THE INSPIRATIONAL story of a mother who made it her life’s mission to teach her autistic son to speak is being told in a book, set for release this month.
Published by Emu Ink, From the Inside, Raising, teaching, loving an autistic child, by Fiona van Dokkum; was launched on Tuesday, December 16th, by the Mayor of Dungarvan, Cllr. Damien Geoghegan.
The book, which covers Ian’s life from birth and diagnosis to childhood and through to his teenage years, portrays the difficulties in progressing his education and development from South Africa to Ireland – and the eventual decision, by Fiona, to keep her son at home and teach him using her own methods.
The result is a remarkable story that is searingly honest, uplifting and thought-provoking but above all encouraging.
Publisher, Emer Cleary of Emu Ink said; “Sometimes you come across a book that is simply inspirational, even if you have no life experience with the topic. From the Inside, is one such book.
“Fiona is a beautiful writer, eloquent and honest. As a person she is determined and driven, and as a mother, strong-willed and loving. All these attributes are what enabled her to teach her child, her way. Her story is one of courage and loyalty to the son she has always referred to as “her little angel sent from heaven.”
“There is so much to be learned from this book, whether you have an autistic child or not. It really is a beautiful story.”
From the Inside includes a photo section as well as a ‘learning’ section, which displays some of the original exercises, created by Fiona and used by Ian to help him to speak.
Fiona said: “It is my hope that this book will inspire parents to believe in endless possibilities – particularly those with newly-diagnosed children, for whom the future will seem very bleak.”
“Getting this book published has been a dream come true,” she added. “Ian’s story deserved to be shared…”
Opening remarks by the Major of Dungarvan, Cllr. Damien Geoghegan:
“Can I just first of all begin by thanking Fiona most sincerely for affording me the honour (and it truly is an honour) to launch her book “FROM THE INSIDE”—It is Fiona’s own remarkable story of raising, teaching and above all loving unconditionally her wonderful son Ian.
When I received my copy of the book from Fiona a week ago I decided to begin reading Fiona’s story that night, but not only did I begin reading what is a truly inspiring story, but I didn’t put down the book until I reached the last page…it is that type of story. It is, in my opinion, a truly INSPIRING story about the love that exists between a mother and her son. The love that exists between Fiona and Ian.
To read how Fiona has put her heart and soul into her unshakeable belief that Ian should be given every single opportunity (both in South Africa and in Ireland), to fulfil his potential as child and a human being, is a story that needed to be told, and indeed is a story that needs to be heard by the widest audience possible . . . . I sincerely hope that it is heard by many…
There’s no doubt but for Fiona to achieve all that she set out to is, in my opinion, down to one reason and one reason only…LOVE. Fiona’s love for Ian shines in this book, as does her absolute determination that nothing would come in the way of ensuring that her son would achieve his full potential. Fiona’s love and understanding of her child’s ability comes through in every sentence…
In the book, Fiona has captured that love beautifully. The strength of that love and determination is abundantly clear in the very selfless manner in which Fiona always put the needs of Ian and her family ahead of herself. I must say that it is striking also in the very forgiving way Fiona approaches and deals with those who (for whatever reason) didn’t seem to quite comprehend that, as Ian’s mother, Fiona knew and understood Ian’s needs better than anyone else!
One particular passage in the book captures for me that unshakeable belief that Fiona had, in order to ensure that Ian’s full potential was achieved:
“However, I knew that my child did not need day care. He needed to learn. These children are not brain damaged, they are brain different. Their ability to learn, their capacity to learn is there, fully formed and accessible, hiding – sometimes very effectively – behind their autistic mannerisms. These children need people who are prepared to work their way through the barrier of distracting behaviour to the ‘well of possibility’ within, the jam inside the autistic donut. If no one believes that well of possibility exists, no one will ever be determined enough to make a difference. Making a difference means changing the status quo, encouraging the child to be more than the sum of his behaviours. It means not judging the child by his diagnosis or by his condition, but approaching him as a person first and an autistic person second.”
This passage, which is one of just many touching moments in the book, seems to sum up perfectly Fiona’s approach.
It is, I believe, a daunting task to take on writing a book. It is an even greater commitment when looking after, not just a family, but a child, a young man who needs very special and very dedicated attention, as well as endless hours of love and care.
Fiona seems to have delivered admirably on both counts. You will know this from Ian, who has thrived and mentally prospered under her care and we, the wider public have a book to read which will teach us some understanding of what it is to be autistic and what it is to be the parent of an autistic child.
Once again I congratulate Fiona on a wonderful book, which I know was written out of love for Ian and everything that she believed in…. I sincerely hope that people read Fiona’s account and indeed Ian’s story, as I believe it is one worth telling. In Fiona’s book she has shown that it is well worth writing.
I sincerely believe everyone will take something from this book and it’s my pleasure to officially launch this evening ..”From The Inside” by Fiona Van Dokkum and urge you, not just to buy a copy, but spread the word among your friends as well.”