Five-year-old’s book embraces difference

ALEX MCKENNA

A five-year-old Gold Coast girl with cerebral palsy has written and published a children’s book about kindness and embracing people with differences.

Alexis Kalofonos

Five-year-old Alexis Kalofonos (right) is encouraging inclusivity and kindness through her new book, The Friendship Book. Photo: Courtesy Linda Kalofonos

 

Alexis Kalofonos was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at just six months old after a doctor made an error during her birth, which caused her to have a stroke.

Cerebral palsy is a cognitive disorder that affects movement, muscle tone and posture.

According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, one in 700 Australian babies are diagnosed with the condition and there are currently 34,000 people with cerebral palsy living in Australia.

Alexis’ mother, Linda Kalofonos, had previously published a children’s book, which inspired her daughter to follow in her footsteps.

“My book then inspired Alexis to write a book on something that she was passionate about, which was kindness and inclusiveness,” Ms Kalofonos said.

Alexis’ book, titled The Friendship Book, is a story of self-acceptance, teaching children it is okay to not fit into the definitions of what is considered “normal”.

The book is being published via Gold Coast-based children’s book publishing company Dreamlife Books.

“To see her [Alexis’] passion for kindness and fairness made me really proud of her,” Ms Kalofonos said.

“Self-love and self-worth are so much more important than we think,” she said.

As for Alexis, she is very excited to have her story published.

“I can’t believe I’m an actual real author!” she said.

Living with cerebral palsy can be life altering, and Alexis has spent a lot of her young life in and out of hospitals due to her condition.

“Alexis has been through a lot through her life, not only physically, but emotionally,” Ms Kalofonos said.

Alexis’ Gift

Alexis Kalofonos (left) hopes to bring joy to children in need through her annual Christmas toy drive, Alexis’ Gift. Photo: Courtesy Linda Kalofonos

 

Alexis and her family have also set up Alexis’ Gift, a Christmas toy drive program that has the Kalofonos family delivering gifts to children’s hospitals, refuges, homeless shelters and Ronald McDonald houses.

This year will be the seventh year the Kalofonos family has run the program, which relies on family, friends and the local community to donate gifts.

“I think they [Alexis and her younger brother Tyler] get more joy in giving the gifts than the children that receive them,” Ms Kalofonos said.

The Friendship Book will be available for purchase soon, and the mother and daughter team are already working on another book that will look in detail at living with cerebral palsy.

“It [the new book] is about a child who has cerebral palsy and we will share things that Alexis goes through to hopefully educate people on what living with cerebral palsy can look like,” Ms Kalofonos said.

She said there were a lot of preconceived ideas about what cerebral palsy was and what it might look like from the outside, but said cerebral palsy affected individuals in different ways.

“Alexis’ right side is weaker and stiffer, however, there is nothing that she can’t do,” Ms Kalofonos said.

“She can swim, play baseball and is a great dancer,” she said.

Ms Kalofonos said cerebral palsy was a condition that was still rarely spoken about and said the pair wanted to show both adults and children that it was okay to be curious and to ask questions about the condition.

“We want it to be normal to talk about disabilities,” she said.

“It is not shameful and there is nothing to be embarrassed about.”

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