Tag Archives: inclusion

Going, Going, Gone!

Well, what a month it’s been, launching our first book, Motivate Man! It was worth the wait and by the end of this month we will have distributed over 350 copies AROUND THE WORLD! The feedback we have had has been superb for a few reasons, which I will list later on.

First, though, if you haven’t had a chance to look yet, we have updated our website and you can now order your copy directly from us! Just click on the ORDER BOOK link HERE or in the menu later on. We love the book and everyone who has read it thinks it’s great too. That’s important for Andy (who illustrated it) and I – since it reinforces that what we thought (and hoped) would work actually turned out well!

Did you know … ?

Did you know that we have hidden an EASTER EGG in the book? Now, I’d better explain, as we did have some customers at the school book fair looking for a real Easter egg! An EASTER EGG is a term used by filmmakers, often animated films, and also game designers, to describe an object that they have inserted into the film or game. It’s usually an in-joke or an item that doesn’t belong or has relevance outside of the film. So we have one and it’s very hard to find. In fact, maybe we should run a competition to see who can spot it!

We realised that we hadn’t named our Siamese cat in the book. The cat appears on nearly every page, which was an idea we added in later, since it (I have to stop myself saying her name!) does love people and is always talking (when not sleeping). So we have her talking and sleeping throughout. That’s another investigation the kids can have (the answer is out there in social media!)

We have plans to create a newsletter and perhaps a Motivate Man Fan Club as well, so watch this space! It’s all designed to engage kids around the world with Elijah and also to encourage reading and develop skills and ways of thinking which can help them.

So what has the feedback been like?

Amazement – Elijah’s friends get quite a surprise when they see that he has his own book. Elijah IS ‘Motivate Man’ so they think that’s cool. With that his social standing gets a lift … not that he needs it as they are so supportive anyway, but it all helps.

Well done‘ – we pulled it off and created a decent book. The cover, the title, the theme and concept, the pictures and the rhyming storyline – it all came together really nicely to create a book which people are saying, “I love it!” about. The question always comes up in an author’s and illustrator’s mind, “Will readers like it?” and there is that fear of failure which we have to battle against. With it being considered good, we gain credibility with libraries and schools, so the book will reach more people around the world and have more of an impact.

Appreciation – those who have experience of writing, illustrating or publishing a book (either self-publishing like we did or going through a publisher) know what it takes. They appreciate the hard work and late nights, stress and obstacles which have to be overcome. It’s amazing to meet so many people who have already walked this path and the connections are continuing to be made.

Interest – in addition to the above, we are engaging with people who would like to produce their own book. They say it’s really motivating to see that WE DID IT! So we offer our advice and experiences or knowledge about how it was for us and encourage them to give it a go. It seems to be on a lot of bucket lists, so if we can help others to tick it off, that will be awesome.

Unspoken – we know we are making an impression, so we know that we don’t even need to hear feedback to know that we are making a difference. It’s the way someone says ‘Thank you’ to Elijah when he has written their name in the book they have just bought since they can see how he makes such an effort to write those letters. It’s the smile they give when they see Elijah showing his friends how Crumpet works. It’s the way something is said, like ‘Oh, you’ve got business cards too?!!‘ or ‘Can I have a sticker?‘ These are all moments which lend weight to what we are trying to achieve – recognition of the ability for Elijah and all people with Down syndrome to live a valued, successful and happy life when we surround them with the right love and support.

Supportive – everyone we talk to is so supportive. Supportive of the book (by buying a copy for themselves, or even 10, as some people have, to distribute themselves as gifts) and also supportive of Elijah and what it means for him. That support means a lot – Thank You!

How did Elijah and Crumpet come about?

Thanks for coming back for the second half of the article I wrote initally for The Voice (the magazine of Down Syndrome Australia) back in March. It was modified for our feature page on the YOOCANdoanything website. Then some final changes on here. If you have come straight here, please stop reading and go to the previous blog for the first half!

(Also, while I have your attention, if you would like to be kept informed about how you can help launch our upcoming children’s book and its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, please provide us with your email address. We will keep it to ourselves and send you updates – you can even help develop the books with us! Thank you for your support, Rob 🙂 )

So how did Elijah and Crumpet come about? Mum first used a monkey puppet to encourage Elijah to learn words and sounds, which was very successful. I was always impressed at how Elijah would interact with his puppets as if they were living things, even if he sometimes did a double-take at me trying to be a ventriloquist! Elijah always tries to copy Thomas, which has been really good for his development. When Thomas started talking about YouTube and becoming a YouTuber, Elijah was quick to declare that he was going to be a famous YouTuber too. This was the seed for the idea that grew into reality. Embracing social media technologies seemed like a good way of showcasing Elijah’s strengths and as we thought about it, there were many other benefits: from our SRV (Social Role Valorisation) training, I knew that being a YouTuber was a highly valued role amongst his peer group; Elijah would have to practise content, which would assist his learning; the show would allow others to connect with Elijah, as they would learn about his life and have something to talk about; it might assist other parents of children living with Down syndrome, or anyone seeking information about what life was like living with Down syndrome.

We googled ‘how to start a YouTube channel’ and the advice was to just get started, so we did! Filming started with an old camcorder on a pile of books and I had a month free trial for editing software. The feedback was positive and I hoped that friends were not just being kind, but as time went by we developed content and slowly the channel took shape. Below are our very first 4 video thumbnails, before we learned about theming and logos! You can still find these videos (with better thumbnails now) on YouTube.

A new camera, tripod, green screen, editing software and many hours later (nobody told me it takes 4 hours for a 5-minute edit), we were fully immersed in Elijah and Crumpet. Elijah and I discuss each show, sometimes writing out the plan. If there is reading involved, Elijah has to practise until he is confident as it is important that we show him in the best possible light. We do a lot of ad-libbing as Elijah will make a funny statement and we then follow that lead. There is such a lot of content in the pipeline that it is hard to know what to do first. We are trying to appeal to a wide range of viewers, so we might do a chocolate video and then do a Japanese language learning video, then dancing, then wildlife, then travel.  

Filming takes the least amount of time. Promoting and networking on social media takes more time and editing takes the most. We were doing daily uploads in order to get the content out, but we are now concentrating more on Instagram, since this has a lot more engagement. We have a strategy to build both channels. While subscriber numbers are not a priority, it’s always nice to see a show of support when someone clicks Subscribe (links at the bottom of this blog so you can support them all)! Ultimately, more followers means more advocacy and influence, which is a real motivator. It means a lot when someone messages to say that they were feeling low and our show picked them up. I often get woken up by Elijah wanting to do a show, or when I get up I find Elijah in his room reading the words to a song. He really wants to practise and do a good job. It has accelerated his learning and given him some real goals – you just have to watch Elijah rattle off 30 words at high speed in Japanese to see what he is achieving! The routine we have is a good one and it’s a fun activity for us to do together – great ‘father-son’ time!

We have connected with some great people from around the world in the YouTube, Instagram and Twitter communities and also the world-wide Down syndrome community and there are many exciting future opportunities which have opened up for us. We are making shows of interviews with other children living with Down syndrome from around the world. We have a world-first international art project using 21 acrylic on canvas paintings. We are seeking supporters who wish to be involved (all you need is a video camera, or even use your phone). In addition to Elijah’s emerging work as an artist (see our hashtag #NoSmallArtist), we intend to publish a book and also produce educational material for an international audience.  We also have several TOP SECRET international projects, aimed at tackling discrimination, which we would love to tell you more about, but … ! 

With over 130 shows uploaded, we are nearing 1,000 subscribers on YouTube and we are on track to reach 10,000 followers on Instagram by the end of 2019. We value your interest and the momentum it creates. With your support, the Elijah and Crumpet show might just go on for longer than we expected … watch this account!

Thanks very much again. I hope you enjoy reading this and, if you did, please follow and click the notification bell, or whatever you have to do on here! Since I am new to blogging, please send any feedback you have to: ElijahandCrumpet@bigpond.com – you can ask any questions and I will try to build the answers into my blog. I’ll be guided by you!

(Sept 2019 update to the figures above … we now have nearly 200 shows. We went past 1,000 on YouTube, which was a major achievement through hard work for a year. Instagram is now over 4,000 but they have changed their rules which means we are not able to advocate to as many people as before, unfortunately. We could still get the 10,000 but I think 6,000 is more realistic now. In addition, I have finally got the hang of Twitter, so that is growing.)

Please follow us:
Instagram @ElijahandCrumpet
Twitter @ElijahCrumpet
YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/ElijahandCrumpet

Practice Makes Perfec.

People often ask me where I find the time to make all the YouTube videos. Well, it’s a combination of giving up other activities, like reading or watching television, not sleeping and practice. I love the title of this blog, ‘Practice Makes Perfec’ for 3 reasons:

  1. Elijah can say ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ in German!
  2. It’s so true.
  3. Well done, you spotted it – it’s no mistake, the ‘t’ is missing for a good reason.

Before I go into a bit more depth on each of these, let’s cover off the sleeping and free time parts.

We all like to put our feet up after a long, hard day of kids, work, cooking, cleaning and the general busy-ness of life. I’ve been doing it for years now (about 29, no I’m not 29 … since I was 18)(I’m 47), so I know how to zonk and do nothing. Turn on the T.V. or, more recently, the iPad. With Netflix, YouTube and our beloved apps, it’s hard to resist choosing to be entertained and letting time pass. But it’s only by giving up these things and redirecting that time into Elijah and Crumpet that I am able to keep up the content creation.

Next sleep, or lack of it. Luckily I have always been high energy and able to operate with less sleep. Now, I know that it’s healthier to have 8 hours of sleep (I hear it a lot from my wife), but if I can get by with less, I get more done. So I sacrifice 2 of those 8 hours, use the time to create something which will last forever, and hope that I don’t get woken up by kids or cats in the night!

Now the 3 reasons in more detail:

Yes, Elijah can say Practice Makes Perfect in German – you’ll hear it on some of our videos when Elijah is demonstrating his language skills! It started when I thought I would see if he could remember another language. I had studied languages at university, so I believed that if Elijah could learn to speak English, he should be able to speak a second language. I wanted to test my belief because I did not know if having a learning disability would cause some ‘switching languages link’ in the brain to be missing (no, you don’t get any correct medical terminology from a languages graduate!)

Hear Elijah speaking German and Welsh!

Well, he was happy saying the phrase and then, days later when I asked him, he remembered it. In case you are now intrigued, it’s ‘Ubung macht den Meister’ (no umlauts (two dots) as I don’t have a German keyboard) which literally translates as ‘Practice makes the Master’. This became Elijah’s amazing memory party piece and opened the door to bigger goals.

And so it is with our YouTube video journey. In the picture you can see our early videos. I took the advice from a ‘How to get started on YouTube’ video … and we just started. We put the hours in (Elijah for the filming hour and me for the other 6 hours of editing) and pushed out videos from 4 September 2018, reaching 70 before the year was out. Then another push to make sure we had over 100 before we got on Channel Nine’s The Today Show. I went from zero experience on video editing using Adobe Premier Pro to ‘not bad’ (according to Thomas, our other son) so I’ll take that as a compliment! Trial and error, frustration with forgetting how to fix the problem I fixed last time it happened, losing all my work because I forgot to save and the blasted thing crashes … all of these. But over time, my speed improved and I got back some sleep. Perfec!

Nice segway – if you have watched our earlier videos, you will have seen the sign on the wall behind us saying ‘Practice Makes Perfec’ . The idea of the sign came from watching other YouTubers, with their inspirational quotes on the walls behind. Originally it said the correct ‘Practice Makes Perfect’, but one day I printed it off with an error to have fun with Elijah, to see if he spotted it. In the video you see he does, so it made for good filming.

Practice Makes Perfec sign (go to 2 min 10)

But then the phrase took on another meaning, as in most things, we aim for perfection, but never really get there. That could be work, relationships, our garden, hobby or meal. There is always room for improvement, so the missing ‘t’ symbolises just that. We need to be happy just getting to where we get to, with what we have achieved through our hard work, not worried about what we have not done.

The idea then spread to the world we entered when Elijah joined us – the world of disability. We experienced first hand the challenges that are present in society, which is unfortunately still struggling to get past the ‘f’ on its journey to being ‘Perfec’. The thought that ‘nobody is perfect’ is secondary in most marketing and advertising strategies. It’s all about the perfect life, perfect house, perfect physical and mental health (although thankfully we are finally more open about mental health issues). To be accepted and valued with a disability, what does that look like? How does society value people it considers ‘not perfect’? It’s a debate unto itself which I will undoubtedly discuss further in later blogs. For now, keep practising at whatever you are doing and Elijah, what’s Practice makes Perfect in German? (Elijah:) “Ubung macht den Meister!” Thanks for joining us 🙂 Rob