Janis Joseph and her nephew, Sam Duncan, have collaborated on a children’s book called ‘Freddie the Frog’, designed to help children with anxiety. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Alberni behavioural consultant teams with nephew to write children’s book on anxiety

Freddie the Frog addresses children’s anxieties on their level, says author

What if I fail? What if they laugh at me? What if my best isn’t good enough?

People of all ages go through the “what-ifs”. For children, especially those living with ADHD, autism or learning disabilities, the “what-ifs” can be magnified, says Port Alberni behavioural consultant Janis Joseph.

Joseph has written a children’s book called Freddie the Frog designed to address these types of anxieties. Even more importantly, she teamed up with her nephew, Sam Duncan, who illustrated the book.

“He has all these anxieties,” Joseph says of her nephew, who is 19 and was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD when he was in grade school.

Joseph had written her book a year and a half ago, and set it aside. When she saw a comic that Sam drew for a graphics class he was taking earlier this year, she knew the time was right.

“When the opportunity came for me to collaborate with my nephew, I jumped at the chance,” she says.

Sam enrolled in the Camosun College Comics and Graphic Novels course in Victoria after graduating from high school in 2016. “I believe art is a good way to overcome the problems caused by learning disabilities,” he says.

In Freddie the Frog, Freddie replaces his natural “ribbit, ribbit” sound with “what if, what if”. He questions whether he can participate in activities with his friends, and he goes home in a bad mood. His mom suggests he take some time to cool down, and Freddie spends some time with his calm-down basket in his room before coming out to talk about what is making him anxious.

Joseph, a single parent of four children, owns Fresh Steps Behaviour Consulting in Port Alberni. For more than 20 years she has devoted her life to working with families and children with behavioural challenges and special needs. “More often than not, children’s behaviours of outbursts, meltdowns and shutdowns stem from anxieties and fears,” says Joseph.

“Anxieties are real and honest to all children; they believe what they feel,” she says. “Passing anxieties off as nothing can harm a child’s perception of reality, support and understanding.

“I wrote this book for kids to access. I wrote this because a lot of families I work with here have so many children with anxieties…it’s everywhere. Every child seems to be suffering from some sort of anxiety,” she says. “It’s that fear of ‘what if’ that stops people from doing it. That’s why I came up with the frog, Freddie.

“I feel we have so many books for adults to read on anxiety; I wanted kids to identify with the character,” she adds

“When Sam was putting this together he said he recognized himself,” says Joseph.

“I identify with Freddie because like him, I’ve dealt with anxieties before,” says Sam. “Learning to overcome anxieties is an important part of life, and I hope this book helps people with that.

“I think the message of Freddie the Frog is great for kids and adults alike,” he says.

“My hope is to have kids pick up this book and see themselves, and know there is hope out there, and there are strategies and tools that can help them,” Joseph adds. “I always say to my parents ‘you are not alone; you are not the only parent with an anxious child.’”

Joseph hopes one day to build an anxiety program for kids based on Freddie the Frog. “(Sam) is excited to expand this,” she says.

Freddie the Frog is available from Joseph directly by e-mailing freshsteps.jj@telus.net. The book costs $10 plus shipping, and proceeds are going toward the What’s Bugging You anti-anxiety program for kids that Joseph runs in Port Alberni.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

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Janis Joseph of Port Alberni has written a children’s book, illustrated by her nephew Sam Duncan, designed to help children with anxiety. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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