Virginia Breen's daughter, Elizabeth, seemed to be thriving like any other infant: walking and smiling, her eyes bright and cheery. Then within one week, Elizabeth mysteriously stopped speaking, and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with autism. But for the past seven years, the 14-year-old has been "talking" through writing, mostly through poetry. Her writing is featured in I Am in Here (Baker), which is the story of Breen, a Christian, relentlessly advocating for her child, discovering her child's compassion for others, and researching ways to help Elizabeth overcome "the shadow of autism."
Breen, who recently spoke about Elizabeth's autism and poetry at TEDMED in April, talked to me about common myths about autism and what she has learned about God through Elizabeth's vibrant faith.
Through the years in which Elizabeth couldn't speak or use a letterboard, how did you know that she wanted to communicate?
Despite the turmoil of autism, there were times when Elizabeth would look into my eyes ...1