How Boy With Cerebral Palsy Overcame Homelessness and Hospital Trips to Write a Book Aged Just 14
Fourteen-year-old Aaron Philip has been a fighter since the day he was born.
He fought to thrive after coming into the world two months early weighing just two and a half pounds and so small his parents had to cut newborn Pampers in half just to fit.
He fought to gain as much control over his motor skills as possible, eventually achieving the ability to write even though many said it was impossible.
He fought to come out on top after countless trips to the doctor and hospital to treat his eventual diagnosis of cerebral palsy, first in his homeland of Antigua and then in New York, where he and his mother moved when he was three for advanced medical care.
He fought to continue to improve even as his parents swapped places—still nearly 2,000 miles apart— and struggled with poverty and homelessness so he could continue receiving the care he needed in New York.
And throughout it all, he’s fought to remain positive and upbeat, rising above what some would consider insurmountable physical and personal challenges to pen an inspirational book that discusses his battle.
“I wrote the book to show my experiences as a kid growing up in New York City with physical disabilities from the time I was three years old up until now and what it’s like for my family,” Philip told INSIDE EDITION of his memoir, This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability NOT Disability.
“Because lots of people may look and see on the street a person with a physical disability, but they don’t understand the type of life we have to live and how much work we have to put in to get through the day.”
Aaron first began chronicling his day-to-day life when he was 12 on a Tumblr blog, Aaronverse, which caught the attention of the site’s chief executive, David Karp.
The young writer went on to speak at the company’s office and create a graphic book and short film about “a regular kid who is born with a pair of legs in a world where everybody else has a pair of wheels.”
“I’ve always been interested in writing. Writing has been a passion of mine since I was very, very young,” Aaron told IE, saying he had begun thinking about writing a book when he was “about nine.”
“Writing has given me an outlet to express myself in ways that my body can’t. I have a lot of physical trouble with moving,” he continued.
Celebrating the Tuesday release of his book came at a shining moment for Aaron, who told IE he had just returned home to his Bronx apartment after six months in a rehabilitation center.
“I was recovering from surgery,” he explained.
Though it was just released, the response to the honest work has been overwhelming.
“My friend actually said he read the book (Tuesday) and he loved it so much because we both went to the same school and he said he never knew that I was going through all these things and I’m such an inspiration to him. And I said ‘thank you,’ because it means a lot,” he said.
The positive reaction meant the world to the young author, who said he poured his all into the book.
“Sometimes you have to get a little intimate with the questions and that may be hard because you may have to look back and reflect on times of your life that you don’t want to reflect on. I had to go back to some very hard times in my life, such as growing up with not a lot of money, going to school and not having that many friends because of my disability, really painful things I had to experience when I was younger,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, that’s what makes a book so much richer and so much more powerful; knowing you’ve been through these things.”
Proudest of all is his family, which told IE the teen worked relentlessly on the book.
From L to R: Petrone Philip, Aren Philip, Aaron Philip
“It reflected on the last 12 years of our lives,” his father, Petrone Philip, 54, said. “The book really is a reflection of what we did and I’m really proud of what Aaron did. I’m fascinated by the things we have gone through and were able to inspire people through.”
Aaron’s 12-year-old brother, Aren, agreed with their father, saying that he was inspired by his older brother’s drive.
“It was like, that’s really cool, because I don’t know anyone, someone around my age, a family member who was written a book,” said Aren, who moved to New York to be with his father and brother in 2012.
Their mother, Lydia Philip, still lives in Antigua.
”There’s been some crazy times,” said Petrone Philip, who works in a school cafeteria and worked as a customs agent in Antigua. “We were homeless for a while. We moved from a couple places, this is the fourth places we’re living because of financial reasons. It was pretty tough, but we managed. Aaron had talent and I wasn’t going to give up, I wasn’t going to give up on him.”'
The family’s overwhelming resolution to thrive has been the driving force for Aaron, who plans to go to college and continue working as a writer and artist.
“This Kid Can Fly was really just the tip of the iceberg with the things that are happening in my life and the things that I am going to do. So I’m going to keep on writing and keep on showing the world that it’s about ability not disability,” Aaron said.
“I just want people to be inspired by my book, and to learn from my book, and I want people to be motivated. You have to keep your head up high and do what you have to do to make yourself get through the day.”
His father agreed, saying: “We’ve faced impossible odds and we just have to keep doing it. (The book shows) what a family together can overcome—the impossible odds— if they’re together and they work hard and they persist.
"I’m glad Aaron can inspire his peers (and) people with disabilities, who can look at him and say 'if Aaron can do it, then we can do it. It's doable. It's not impossible like we thought before.”