Interview Lea M. Hill, Teacher, TV producer, Autism Advocate and Author

Interview Lea M. Hill, Teacher, TV producer, Autism Advocate and Author

We have recently posted a guest post introducing a young adult (YA) fantasy novel, The Society of Sylphs: How an Autistic Boy and a Mystical Being find their Voices through Human Tragedy, by Lea M. Hill. It is a story for the 9-14 year-old age range involving a nonverbal boy with autism and a sylph (an elemental being of the air that some say they look like fairies) who live and play in the clouds. Their purpose is to deliver messages to humans and other beings.

Read Lea Hill’s guest post on The Society of Sylphs here.

With this interview we will learn more about Lea M. Hill, teacher, TV producer, autism advocate and author of The Society of Sylphs. She is also a Reiki Master, Certified Angel Healing Practitioner(c), and a Vortex Healing(r) Energy Healing Practitioner.

Lorna: Congratulations on all the different endeavours you are working on! You are a faculty member and tutor/counselor at North Shore Community College for ‘Project Access: Bridge to the Future’. Tell us about this project. Is this your main job?

<< Lea M. Hill:  Thank you, Lorna! This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with the community that I work and volunteer in…and what has become my life’s work!

Yes, faculty member and tutor/counselor at North Shore Community College is my main job.  It is a one year, non-credit program for 18 to 26 year-olds with intellectual disabilities.  It’s called a “bridge” program because our students are the ones who typically fall through the gap between not being eligible for federal supports and yet they do not meet the criteria to be accepted in credit college programs.  We teach a variety of independent living and workplace skills, such as: Social Skills for the Workplace, Introduction to Computers, and Transition to Independence.  These classes prepare the students for meaningful employment and/or independent living.

Project Access: Bridge to the Future is a unique program as the students take all their classes together as one cohort but still have access to all the college facilities and participate in student activities.  It integrates socialization with academic experience.

We are now in the second year of the program and have seen many successes with our past students taking credit classes and finding better jobs than they would have gotten right out of high school.

I love the program and, as many educators would agree, I learn so much from my students every day!>>

Lorna: You have a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A. from Northeastern University. You have worked and volunteered in the autism community for several years. Your bio says, “As a child who could not and/or would not express her feelings, Lea has an emphatic connection with those on the autism spectrum.” Explain about this connection to those with autism and what you do as volunteer work for the autism community.

<< Lea M. Hill: All my life I have been sensitive to subtle energies.  I knew I was different, and as a child, I was very scared of my experiences and was too afraid to speak about them to anyone else.  I would sense the presence of someone watching me or I would hear my name being called and would turn around, but there was no one there.  I was overwhelmed when I would walk into a room and instantly feel the energy of every person there.  I also suffered from terrible nightmares.

As I grew into my teenage years, my experiences became stronger and more intense so I decided to shut it down as much as I could.  I withdrew into myself and isolated myself from the rest of the world.  This meant that I didn’t participate in typical teenage activities like sports or trying out for the school play.

That’s how I ended up in business school.  It was easier for me to deal with facts and figures than to deal with the energies that (I thought) I was the only person experiencing.  Years later, after I got my MBA, a series of events led me to question who I really am and what my purpose was.  So I began the long journey to self-acceptance.

Along that road, I got the inspiration to write The Society of Sylphs and needed a reason why the human boy character could see and hear the sylph, yet no one else could.  The word “autism” jumped out at me and I created Eddie as a non-verbal boy with autism.  I wasn’t very familiar with autism at the time but I researched and read everything I could that was written by people with autism, such as Dr. Temple Grandin.  I volunteered at a local farm program where people with ASD could learn to take care of the animals and did many autism walks and fundraising events.

The more time I spent with people on the spectrum, the more I realized that I had an empathic connection with them.  We would be instantly comfortable with each other and were able to communicate in a heart-centered and compassionate way that went beyond verbal and written words.

I experience people with autism as clear, genuine, and totally comfortable with who they are.  They seem to naturally know what took me many years to learn!>>

The Society of Sylphs: How an Autistic Boy and a Mystical Being find their Voices through Human Tragedy, by Lea M. Hill.Lorna: I read you took three years to write The Society of Sylphs: How an Autistic Boy and a Mystical Being find their Voices through Human Tragedy and then self-published the book. What motivated you to embark on such a huge undertaking, writing a 269 page, young adult fantasy novel? What goal did you want to reach with this YA novel?

<< Lea M. Hill: Well, I didn’t realize that it was going to be such a huge undertaking to write the novel but once I started with the first few scenes, I couldn’t stop.  My imagination would add more and more to the plot every day.  I was working full time and was only writing when I had a chance, so I had lots of ideas in my head but not much time to get them on paper.  I got laid off from my job in 2010 and was able to finish the book by the end of that year.

First and foremost, my motivation to write the book was to provide encouragement and support to any kid who was growing up like me…withdrawn, isolated, afraid to express himself or herself.  I wanted kids (whether they have special needs or not) to know that they are not alone, that what they think and feel is valuable, and that they are more powerful than they might believe.

Second, I wrote the book for everyone else. I wanted people to know that you cannot judge a person by his or her outward appearance or behavior. Just because the person cannot show understanding, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand.  My favorite advice is a quotation from author William Stillman, who says, “always presume intellect”.  It is painful to be misjudged and misunderstood.  That advice goes a long way to prevent children from feeling alone.>>

Lorna: Not only is the title of your book The Society of Sylphs but you have a web site with the same title, a Facebook page and you Tweet @SylphSociety. For what age group is your site and what will readers find there?

<< Lea M. Hill: The Sylph Society website was created to correspond with the book and give kids from ages 5-18 a chance to display their creative writing, artwork, or photos in an online gallery.  It is a safe website, as all of the submissions are vetted through me before they are posted.  With permission, I will include the child’s first name, age, and state along with their work.

Kids can also read my blog posts, which include discussion of my writing process (or my writing blocks!), news that I find interesting, or notifications of my events.  There is also an excerpt of the book so kids can get a sense of my writing style.

There is also a discussion forum called, “What About Me?”, which is for siblings of kids with special needs.  It’s a chance for siblings to write about what it’s like to grow up with a brother or sister with special needs.  Posts can be anonymous so it’s a safe place for them to vent and share their feelings.

Since my character, Eddie, is a fan of meteorology, the Links page  includes some fun websites for kids to learn about clouds and the weather.>>

[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=” Lea M. Hill
” quotestyle=”style02″]  Talk to your son or daughter about what special needs your other child has and list the positives as opposed to the disabilities. Also make sure the sibling has a sense of independence so they don’t feel like their special needs sibling is “taking over their life”. Encourage siblings to have an outlet to vent their feelings safely such as journal writing, artistic expression, or through counseling.[/sws_blockquote_endquote]

Lorna: On your site you have a discussion forum for kids with autistic siblings called What About Me? Often siblings say they did not like growing up in a home where their parents were often overwhelmed by the needs of a sibling with special needs. Do you have advice for parents on how they can do things differently so that these siblings do not feel this way? What are some things parents could do to make sure siblings feel important and loved too?
<< Lea M. Hill: That’s a very important question and not an easy one to answer!  Many siblings feel neglected or sometimes feel their parents are too strict with them and too easy on their brother or sister with special needs.  Most parents are so exhausted trying to advocate for their special needs child that it’s difficult to make sure that their other children don’t feel left out.

My best advice for parents is communicate, communicate, communicate! Talk to your son or daughter about what special needs your other child has and list the positives as opposed to the disabilities.  Also make sure the sibling has a sense of independence so they don’t feel like their special needs sibling is “taking over their life”.  Encourage siblings to have an outlet to vent their feelings safely such as journal writing, artistic expression, or through counseling.>>

Lorna: As an autism advocate, you develop unique programs that help people connect with those who are nonverbal or have limited verbal capabilities. You offer presentations, classes, and workshops in “The Autism Spirit: Pathways to Connection through the Heart for parents, professionals and caregivers of those on the autism spectrum and related. Tell us about these workshops.  

<< Lea M. Hill: The autism community is flooded with information about the science and behavioral aspects of the disorder but I believe there’s something missing… the heart-centered connection that we ALL need.  So I developed workshops to help parents and professionals create a deeper, more loving connection with the person with ASD.

I teach people how to create the foundation that encourages pathways of connection that go beyond verbal or written words.  Participants learn how to understand what’s behind autistic behaviors, easy ways to dispel meltdowns before they occur, and many practical tools they can implement right away. What I teach is that all beings want to communicate, whether they have verbal capabilities or not.

The practices taught in the workshop not only facilitate communication and socialization with people with autism spectrum disorders but many parents experience relief from feelings of guilt, frustration, and confusion with their special needs child.>>

Lorna: You also have a Facebook page called Building Bridges with Nonverbal People and a web siteHow does this program help doctors, nurses, clinicians, therapists, and caregivers of those with an inability to communicate?

<< Lea M. Hill: This program is designed specifically for professionals who work with people who are nonverbal or have very limited verbal capabilities.  This includes those on the Autism Spectrum as well as people with Alzheimer’s Disease, and those in a Coma or Persistent Vegetative State.

Professionals learn quick and easy ways to bring peace and harmony throughout every step of this very difficult and daunting caregiving process.

Participants learn how to analyze nonverbal communication to make more informed judgments, assist family members and loved ones through grief, depression, and life transition, as well as ways to enhance a more collaborative relationship with their patients.  Many professionals express feeling empowered and inspired in their work with nonverbal people after utilizing these practices.>>

Lorna: Thank you so much for your guest post and now this interview. Good luck with all your endeavours!

<< Lea M. Hill: Thank you, Lorna!  I am honored to be a part of the Special Needs Book Review.  All the best to you!>>

Follow Lea M. Hill:

Websites:

Facebook: The Sylph Society

Twitter: @SylphSociety

View  Author Page Amazon

Buy the Book  Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  in the Kindle edition and Paperback.

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.
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