Emma Albert's son was five days old when she held him for the first time. Minutes later, she and husband Andrew sat in a doctor's office and were told their little boy had severe damage to most of the matter of his brain. In a corridor outside she wailed as if the world was about to end.
Barely 19 months on, Emma sees her little boy beaming in his "MADE MIGHTY" t-shirt and is in awe of his strength. The way he pushes his body in physio sessions, lifts a palm to give a high five, finds a way through sheer will to complete the simple act of turning a page. Without uttering a word Mikey has taught his parents that children aren't disabled, they just have different abilities.
"He's so wonderful, he lights up the world," Emma says. "He makes so many people so happy, we've got so much to be positive about all the time."
Mikey wears aids to help with hearing loss, has microcephaly from the severity of damage to his brain as well as global developmental delay. His main challenge is Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, which renders him floppy in the trunk and stiff in all limbs.
Emma's efforts to improve her son's development are tireless. She has access to a sign bank and was thrilled recently when Mikey began signing back for "more". The toys she makes herself are his favourites, their shapes and textures a source of educational wonder. A cupboard door might become a marker to extend Mikey's reaching skills. Stimulation is all around, if you open your eyes.
Mikey has inspired Emma to create 'Mighty Able', a clothing brand that celebrates this distinction and has fast become the uniform of a family of mighty kids taking steps little and large in life. He's brought so much to Emma and Andrew, to all who've come to know him and felt the glow he brings to a room. Not least the understanding that in return for your love, a child never stops giving back.
Emma had seen t-shirts on children with slogans celebrating their milestones; with parents she's met through Mikey's challenges she yearned for something less neuro-typical, a nod to "how awesome our kids are, how much they achieve, how strong they are". She did some research, bought some shirts, played around with designs.
Mighty and Able came together like hand in glove. The mountains in the logo were another perfect fit, symbolising a journey, children scaling summits big and small, not always reaching the top, and that's okay too. She began selling them with an accompanying note to parents to send back pictures of their child. The response has been incredible; expansion into rashies, adult sizes, team shirts for fundraisers is the next joyous step.
"It's about looking at all of our abilities, all the things we can do, whether we look a bit different, we walk a bit different, hold our head a bit different. It doesn't mean they're not abilities, they are, and they're even mightier when you have to work so hard to do them. The effort Mikey makes just to stand is huge. He is so mighty. These kids go through so much."
Language is important. Emma's blog on the Mighty Able website includes a post on the importance of celebrating abilities, not highlighting disability. Seeing what people can do, not looking at what they can't. "Mikey can do so much – people love him, his enthusiasm, his chatting. If we just looked at his disability they wouldn't see all of that."
"He doesn't have special needs, his needs are exactly the same as everyone else's – he needs to eat, he needs to move, he needs all the things that I need. I know people like to use that because it sounds nicer, but I like to say he has different abilities. They can do things, they just do them differently."
Children and their parents she's met in the street or supermarket have become friends, members of the Mighty Able family. Mikey has done this for her, made her realise they are people with capabilities, just like anyone else. "Inclusion's really important. Look past the wheelchair or the drool or shaking or wobbly legs, and see the person that's behind it - and support these people."