Interview T. Lynn Lewis: Mom-Author Raising Four Kids – Three Autistic Sons

Interview T. Lynn Lewis: Mom-Author Raising Four Kids – Three Autistic Sons

The team at Special Needs Book Review is happy to introduce you to a fellow Canadian from Chilliwack, British Columbia. T. Lynn Lewis has written, illustrated, and self-published her children’s book Jasmine’s World Of Autism: At The Seawall. 

Ms. Lewis and her husband are raising four children. Brothers Michael, Wyatt and Jimi, three autistic sons, who are are non-verbal. Jasmine, their 12 year old daughter who does not have autism, is the child in her mom’s book sharing her story about living with three autistic siblings who do not speak.

We thank Lynn for writing a guest post introducing her book and now for agreeing to take part in our Author Interview Series.

Lorna: Congratulations on your children’s book that should help teachers and caregivers promote autism awareness by reading it with the children in their care. You wrote, illustrated and self-published this book. It should not have been easy! For other aspiring authors, do you have words of advice before they attempt to do what you did? If you write another book, would you do things differently?

<<T. Lynn Lewis:  Thank you Lorna. I do hope that Jasmine’s World Of Autism will be used as an educational tool to help promote inclusion and raise autism awareness. Writing, illustrating, and self-publishing the book, gave me quite an education. Illustrating had to be the most difficult part of the process. I had no previous experience with it, so I went online and taught myself how to illustrate, in order to create Jasmine’s World Of Autism. There was much trial and error. However, it was well worth the effort.

I would like to turn Jasmine’s World Of Autism into a series of books. Before I publish my next book and one piece of advice I’d give to aspiring authors, would be to promote the book as much as possible BEFORE publishing, to give the book a head start. One may believe that teaching myself to illustrate, would have proven to be the most difficult aspect. However, as an Indie Author, one does not have a publishing house to promote their book and is left promoting it themselves. Which is an educational experience in itself and something an aspiring author should consider before publishing. I would also recommend joining author groups on social media sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Books Go Social Author’s Group on Facebook provides a wealth of knowledge for Indie Authors.

Review of Jasmine’s World Of Autism: At The Seawall by T. Lynn LewisLorna: In the book, Jasmine, along with her brothers, takes the readers on a ride, as they have fun exploring the seawall at Stanley Park in Vancouver, while they learn valuable lessons. What are some of the lessons they learn and in turn your readers will know too?

<<T. Lynn Lewis:  Jasmine, Michael, Jimi, Wyatt, and the readers learn about the seawall of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia and it’s exciting surroundings, such as the port, seaplanes , the marina, and the beach. They also learn about disabilities and relationships, as they have fun exploring.

Lorna: In an interview with Catherine Urquhart Global News Hour at 6 Health Matters, we learned your three sons are nonverbal and have autism. They need an intense level of care and likely will never be self-sufficient. At one time, you and your husband had to quit your jobs to care for your sons. Please tell us how old your sons are now. Do they attend school? What support and services does your family have to help your sons?

<<T. Lynn Lewis: My eldest child Michael is 14 years old, Jimi is 11, and Wyatt is 10. All of my children attend public school in British Columbia, which practices inclusion in the classroom. I am a strong advocate of inclusion in the classroom. I have seen it benefit my children and their peers. Their peers are able to grow up with an awareness of disabilities. Therefore, they gain a better understanding of disability as adults. My sons have been invited to play dates and birthday parties, which I am certain would have been unlikely, had they not been in an inclusive environment.

Each of my sons have a full-time Educational Assistant (EA) while at school to help them with their school work and to keep them safe. British Columbia also provides autism funding of $20,000 per year up to age 6 and $6000 per year up to age 19, to be used for Speech, Occupational, and Behavioural Therapies.

Lorna: Your sons are “nonverbal”.  Exactly what does this mean? How do they communicate with you? How do they communicate between each other?

<<T. Lynn Lewis: Nonverbal is when a person is unable to speak. Michael and Jimi are both nonverbal. They use a communication device (iPad/Tablet with an AAC app) to speak. Michael will mimic words and may say a few in context. However, he is unable to hold a conversation. Jimi does not say a word. However, he has a vast vocabulary, they each do.

Wyatt has been speaking much more in the past year. He taught himself to speak by using Google Search. He began searching his favourite toys and one day he said to me, “ Mum, come here, look at this.” and pointed to his computer. Naturally, I looked and there was a picture of Thomas and friends on the screen. Then he says to me, “Can I have Thomas the tank engine please mom?” Of course I said, “Yes you can.” I was thrilled. I cannot tell you how blown away I was. That was the first time Wyatt had ever spoken a sentence to me. The next day Wyatt does the same thing and of course, I again said, “Yes you can.” However, after a few days of this I realize I cannot buy him a new toy every day so I told him, “Your birthday is coming soon, perhaps you will get it for your birthday.”  Wyatt then said to me, “OK in five minutes please?” I told him again, “ If you’re a good boy you may just get it for your birthday.” This time he says to me, “OK in 10 minutes please?” I again told him, “ We will have to see what happens for your birthday.” Wyatt replies, “OK tomorrow please mom?” I couldn’t believe that, not only was he speaking sentences to me, now he was actually negotiating with me. What a guy, I was thoroughly impressed. Wyatt also initiates play with his brothers and sister constantly, so they end up playing with each other more often than not.

I talk a lot to my children. They may not be able to talk back. However, they understand what I am saying to them and I understand them through their body language. I believe it is important to have conversations with them and I can tell that they enjoy it.

Lorna: Many siblings of children with autism say they find it difficult because their parents are often so busy they do not have a lot of time for them. With THREE autistic siblings how do you find time to be with Jasmine?

<<T. Lynn Lewis: I do stay quite busy. However, I try to set aside as much Mummy & Daughter Time, as possible. We spend time doing her favourite things together, I take Jasmine and her friends out occasionally, and I enjoy when she spends time with me while I am in the kitchen. Whether she is doing her homework, I am cooking, or we end up talking about whatever comes to mind, I enjoy having her around, spending quality time with me. It is priceless.

Lorna: As your sons get older, I am sure you and your husband worry about their future. What support and services you would like to see available for autistics as they age and when their parents can no longer take care of them?

<<T. Lynn Lewis: My husband and I are very concerned about our children’s future. I would like to see more supports available focusing on job skills and career building. I know that they are capable of many things and it would be nice to have programs readily available to refine their skills. I am certain it would go a long way to giving them more independence and help to ensure that they do not end up in an institution when I pass away.

Lorna: Thank you very much for making the time to answer our questions.  All the best to you and your family!  Please let us know if you write another book!

School Visits: Lynn Lewis is happy to provide presentations for any age group.

Follow T. Lynn Lewis:

Mother Who Has Three Sons With Autism Writes Book About Her Experience

READ ALSO: Review of Jasmine’s World Of Autism: At The Seawall

Buy Jasmine’s World Of Autism: At The Seawall – August 11, 2016 by T. Lynn Lewis

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.