A picture of Alex Winstanley with his Grandma.
Alex Winstanley with his Grandma

Edge Hill alumnus Alex Winstanley has written a children’s book aimed at making visits to care homes less daunting for young people by raising awareness of dementia.

Due to be published in February 2021, My Grandma Has Dementia, is based on Alex’s own experiences of visiting his grandma who has dementia. He saw firsthand the effect social isolation was having on people in care homes and wanted to make it easier for children to meet and interact with older people.

Alex explained: “I haven’t been able to visit my grandma in her care home for over six months due to lockdown and was really missing her. I wanted to do something to cheer her up when everything gets back to normal and had the idea for my book.

“I realised that care homes can be scary places for adults, let alone children. I also started thinking about my grandma’s dementia and how confusing that would be for a child. And so, I came up with my new children’s book which explains and demystifies dementia for kids.”

After coming up with the idea, Alex set up a funding page and has managed to raise £1,720 which will fully fund its publication. The book is being released as a spinoff of children’s book series The Abilities in me, by Gemma Keir who gave her blessing for Alex to use her illustrator and themes.

The front cover of My Grandma has Dementia

Once the book is published, Alex plans to take it further by using it as part of an intergenerational reading project. Working with schools, he will take children into care homes to read and talk to the residents.

“The pandemic has shown that care homes can be lonely places,” Alex said. “I’d love to be able to bring some joy back into them by taking children in to read or reading to residents via Zoom. Studies have shown that this kind of interaction is great for the kids to learn and fantastic for the health and wellbeing of older people, especially those with dementia.”

Alex is already planning to write a series of books discussing Crohn’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer and Tourette’s with the hope of normalising disabilities for children.

Alex, 28, studied PE and School Sport and a PGCE at Edge Hill. While he loved teaching, he found working with people with disabilities and special educational needs incredibly rewarding. In 2019 Alex was inspired to set up his own social enterprise, Happy Smiles Blog CIC, which offers unique inclusion training for schools, community groups, businesses and others.

A picture of Alex Winstanley with his colleagues  Haydn, Ellie and Kurt.
Alex Winstanley with his colleagues Haydn, Ellie and Kurt

Happy Smiles sees Alex and his colleagues Haydn, Ellie and Kurt, each of whom has a disability, go into schools to talk face to face with children. The training shows that disabled people can provide as much value to society as non-disabled people, whilst creating inclusive communities and promoting positive role models for young disabled people.

Find out more about their work on the Happy Smiles website or visit their social media page on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Edge Hill University runs wide variety of courses in education and teacher training. Visit the website www.edgehill.ac.uk/education for more information on all the education courses available at Edge Hill.