A New Brighton, Minn. mother and her daughter form a dynamic publishing duo in their fight against autism, using a children's book to help families get the help they need.
The book is called "Monica's Silent World," written by Susanna Moses and illustrated by her 17-year-old daughter Monica, who has autism. Monica actually taught herself how to draw, and it's this passion for art that's also helping her find healing and success.
Drawing often helps Monica communicate her thoughts.
"I would love to create cartoons and characters and books and comic books," she said.
A the age of 2, doctors diagnosed her with a rare and severe form of autism spectrum disorder. Susanna Moses said her daughter lost all motor ability and couldn't hold her head up.
"She was basically like an infant," she said.
Susanna eventually enrolled Monica in an elementary school, but by age 6 a school psychologist made a dire suggestion.
"What they wanted me to do at that point was to have the teachers focus on training Monica to read numbers in order so she'd be able to sort one day as a job," Susanna said. "Sort, literally."
But, sometimes, faith and a mother's love can prove the so-called "experts" wrong. After years of therapy, Monica's initial diagnosis improved to the point she's now taking high school classes online.
It's also what inspired Susanna to write a children's book about her daughter's journey -- "Monica's Silent World."
"It's a book about me when I was 4," Monica explained. "When I wasn't able to speak."
"And it's to teach the readers and children understanding and awareness and insight about how a mind affected by autism perceives the world," Susanna added.
A story about Monica wouldn't be complete without her drawings, featuring an ethnically-diverse group of characters -- intentionally drawn to show Monica's Mexican-American background and to remind readers that autism never discriminates.
The book will soon be available in Spanish too.
This Sunday, March 30, Monica Moses will be signing copies of her book during an autism awareness event aimed at providing support and resources to the Hmong, Somali, Arabic and Spanish-speaking communities.
MONICA'S SILENT WORLD: www.monicassilentworld.com
AUTISM AWARENESS EVENT
Sunday, March 30, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Cedar Hall, 602 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis