me and amariahDeborah French was born in January 1979, and grew up in northwest London with her parents and two brothers. Whilst achieving in both academic studies and extracurricular activities at secondary school, Deborah also took part in numerous public speaking competitions, and won a Best Public Speaker award, a Best Group award and came joint first in a National Arts competition for public speaking. A natural on stage, Deborah was also active in drama, taking the role of Oberon in a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It may have seemed clear for all to see that a career on the stage would follow, but an interest in writing was sparked by an A-level history teacher when, in teaching the art of essay writing, he told Deborah to “stop waffling”. It was that simple instruction that developed Deborah’s desire to write her own work.

Although she earned good grades at school, Deborah made the decision to enter the workforce and develop skills rather than go to university. Starting as a secretary, by the age of 20 she had worked her way to manager of a training centre for the unemployed, while simultaneously developing her own business during the Internet boom. This, in turn, led her to being a marketing and account manager for a computer game developer, then a large sports agency.

At the age of 23, Deborah met, and married, Johnny. The new direction in life inspired Deborah to stop working late into the night and spend more time with her husband. Within a year of the wedding, Deborah gave birth to her son Henry, and became a stay-at-home mother. Not content to be out of the business world entirely, though, Deborah started a market research consultancy from home, and it grew quickly. Seven months after the birth of Henry, Deborah became pregnant again. Three months prior to the second birth the consultancy was put on hold, but with the new arrival – a daughter named Amariah – having Down’s syndrome, Deborah made the decision not to return to work and instead became a full-time stay-at-home mum.

As Deborah and Johnny learned how to properly provide and care for a young child with Down’s syndrome, they began to notice irregularities in Henry’s behaviour, and sought advice. Henry was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder 15 months after his sister was born. This had a tremendous impact on the life of Deborah and Johnny, with Deborah feeling that every skill set she had acquired throughout life had been rendered useless. Racked with mixed emotions and confusion on how to proceed, she made the decision to seek out other mothers in a similar situation. It was then that she began to see what she needed to do, and she began to trust her own instinct. Today, Deborah’s instinct governs all the decisions she makes, and it has helped build her confidence and guide her children.

Deborah relishes the opportunity to help other families with children who have special needs, and wrote her book to try to help as many as possible, by seeing what she went through firsthand.

Deborah now lives in Israel with her family, and has devoted her life to children with special needs. Aside from caring for her own children, she and her husband developed Israel’s first baseball team and the first dance and movement group for children who have special needs, www.chaionlife.org.

Above all, Deborah’s ambition in life is to demonstrate that people with special needs are just as capable and deserving of a rich and rewarding life as anyone else.

“I believe one of the most important steps that we can take as a family is to create fun and happy memories together. Our lives are so stressful, during holiday time we cancel all therapies and appointments, clear our heads and strive to have solid family time together, to remember what life is really all about.”