She’s quite the heroine in my eyes. ”
14. I liked Miss Maple and her strategies. Do you have knowledge of many teachers who are working hard to help children with FASD?
Jill: “I know of educators who are completely dedicated to helping children with FASD. They know it can often be a daunting task, but they keep at it with wonderful rewards.”
15. Where are you based geographically?
Jill: ” Ottawa, Canada.”
16. Any other comments or thoughts?
Jill:” We love doing what we do. If we can change the lives of children and make their days that much easier, it’s all worthwhile. I hear what the books have done for children and it makes me proud. I know what I lived with for 7 very long years. I don’t think anyone should have to go through that and hopefully, the books bring a ray of light to families everywhere.”
Thanks very much,
Jill: “And thank you!”