The experience of having autism, a neurological condition that affects social skills and verbal communication, varies widely from person to person. Deleah Payne, a 12-year-old from Evansville, Indiana, is now sharing her experience of autism through a book promoting the message that children with autism are just as capable and talented as other students. Titled “Our World,” the book celebrates autism awareness, and explains autism from the perspective of Deleah and her six-year-old sister Delynn, who also has autism.
“It's a book about my autism and my little sister's autism," Deleah explained, according to an August report by Courier and Press. "I really do want to help those kids, because life has been getting hard lately, and this book will teach everybody to not mess with these types of people. We're special too. No two autistic people are exactly the same."
Deleah (currently a seventh-grade student at McGary Middle School) said her decision to write the book was prompted, in part, by bullying she experienced throughout elementary school.
“Autism just means we see things differently,” Deleah writes in the book. “It doesn't mean we are weird. Sometimes we make funny movements to help us feel comfortable.”
The project was encouraged by Deleah’s mother, Delisa Payne, who said that her daughter was bullied throughout her school years until beginning at McGary. Payne added that, as she’s grown older, Deleah has come to appreciate the lack of understanding surrounding autism and those who have it.
The new book was written, illustrated, and self-published by Deleah in two months, according to the author herself. Deleah’s favorite subject in school is art, and she sketches and paints regularly. She added that she was surprised and moved by how popular the book became after being published.
“I felt like only two or three people would buy this book, but actually, 1,000 people really did like it and bought it,” she said. “I cried because it felt good. "
Delisa Payne believes other families with autism should encourage their children to pursue their passions and interests.
“Make it happen for them, because she's written plenty of stories, but it takes a parent to make it happen and bring it to reality," Payne said. "I encourage all autism families to be the bridge for your kid between their world and our world because they don't have anyone else to advocate or speak for them."
According to Courier and Press, the Paynes’ are currently working to create a nonprofit called Differently, Talented, Extraordinary, Autistic Minds (DTEAM), that seeks to provide autistic students with a platform to express their creativity through writing, sports, art, music, and STEM activities.
Deleah is already hard at work on her next project, a comic book. She hopes to become a YouTuber or gamer when she grows up, as well as opening her own art studio.