Guest Blog by Chana and Meredith
From Chana’s mom, Meredith:
I am ashamed to say it, but I had never read a book to my daughter Chana. Well, not since she was a toddler. I gave up reading to her around the age of 3. I just figured she didn’t understand what I was saying and she couldn’t seem to tolerate sitting for a book unless I sang the words.
I am one of those “intense” autism moms. Our non-verbal daughter has received thousands and thousands of hours of therapy... ABA, Floortime, Son-Rise, OT, Speech, PT... you name it... we tried it... And yet, until she turned 14, I had NEVER, EVER -- not even once -- read a “real” book to her.
In the past 20 months, since we started RPM, we have joyously read many NOVELS together. Hundreds and hundreds of pages shared. It is a dream come true, but it took nothing more than my belief that despite a disinterested or even resistant exterior, she really was listening. At first, I followed her around a bit. We built up what Soma calls her “auditory tolerance.”
Now, at the age of 15, Chana can sit intently while I read several chapters in a row, stopping to ask her occasional questions. Less than two years ago, I was sure she couldn’t understand a simple phrase like “The library is open today” and now we go there to pick out books together.
I now know Chana loves non-fiction. Our latest read is “I Am Malala.” We are reading the Young Readers edition since Chana has told me she is not a fan of scary stories or war stories. It is a marvelous book about the bravest of young women. Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. So, for this blog, I asked Chana to fill in a sentence.
The assignment was to change “I am Malala” to “I am like Malala because _____”. Chana’s answer:
I AM LIKE MALALA BECAUSE I MAKE DECISIONS IN FACE OF ANXIETY.
Chana has written about her anxiety many times since starting RPM. She is one of the calmest non-verbal autistic people I have ever met, but she says her anxiety is often deep and overwhelming and it is due to her autism. Thank goodness she now has a way to express it. And thank goodness she can now hear the words of courageous souls like Malala, whose stories of bravery can be her friend in the face of the fear she feels.
I hope all parents of non-verbal children will read to them. Read even if your children don’t show their love of it at first. Read to empower your children! It’s a gift all kids deserve.