“She was diagnosed at three months of age with microcephaly,” said the Garden City mom. “It basically means she has a smaller head and a smaller brain, so she’s developmentally delayed.”
When Audrey was diagnosed, doctors told McCarton that, because of the disability, there were many things that her daughter would never be able to do, such as walk, talk or “be a ballerina.” However, two and half years after the diagnosis, Audrey has developed the ability to walk.
“That’s what stuck out in my mind like ‘What do you mean she’ll never do these things?’” said McCarton. “I have a whole team of doctors where I send them videos of her walking and I just know that she’s going to do amazing things with the dedication and hope that we have.”
Her youngest, 3-year-old Vivienne, is aware of the struggle her sister goes through. Around the holidays, McCarton was showing Vivienne an app where Santa Claus asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Vivienne’s response was quite unusual for a 3-year-old.
“She said ‘I want Audrey to talk,’” said McCarton. “We didn’t tell her to say anything. She could’ve said anything in the entire world. It just melted my heart.”
McCarton was so inspired by what her daughter said that she decided to write a children’s book called The Wish, a story about two fairies named Audrey and Vivienne. In the book, Vivienne befriends Audrey, a fairy who hasn’t spoken any words yet and includes her in all kinds of activities.
“The biggest lesson I want kids to take out of this book is to be kind, say hi and not shy away from someone who they see might be different,” said McCarton.
The book also includes Audrey and Vivienne finding a fairy godmother, who is based off of McCarton’s cousin, Lauren, who passed away last summer. The fairy godmother grants Vivienne three wishes. Vivienne’s first wish is to give Audrey a voice. The second was to build a playground where “fairies of all abilities” can play in; the third was for all the fairies to be kind.
The playground in the book is based on McCarton’s efforts to install an adaptive swing set at her nearby playground for Audrey to play on. She went to Garden City’s Western Property Owner Association President Gerry Kelly to propose the idea.
“It got hard for me to lift my daughter onto the baby swings because she doesn’t fit there…and she’s almost as tall as me,” McCarton said. “Literally a month after I told him that, he had adaptive swings installed around Garden City.”
What makes the book even better are the illustrations by Allison Lagueux, a 22-year-old student at Nassau Community College who also deals with autism. She has been a friend of the McCarton family for some time. Recently, McCarton found out that Allison loved to draw.
“She invited me and my girls to her birthday party this past November. I look up at the wall and I see all these drawn pictures of fairies,” said McCarton. “I was like ‘Oh my gosh, Allison, did you make these?’ and she was like ‘Yeah, I love to draw fairies.’ I told her that I wrote a book and have been looking for an illustrator. After her mom gave permission, we sat down and went page-by-page. She drew what was in my head basically.”
McCarton gave Lagueux a chance, a lesson she wanted to spread by publishing the book. She wants children and adults to be more inclusive of people with disabilities and ask questions so they can be more educated about the subject.
“I would love for this book to be in all the schools,” McCarton said. “I would love for this to be read at bedtime to your children and just get the message out there. It’s OK to have a disability and don’t be afraid of it. Talk about it. No one knew Allison was such an amazing artist and now she’s a published illustrator and I think that’s amazing. I hope to write another one and be an advocate. I want to raise kindness and awareness in all the schools across America. Make it a better place.”
McCarton will host two book signings on Sunday, April 22 after the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Anne’s Church in Garden City and Monday, May 7 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the French Workshop in Garden City.