Autistic girl draws friends she’d like to have from yearbook pictures

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Leah has an incredible talent to remember faces and names. “Her teacher once told me that Leah could be walking by a classroom, glance inside for a moment, and tell her who was absent,” Lori says.

By Debra Muzikar

Many autistic children have trouble making friends. Leah DeMonia when she was in 3rd grade began reaching out to her classmates in an unusual way.

After receiving her 3rd grade yearbook, Leah spent hours studying the pictures of her classmates. She studied their faces, the background composition and how each student posed. One day Leah started sketching her own version of the children in her class.

And then she went on to draw all the students in 3rd grade in her school. Leah is now 14 and continues to draw the students in her yearbook each year.

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Leah’s attention to detail amazes her mom Lori.

“I never saw her use a ruler or straightedge, yet all of the drawings are aligned in perfect rows across the page. Watching her create her own yearbook with such attention to detail and putting so much time into each picture, showed me how she truly cares for others even if she can’t express that often in words,” Lori says.

Leah has an incredible talent to remember faces and names.

“Her teacher once told me that Leah could be walking by a classroom, glance inside for a moment, and tell her who was absent,” Lori says.

Leah has drawn images of potential friends in other ways.

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The drawing above is from a group of friends she ate lunch with as part of a “Lunch Bunch.” Leah picked a few friends to have lunch with as a facilitated way to make friends.

“I think it [the picture above] represents the joy and happiness she feels when others are accepting of her and she has that sense of belonging,” Lori says. “When others make her feel included and accepted, she considers them her friends.”

Art has been therapeutic for Leah.

“Art helps Leah calm herself and be focused when she feels anxious,” Lori says.

Lori and Leah want people to know Leah is still learning how to be a friend, and she hopes others will accept her for who she is.

Lori has written two children’s  books “Leah’s Voice,” and “Love for Logan.”  Leah’s voice is based on the relationship of Leah and her younger sister. In the book when Leah’s younger sister is old enough to be told about her sister’s autism diagnosis, she gains a better understanding about her behavior and then must choose to have friends that accept her sister for who she is.

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I ask Lori why she wrote “Leah’s Voice.”

“I wanted to write a story about a female character on the spectrum, and also one that told a realistic story about what it’s like from a sibling’s perspective. I wanted children to gain a better understanding about autism and its behavior characteristics and daily challenges. With better information about their peers with autism, there will hopefully be acceptance too.”

Leah participates in the Kindtree art exhibits in Eugene, Oregon. Lori’s book Leah’s Voice has been chosen as by Books for Bay as a Best Children’s Book for Autism Awareness.

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