High School Student Writes Children’s Book in Support of Parkinson’s Awareness

Sasha Au Yong with a copy of her children's book about Parkinson's disease

The first time most children hear about Parkinson’s is when a relative is diagnosed with it. When that happens, children will have questions about the disease and, likely, fears. They may even have heard misinformation from outside sources, all of which can be a challenge for parents and family to address.

One high school student whose grandfather lived with Parkinson’s for 25 years decided to take on the typical questions and fears of kids around Parkinson’s in a unique way – by writing a children’s book about it. Now Sasha Au Yong’s high school project has resulted in the Pickering College graduate becoming a published author and the winner of the Global Leadership Program Capstone Action Project at her Newmarket independent school.

The book, Something’s Different About Grandpa, is suitable for all ages and is an excellent way for adults to teach younger children about Parkinson’s. Sasha used the $1,000 grant she received for winning the competition to publish her first run of books.

We recently spoke with Sasha and her father, Alex, about the book – all proceeds of which are being donated to Parkinson Canada.

Sasha’s grandfather lived with Parkinson’s for 25 years. Although the progression of the disease was initially slow, upon returning from a decade of life overseas, Sasha was struck by the way it had robbed her grandfather of his life in its later stages.

“I became aware of Parkinson’s impact on a patient and the family and how devastating it can be.”

“My grandfather had been such a healthy man – he did gymnastics, table tennis and went on long walks. I also became aware of how Parkinson’s is often overlooked in society, so I decided to pursue a project that brought education and awareness. More resources and attention will directly impact medical advancements.”

Sasha researched the symptoms and effects of Parkinson’s, which she incorporated into the fiction book, in addition to drawing from her family’s story. What she learned helped her to craft a message of empathy and understanding.

“I was not aware of some of the other impacts of Parkinson’s, such as its effect on mood. I had my character learn some of those things. He starts out not knowing what is going on. And he learns that sometimes the little things you can do to help the person living with Parkinson’s, or the family, can be a big help.”

Alex, who handles the administration for sales of the book, has been gratified by the support that it has received.

“She has received tremendous support from families, faculty and staff at her school. In addition, the media coverage has meant that we’ve sold the book to families across Canada over the last three months, and it’s not available through any major retailers yet.”

Sasha’s family is proud of what she has accomplished with the book.

“Although she had excellent advisors, she did this mostly on her own over two years. Because she has moved on to university, I’m not sure she fully realizes the impact it has had and will continue to have. It’s touching the lives of families who are living with Parkinson’s, and they are glad to support the book because of that connection.”

Sasha is enrolled in the Graphic Communications Program at Ryerson University, studying publishing and printing. She is actively looking for opportunities to have a second print run so Something’s Different About Grandpa can get an even wider distribution.

Sasha’s book is currently available for delivery in Canada and internationally. The price is $12 plus shipping, and all proceeds go to Parkinson Canada.

Buy Sasha’s book

We congratulate Sasha on creating this innovative project to raise awareness and funding and urge you to consider supporting her work, especially if you know any children aged 5 to 12 whose world has been touched by Parkinson’s.

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