On August 26, Kaye Banez will gather under one roof several organizations that support children with autism and their families.
The Richmond mom of two is launching her children’s book See Yah in the Morning! A Bedtime Story on that day, and part of the proceeds will go to the charities.
Her son Lazarus will be reading from the book, which he has inspired his mother to write.
“He’s only five and I want to show that even though autism has a lot of challenges, there’s also a lot of amazing things with it,” Banez told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “Every child is different, and there are some kids with autism that have really amazing gifts, and my son can read very fluently at age five.”
Her child was diagnosed with autism at age three, and with this, Banez felt that she has “come full circle”.
“I feel like all the experiences that I’ve had throughout my adult life prepared me for raising my child,” she said.
Banez holds a degree in psychology from UBC. She has tutored children with autism and other mental challenges. In addition, she has been working in the field of educational publishing, which has given her a deep understanding of the learning resources students need.
“It equipped me of certain knowledge that I’ve acquired in my work,” Banez said. “I’m able to advocate better for my child. It’s about the advocacy. That’s why I chose this book, and attached the autism awareness advocacy to it, because I wanted every family to be able to feel that they can advocate for their child.”
Autism is the common term for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a brain disorder.
According to Autism Speaks Canada, the ailment is characterized in varying degrees by communication difficulties, repetitive behaviours, and social and behavioural challenges.
The Autism Society of B.C. has noted that as of March 2014, one in 68 children have been identified with ASD.
The group also pointed out that ASD is 4.5 times more common in boys (one in 42) than in girls (one in 189).
According to the Pacific Autism Family Network, it is estimated that about 60,000 people in B.C. are affected by ASD, of whom 10,000 are under the age of 19.
HealthLink B.C., a service delivered by the province that provides health information online and by telephone, notes that early diagnosis and treatment involving special behavioural training have helped more people with autism to achieve their full potential.
According to HealthLink B.C., behavioural training teaches children how to communicate, relate to others, and help themselves.
See Yah in the Morning! takes children through their bedtime routine in a fun way.
Banez related that her three-year-old daughter Estella doesn’t typically ask for milk at night, but that has changed when the girl read a page from the book about drinking milk.
“She memorized it, and she was motivated to drink milk, so that was great,” Banez said laughing.
Although See Yah in the Morning! is not about autism, the book has autism-friendly features.
According to Banez, characters are always waving, a gesture that has to be taught to children with autism.
“My son, it took him two years to get him to wave and point. It all had to be done through therapy,” she said.
The book also has what are called ‘scripts’ or words that children can learn so they can communicate better.
“Scripts are there to help the child understand how to answer back and what to say in certain contexts,” Banez said.
The birth of See Yah in the Morning! happened one night as Banez was putting Lazarus to bed. She said, “Okay Lazarus, say ‘See yah in the morning’,” and the child repeated what she said.
“He imitated what I said, which is a big thing, because that means he’s actually engaged and interacting with me,” Banez said.
That night, Banez stayed up the entire night to write the book. She later asked her cousin Jenkin Liao to do the illustrations.
Banez is donating $1 of every book sold in its lifetime to the Canucks Autism Network.
She will also give $2 to the guest charities at the book launch. These include the Pacific Autism Family Network, B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs, and Autism Speaks Canada.
See Yah in the Morning! launches on August 26 at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Details here.