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Murray mother shares her story in book about parents with disabilities

(From left) Will, Ben and Carrissa Johnson.
Carrissa Johnson
(From left) Will, Ben and Carrissa Johnson.

A Murray mother recently had the opportunity to share her experiences raising a family in a book about parents with disabilities.

Carrissa Johnson is one of 22 Kentuckians featured in “A Celebration of Family: Stories of Parents with Disabilities,” a collection edited by Dave Matheis and published by Advocado Press with the Center for Accessible Living in July 2021.

Matheis one day overheard Johnson and others recounting parenting stories at the Center for Accessible Living office in Bowling Green and decided stories like hers should be documented.

Coming from a family of five brothers and sisters, Johnson said from a young age she desired to raise a family, and now raises 6-year-old Will alongside her husband Ben, not discouraged by her spastic cerebral palsy and learning disability.

“Since I worked for the office, I was his first interview that he did,” Johnson said. “It was kind of cathartic being able to talk about some of my experiences. I’ve ran into some things that not every parent does. It’s really awesome to be able to teach somebody else through that interview.”

Raising her own family was never something Johnson felt inherently incapable of doing, having grown up with “all kinds of kids around all the time.”

“I was always raised to think that I could do anything anybody else can do, so it was no different to me,” she said. “I didn’t really experience any challenges until we started, and then most of it came from other people’s viewpoints, not my own.”

Johnson believes the stories contained in Matheis’ book could help other parents with disabilities in much the same way as parenting groups on Facebook, noting there wasn’t much literature on the subject when she became a parent.

In fact, one of her favorite parts of being involved in the book was meeting with and hearing the stories of some of the other parents at a book release last year.

“It will definitely give other parents some ideas and, if not ideas, encouragement,” she said.

Will Johnson is aware he’s in a book but not fully cognizant of what that means at his age — “but he’s pretty proud of his own photo,” his mother added.

“Watching the world through his eyes and watching him discover things is probably my favorite part of being a parent,” Johnson said of her son.

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.
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