Hey there readers! Sorry about my long absence. Life has been so nuts, I’ve barely had time to breathe lately.
Right now, I’m writing about a subject that is very dear to my heart. In the second book of my Diary of a Rocker’s Kid (DORK) series, Madison and her bandmates accept a bass player who is a little different from the norm. His name is Evan Granger, and not only can he play a kickass bass solo, he also happens to have Down Syndrome. Instead of relying on others to take care of him or make his dreams come true, Evan is tough, tenacious, and stubborn, insisting on blazing his own trail and proving he can do anything he sets his mind to. His motto is, “I got this.” I gotta hand it to the guy, he’s got it for sure. I am so happy to be speaking out for just how able kids with disabilities can be.
The reason this subject is so important to me is because I have a brother with autism. When most people look at him, they see a guy who’s lost in his own little world and has some really weird things to say. When I look at him, I see my amazing brother who’s been through more than most people will ever have to suffer in a lifetime and still has dreams, goals, and aspirations he wants to achieve. His dream is to be a screenwriter and bring his wild, wacky ideas to life on the big screen. Some people think we shouldn’t let him dream because it’s unlikely his dreams will ever become a reality, but I think if I can have big dreams, why can’t he?
Special needs kids are capable of a lot more than people give them credit for. One massive inspiration to me is the model with Down Syndrome, Madeline Stuart. She has proven that people with “disabilities” have dreams and goals just like everyone else and that they can indeed achieve them. (Disclaimer: Evan is not based on Madeline Stuart. She inspires me, but I do not know her personally, and I did not base my character on her life at all.)
I know one book series isn’t enough to change the way the world thinks about certain things, but if I can get even one person thinking differently, that’s good enough for me.
Here’s an excerpt from book 2 to introduce you to Evan and his dream.
Three hours into bass auditions, Dalton, Logan and I start to give up hope. Our ears are bleeding and we’re starting to lose faith in humanity. Not one of the people who responded to Dalton’s ad can even keep a steady beat, let alone keep up with us. Just one more person to listen to today, and then we’re finally free from this torture chamber. I can’t wait to get out of here, get some dinner, and play WoW for the rest of the night. The walls of this rehearsal studio are starting to feel super confining.
The final auditioner is announced, and all three of us fall silent when a boy with Down Syndrome walks into the room with his mother. His blond hair has an obvious cowlick in the back and his sweet, innocent smile could melt a heart of stone. He introduces himself as Evan Granger and his mother tells us all about how it’s his dream to play bass in a band and he will be forever grateful for this opportunity. Evan plugs his bass guitar into the amp and takes his place beside me. The guys and I exchange an indulgent smile behind his back. We’re going to be nice to this dude even if he has no chance of making it with us.
“What song do you want to play with us?” Dalton asks him.
Evan smiles wide and speaks with a slight halt in his voice. “My favorite song…is…Around the World by Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
“Oh damn, that’s a good one,” I comment. Dalton and Logan agree with me.
“You need to warm up before they start?” Dad asks him.
“Hi, Grim.” Evan beams with excitement over being addressed by my dad. Everyone in the room chuckles. “I don’t need to warm up. I got this.”
“Okay, well, here we go.” Logan pounds out four beats with his drum sticks. As soon as Evan starts the song, all our jaws swing wide open. Much to our amazement, Evan is able to rip out every note of this admittedly difficult bass solo on point. Dalton and I glance at each other over and over throughout that song and three others, feeling sheepish over our own prejudice. Clearly none of us had any idea what a kid with Down Syndrome was capable of.
All of us have a blast playing with him. There’s no questioning the fact that Evan can keep up with us. However, we weren’t really planning on taking on a bandmate with such a marked disability. After the fourth song, Dalton, Logan, and I request a private audience with Dad and Cass. Evan and his mom go to wait in the lobby.
The five of us arrange our chairs in a circle to discuss it.
“The kid can play, you have to give him that,” Dad says.
“He can play for sure, but is he going to be able to handle the rock star lifestyle?” Dalton ponders.
“I think that’s something he and his mom will need to decide,” Cass says. The rest of us agree.
“We can’t discriminate against him based on his disability,” Logan reminds us. “If he’s the best one for the job, he’s the best one for the job. We can make accommodations for him.”
“Maybe we could give it a trial run,” I suggest. “We could tell him he can rehearse with us for a month to see if it’s what he really wants to do. That also gives us time to get to know him and see if it would work.”
“I think having concerns is fair. We should sit down and talk to them about it openly. Communication is going to be the key to making this work,” Cass says.
We invite them back in and bring up two more chairs to add to our circle. Dalton tells Evan’s mom we’re considering taking him on a trial basis. We’re all shocked when Ms. Granger breaks down in tears. The sweet middle aged woman explains her tears when I ask her what’s wrong.
“I just never thought you’d even give him a second glance,” she sobs. “So many people would send him away at first sight. You’re all wonderful people. You have no idea how grateful I am. Evan is my only child, and I would do anything to see his dreams come true. We’ll do this however you want. I’ll even accompany him to rehearsals if you want me to.”
“It might be good for you to at least sit in on the first one,” Cass suggests. “First rehearsals can get intense. Mike and I might even come to make sure Mads doesn’t spend the whole time showing off.”
“Hey!” I scowl with mock offense. Everyone else in the room laughs at me, including Evan. “I don’t need to be babysat,” I insist without thinking about what just came out of my mouth.
“I don’t need to be…babysat either,” Evan pipes up, looking at his mother. “I got this.”
Her light blonde eyebrows draw together with concern. “But, Evan—”
“I said, ‘I got this,’” Evan insists forcefully. “You can come…and watch if you want, but…this is my thing. I want to do this…on my own.”
I smile, admiring this guy’s spunk and determination. He reminds me of myself and Dalton and Logan. We all have people we could fall back on for help or fame, but we’d rather strike out on our own and prove ourselves. His spirit is exactly what we need.
“Evan, I think you’ll do just fine with us,” I tell him.
Hope you’re all having an amazing weekend :)