By Ellen Hill for Grace Kim Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
How does a child with Asperger’s syndrome experience everyday life? How does it feel to be child who is different?
New children’s book Noah’s Story answers those questions and more, and gives children with the condition a tool with which to explain their condition, their symptoms and how they feel.
Bullaburra resident Grace Kim wrote the book to help her son Noah Hylkema, his friends and teachers understand his Asperger’s diagnosis in 2016 after a long period of challenging experiences at school.
Noah illustrated the book.
Written in Noah’s “voice’’, it uses examples of behaviours a person whose brain works differently and offers practical suggestions for how others can respond.
Ms Kim wrote the book after Noah’s diagnosis after she and husband Teije Hylkema had read numerous books and attended workshops and seminars about autism to understand the condition and find a way to disclose the information to Noah and his classmates.
“After reading a mountain of books, I still couldn’t find a book that resonated with us personally,’’ she said.
“So one desperate night, I decided to write a story from Noah’s perspective to help him, his friends and teachers understand him and his diagnosis.
“I showed it to Noah to check with him if I represented his feelings correctly (thankfully, yes!) and asked if he would like to do some drawings for it to take it to school the next day.
“This ended up being a wonderful way to introduce the subject and for him to be fully involved and in control of his `coming out’.’’
Hazelbrook Public School student Noah, 9, who has written stories and illustrated since he was four years old, said the book was a way to explain Asperger’s to his classmates in a format they would understand and relate to – “my class likes stories’’.
He summed up Asperger’s in one sentence: “I have a brain that’s a bit different to yours – I find some things easy that other people find hard (like computer coding and haiku poems) and some things hard that other people find easy (like handwriting).’’
Endorsing the book, Friends and Ben Bumblefoot author Teena Raffa-Mulligan said Noah’s Story “presents the message `Sometimes I will make mistakes but I am learning just like you’ with beautiful simplicity’’.
A concert pianist, artistic director and Churchill Fellow, Ms Kim said she never intended to write a book for public publication but hoped Noah’s Story would encourage others to share their own stories.
The book complemented the Sensory Concerts she instigated last year to provide access to quality live music to people with sensory issues that prevent them from attending public events such as concerts.
Run by the Your Music Inc registered charity and always featuring Ms Kim and often cellist Mr Hylkema, the concerts have been designed for people of all ages, especially families with sensory or special needs such as autism spectrum disorder, physical or intellectual disabilities who experience feelings of being overwhelmed by crowd, noise, light, smell and touch.
Performed to small groups in a relaxed atmosphere, they have a range of seating options and a retreat space where audience members can self-regulate or seek support from the onsite occupational therapist and psychologist.
Your Music Inc also holds tailored concerts in aged care facilities, hospitals, schools and private homes.
The free Noah’s Story book launch will be held at Bullaburra Village Green (wet weather option Bullaburra Progress Hall), Noble St, from 10.30am to 12.30pm Sunday, December 16. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase, and there will be live music, reading and a playground for children. RSVP.
By Ellen Hill for Grace Kim
People with sensory issues that prevent them from attending public events such as concerts can immerse themselves in a specially designed live music performance at Glenbrook on April 23.
To be held on a weekday during school holidays to cater for aged care facilities, centres for people with a disability and families, it will feature internationally acclaimed musicians Erica Kennedy on violin, flautist Lisa Osmialowski and Bullaburra concert pianist Grace Kim.
Part of the Sensory Concerts series, it has been designed for people of all ages, especially families with sensory or special needs such as autism spectrum disorder, physical or intellectual disabilities who experience feelings of being overwhelmed by crowd, noise, light, smell and touch.
Performed to small groups in a relaxed atmosphere, there will be a range of seating options and a retreat space where audience members can self-regulate or seek support from the onsite occupational therapist and psychologist.
“We really don’t mind if people need to move around, lie on a crash mat or take time out from everyone else for a while,’’ Ms Kim said.
“We select music especially so that everyone benefits from the power of the music without feeling overwhelmed or restricted.’’
As an internationally renowned professional concert pianist and music educator Ms Kim knows firsthand the benefits of music to health and wellbeing, and strives to make it accessible to everyone who needs it.
A mother of two young children, one with Asperger’s syndrome, Ms Kim said: “Young children are especially sensitive to their surroundings and tend to react in certain ways like moving or making noise, to cope.
“That’s why families with children tend to shy away from traditional concerts for fear of disrupting others.
“But we all know that music is one of the best things for the brain development, and these families miss out on the crucial time when their brain are developing.’’
Subsidised through a Blue Mountains City of the Arts grant, Sensory Concerts are offered at affordable prices to ensure they are accessible to all.
The next Sensory Concerts will be held at Lower Mountains Anglican Parish, 1 Wascoe St, Glenbrook, at 10.45am and 12pm on Monday, April 23. Tickets: $25 adults, $65 families (2 adults, up to 3 children), $15 children under 16 years. Click HERE to book.
- Grace Kim is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media