Book Review – Leah’s Voice by Lori DeMonia

LVLeah’s Voice – is a fictional story for any child that touches on the difficulties that are encountered when children meet a child with autism. The Leah’s Voice website states:

‘Siblings may find it difficult to explain to their friends, or feel disappointed when their friends aren’t more understanding. Leah’s Voice tells the story of two sisters facing these challenges. Through her kindness and devotion, one sister teaches by example the importance of including everyone and showing acceptance.’

The author of the book, Lori DeMonia, has two daughters, her eldest daughter Leah, was diagnosed at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when she was 2 years old. Leah’s Voice received the 2014 Temple Grandin Outstanding Literary Work of the Year Award from the Autism Society, and is being used by the Sibling Support Project. Therefore it was a great honour and a treat for me to be able to read this book and to offer my review. Firstly I must say that this book is simply delightful. It is written for children in a language that they will understand and the beautiful illustrations together with the narrative make for an entertaining yet an  informative read.

Sarah and Leah

Sarah and Leah

I am sure that many parents, including myself, wonder how they will explain to their child about their sibling’s autism. My son who has ASD is 6 and my eldest son is 8. I found a book that is similar in mature to this one to help him understand more about his brother, this was around three years ago, but if I was to do so now, I would most definitely have found this book useful. Sometimes parents can become overwhelmed and not know how to talk about the difficulties and challenges that the  child with autism has, as well as celebrating their differences and streetlights. This book manages to do this. This is a book that any parent or caregiver or health care professional come to think of it, can sit down and read to a child. This book will pave the way for discussion  as well as answering many questions. The book opens with Logan waiting for her friend Abby to call to her house, as a play date has been arranged. When Logan introduces her sister Leah, who has autism, to Abby, she becomes angry and upset with her friend, as she does not understand the reasons behind Leah’s behavior:

‘Logan closed the door. She felt very sad about the things Abby said about her sister. Leah is so much like me, she thought. Why did Abby not like her so much?’

Later on Logan describes an outing to the cinema that their mother had planned but Leah runs off and is distressed about the visit and so theretofore they have to go back home. Logan is extremely angry and upset about missing out on her first visit to the cinema. The whole book is told through the eyes of this young girl, Logan, of how she feels about her sister and of how she comes to understand the reasons for her behavour. Her parents explain to her the following:

‘“We wanted to tell you when you were old enough to understand that your sister is what they call on the spectrum,” Daddy said.

“It means she has autism,” Mommy told Logan.’

Leah and Sarah

Leah and Sarah

This book is extremely poignant and what I like about it is that it tells it simply how it is, this book is for children yes, but it does not talk down to children, it explains in an age appropriate manner what autism is. The following particularly moved me as my own son has also uttered these words to me about his younger brother.

‘”Well, when will this go away? When will Leah get better?”

“It’s not something that will go away, but we see Leah handle things better all the time,” Daddy said. “And we can try to see the world a little like Leah does. If we waited for her to be just like you or anyone else that would be a lot of waiting.”

“Longer than waiting for Christmas?”

“I’m afraid so,” said Mommy.’

Therefore I heartily recommend this book. It is a positive and uplifting book that can be read to any child to further their understanding about their sibling who has autism or indeed any other child who is on the spectrum.

Monique Turchan – Illustrator

Monique is a graduate from The Cleveland Institute of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. She draws her inspiration from children’s books, different cultures around the world, and she enjoys to challenge herself with each new project. Monique is always looking for new ways to hone her skills as an Illustrator and a Designer.

Lori DeMonia – Author

Lori has worked in behavioral health as a TSS, therapeutic staff support, with special needs children for more than 5 years.

She is also a parent consultant with PEAC – The Pennsylvania Education for All Coalition, an organization that supports inclusive classroom placement for special needs children. Her daughter’s inclusion in the regular educational setting as well as summer camp has been a major contributor to her progress. Children with different abilities being included among their peers at school and in their community is something she strongly supports.

Leah’s Voice website can be found here

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