St. Joseph’s welcomes special visitors Friday

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Feb 15, 2012 in Rat News | Subscribe

By CECILIA NASMITH Northumberland Today

Posted 6 hours ago

COBOURG — Two young people with pet rats and a story to tell will come to St. Joseph Elementary School in Cobourg Friday.

Melanie and Tommy Have Two Pet Rats and One Syndrome  is the title of the book written by Nathalie Wendling and her son Tommy of Manotick, Ont.?The syndrome is Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, which has put her daughter Melanie through 13 operations at three different hospitals and resulted in a list of symptoms that includes fine-motor and gross-motor skills, hearing and vision problems, eating difficulties and speech delays.

It’s a rare condition, Wendling said, with only 100 known cases in Canada.

“My son and I wrote a book when Tommy was six — he wanted to educate his friends about his sister’s syndrome while still entertaining them, and my husband and I wanted to broaden awareness about CdLS and find as many CdLS individuals as possible who live without diagnosis or support.”

When Tommy came home from his Grade 1 class crying because his sister was getting teased, Wendling added, they decided to self-publish the book.

In 2010, a school in Ottawa asked the family to make a presentation on the book. Tommy insisted on doing it himself, with his sister and their two pet rats by his side.

“Everybody loved it — the teachers, students  and parents,” she said.

Since then, the book has sold more than 6,000 copies, and Tommy and Melanie have taken their 45-minute presentation to other schools, spoken at fundraisers, appeared at book signings and had interviews with magazines, newspapers and television reporters.

When Tommy was asked what his favourite part of co-writing the book was, he replied that no one makes fun of his sister anymore.

Tommy’s final message at each presentation is a piece of advice: If you see someone who looks different, smile and say hi. Smiling is not rude.

The family has come to Cobourg in part because of a hockey tournament he will be playing in.

“We decided to sneak a  presentation  on Friday before the tournaments starts,” his mother said.

“Many of Tommy’s teammates will be coming to see the presentation and support him. Melanie will be there and, of course, their pet rats.

“We are very excited to meet everyone in Cobourg and spread awareness.”

cnasmith@northumberlandtoday.com

twitter.com/NT_cnasmith

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