InVision's Stories | Living the Dream

Living the Dream

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, Sheryl walked into InVision’s Corporate Training Room with a clear mind. She unpacked the vibrant blue, hardbacked books and placed them on the table at the end of the room, thinking about how thrilled she was to be there.

InVision invited Sheryl to visit our corporate office in Wexford for an opportunity not only to sell her book, but also to discuss its themes and the impact she hopes it will have on readers.

Lifting Voices

“Emma Goes to the Doctor”—a sequel to Sheryl’s first book, “Emma the Giraffe”—follows Emma as she navigates the difficulties faced by people with intellectual disability and autism when they need medical care. Loosely based on Sheryl’s own experiences, she hopes the book sheds light on the disparities people with disabilities face in healthcare.

In the book, Emma injures her knee while playing outside with a friend. She visits a doctor who doesn’t seem to believe her when she says she’s in pain, immediately focusing instead on her autism. He refuses to consider that her knee is truly hurt, and he doesn’t listen to her or order any further testing, like an X-ray, to determine the root cause of her pain. Emma leaves the doctor feeling ignored and disrespected, but she was also determined to find a physician who acknowledges her.

This kind of callous dismissal is a far-too-common reality for people with intellectual disability or autism. Many physicians make erroneous assumptions about people with disabilities and their ability to articulate needs or the type of care they require. Sheryl published her book in an effort to bring attention to these—sometimes unconscious—biases and challenge readers to advocate for people like her by supporting physicians who actively work toward creating more inclusive practices.

Later, Emma and her friends research new doctors, and she finds Dr. Patrick in Pittsburgh. When she visits him, she notices how intently he listens to her concerns. He orders an X-ray and a shot that she explains made her pain disappear. She finally felt seen and heard for who she really is, and she closes with a sincere wish that everyone has a doctor like Dr. Patrick.

Following Dreams

Sheryl has always dreamed she would one day publish her own book. “Emma the Giraffe”, the first book she wrote and illustrated, lacked the same fanfare as "Emma Goes to the Doctor" because she lacked the funds to finance its true publication. But she believes creating it was the necessary first step toward publishing her second book, and she credits her DSPs with continuing to push her to pursue her dream.

Despite Covid-19 pandemic-related setbacks, Sheryl eventually received a grant to publish her second book, so she and her team got to work organizing her drawings and putting the finishing touches on the text. She researched businesses that help independent authors and illustrators publish their work into physical books and settled on Lulu Press, Inc. She crossed her Ts, dotted her Is, and sent it off.

When the shipment of her books came in, Sheryl was astonished at the stunningly beautiful colors of her work come to life. At her birthday party only weeks later, she enthusiastically shared them with her guests, and she even sold a few copies. Eager to return to her days as an independent artist, living off her creations, Randy Dicks—InVision’s director of community-based programs—had an idea for her.

After applying for and receiving funding from InVision Foundation’s Personal Enrichment grant, Randy organized an official book signing for Sheryl. He invited her to come and sell her books in a casual, open forum where she could discuss the book’s theme and the importance of her voice in publishing and other creative spaces.

“This is a huge milestone for her,” Randy said. “It’s something to celebrate!”

Joined by many of InVision’s office staff and friends, Sheryl gleefully elaborated on the motivations behind writing her book and what she hopes will resonate with readers. She signed her name on copies of books as she expressed her gratitude to every person who purchased one for their support.

On the Horizon

Sheryl was recently invited to share a table at an upcoming book and publishing convention to continue selling “Emma Goes to the Doctor” and introduce it to an entirely new group of readers. She mentioned it was the first event she’s attending for a creative purpose that isn’t designed specifically for people with disabilities. She’s also in touch with medical practices in the Pittsburgh area to encourage them to purchase and display her book in their waiting rooms.

But this is only the beginning. As more and more events, conventions, and exhibits return to in-person settings, Sheryl expects to fully immerse herself in the circuit and get back to doing what she does best: Creating.

You can support Sheryl by purchasing her book on Amazon.

Experiences like Sheryl’s are only possible thanks to our generous donors. Please support our efforts to help the people we support achieve their vision of a meaningful life by learning more about InVision Foundation.

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