When most people think of a child with moderate autism your first thought is not that he’s a writer or a wonderful illustrator rather a feeling of lament or pity or sadness for him and his family. However, when meeting Kenny Zhumi an 11year old with autism and reading his wonderful books the only thought and feeling you have is
inspiration. He lives with his mother and father and has two amazing sisters both in the autism spectrum as well.
Kenny was diagnosed with autism by the tender age of 18months when his mother noticed he was not speaking. She immediately placed him in Early Intervention Services receiving along with Speech, Occupational therapy Applied Behavior Analysis. He received 15 hours of ABA per week. They were very difficult early years because Kenny was non-verbal, extremely hyperactive and was afraid of many things including noises. He also had constant self stimulatory behavior as well as being very sensitive to touches.
It was discussed with his mother that 3 to 4 hours per day of home therapy and a couple of school hours were not nearly enough for her non-verbal son begin communicating appropriately and acquiring functional behaviors. The most important work will begin once Kenny is home, and the importance of her carrying over all the work that was done with all of his therapists throughout the day was extremely important, so Kenny's mom became a therapist as well. Many one to one training sessions were done with his mother along with Kenny so she can feel comfortable enough following through all of the instructions that were given to her by every therapist and teacher on her son's team. It was an extremely difficult work for her being a mother of three children on the spectrum and a husband to attend to as well. She however never gave up and because of her hard work along with all of Kenny's amazing team of home therapist and school teachers, Kenny has become an amazing young boy.
When I asked Kenny at what age he began drawing and why, he said he began when he was 5years old, he continues to say he draws because it's fun. What now comes so natural and effortless to him is in actuality a huge accomplishment for a boy who had to be taught through occupational and ABA therapy to hold a crayon and to color because he didn't have the strength to do it himself. He doesn't remember the struggle it was for him to learn to just hold a crayon, states his mother with tears in her eyes overwhelmed by emotions of proudness and gratitude.
He first began drawing pictures after coming home from family outings, like a picture he drew after getting home from Coney Island, drawing in detail every activity they did that day. He later began to include single words into his pictures and when his love for horses began and so did the short stories
His love for his favorite character "Caballito" spanish for horses, began after overcoming his fear for horses. As a child he was terrified of horses and would not want to walk close to even an electronic horse at a super market. With the help of ABA therapy they began working on overcoming this fear through a process called shaping. His mother persisted in not letting him run away, and eventually he overcame that fear and his love for horses began. He began to draw and write different small adventures "Caballito" would go through.
Kenny stories about "Caballito's" adventures are so wonderful, however, what's truly remarkable are his personal achievements. He's a happy 11year-old boy who and acknowledges having Autism and Despite all the struggles that come along with being on the spectrum, Kenny only sees himself as different yet not less than anyone else. He's a constant joker, and is very comfortable in his own skin, a gift that's most likely given to him by all the love and praises given to him mostly by his family, as well as school teachers and peers on a daily basis. He has now written 6 books and has a new one "Healthy Caballito" coming out soon. A story about his personal struggles with food, and trying to eat healthy snacks, a story most children can relate to.
If you would like to join Kenny in his writing adventures you can purchase any of his amazing stories just by going to the websites store, located on the top right of the page. You can also follow him on his Face Book Page Ask a puzzling world.
I wish to tell people I'm different but not less than anyone else!