Aussie kids can read about inspiring characters who use Taekwondo to overcome neurodiversity, thanks to Alistair Lawson’s new book Jiggles, Jumbles and a Case of the Jitters.
Lawson, who is the Head Instructor of Endurance Taekwondo in Torquay, Victoria, has taught many children who have experienced similar journeys.
The book follows three children named Jimmy, Jack and Jane, who face unique challenges associated with ADHD, dyslexia and anxiety.
Jimmy’s ADHD gives him “the jiggles”, which makes him hyperactive, impulsive and a magnet for trouble. Taekwondo teaches him how to focus and manage his bundles of energy.
Jack’s undiagnosed dyslexia means that he is plagued by “the jumbles”. Whenever he reads, words seem to mix and jumble all over the page. Through his Taekwondo adventures, he finds a way to overcome this challenge.
Jane’s anxiety prevents her from joining group activities and having fun with other kids. Eventually, she finds the courage to participate in a sport she’s determined to experience – Taekwondo.
Lawson hopes the book will not only raise awareness about neurodiversity, but also reassure those experiencing it that they are not alone.
“Probably more than half the kids that come in [to the gym], you talk to the parents, and they say ‘by the way, my child has autism or they have this or that. Is that ok?’ And I tell them ‘yes, of course, that’s fine’,” Lawson says.
“When I was growing up it [neurodiversity awareness] wasn’t really a thing.
“Now, I think it’s really good to understand [neurodiverse] kids, the way they think and the way they behave.”
Jiggles, Jumbles and a case of the Jitters also draws on Lawson’s own childhood experiences, especially the case of Jack’s undiagnosed dyslexia.
“Reading out loud in school was my absolute nightmare,” Lawson says.
“I had undiagnosed dyslexia when I was younger. So when I read, I read all the words, but one word would jump in front of the other.
“I’d be reading and I’d read the word before the one I should have read. And then I’d have to stop and read it again.”
Battling these issues without a diagnosis or adequate support was a lonely and disheartening experience. Lawson often worried about what his teachers and classmates thought of him.
“In my head, I’m thinking ‘I don’t understand what’s going on? Why can’t I read normally?’ But no one picked it [the dyslexia] up. I didn’t know it was a thing, I just thought my brain wasn’t working correctly.”
It wasn’t until he went to university and met another dyslexic student, that Lawson realised there was a clear reason for his reading difficulties.
Nevertheless, Taekwondo was an important outlet throughout Lawson’s life. He started at six years of age and it strengthened his confidence even as he struggled at school.
Lawson earned a Black Belt by the age of 16 and opened his own Taekwondo gym in 2013. Now a 5th Dan Black Belt, he recently represented Australia at the 2022 World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships in Korea.
While coaching and competition kept him busy, he still found time to write. He was particularly passionate about rhyming and painting vivid pictures through word play.
Lawson started channelling this passion into poetry, before pursuing stories that would deliver positive messages to children.
“I get inspired by thinking that I am going to make a difference to someone,” Lawson says.
“If I have a way of saying something meaningful, I try to put this across in my stories to help readers see that they can relate to the characters and draw inspiration and strength from the book for themselves.”
Jiggles, Jumbles and a Case of the Jitters highlights many of the important life skills that Taekwondo provides. Lawson hopes that children of all abilities will connect with its characters and learn that with courage and perseverance, they can conquer life’s challenges.
“Taekwondo has got so much more to offer than just kicking and punching. All the different life skills you pick up.
“With the skills I’ve learned in Taekwondo, every time you get that roadblock [in life] or every time something is hard, it means you’re achieving something.
“There’s so many things you can do if you put your mind to it and you don’t give up.”
Jiggles, Jumbles and a Case of the Jitters will be released in February 2023.
You can find out more about Alistair Lawson’s books and how to purchase these via his website.
More information about Endurance Taekwondo can be found here.