Annabel Adewunmi is a Grade 10 student at Howard S. Billings High School, but she is also a talented artist, a prolific author, an engaging performer, and an advocate for raising autism awareness among young people. The 16-year-old has been visiting area elementary schools to share her new book, entitled Our Brother Robin: An Autism Acceptance Story, and on April 21, her tour stopped at Howick Elementary and Ormstown Elementary.
Adewunmi is on the autism spectrum, and her interactive presentation to the different grade levels focused on her own journey as well as the characters in her book, to explain that while children with autism can struggle with daily activities and their surroundings, they are also smart, kind, funny and talented. The students listened intently and participated in the presentation by answering questions and asking their own.
The 55-page book explains in clear and relatable terms what autism is, and some of the behaviours that can be associated with it. One section of the book refers to a glitter jar, which can work as an intervention tool to soothe or calm those on the spectrum, and each group was presented with their own glitter jar for students to use at the school.
This is the third book for Adewunmi, and the second that she has had published. Her first book stemmed from a school assignment to write a children’s book. “I work in the arts, and all we are ever trying to do is help kids find their passion,” says teacher Katrina Rane Smith, who accompanied Adewunmi on her tour along with fellow teacher Jill Smeall. “With the first book, we saw that promise,” says Rane Smith, and Adewunmi has not stopped writing since.
“I wanted people who are not autistic to know that it is not just a brain disorder and that they can do great things,” says Adewunmi, who wrote her third book with a young audience in mind to demystify autism and to promote acceptance. The book features colourful illustrations, an interactive section including a colouring page, instructions to make a glitter jar, and a note to parents and teachers encouraging them to ensure autistic children are included and valued.
“It is a beautiful extra-curricular activity that the teachers are doing,” Howick Elementary principal Melanie Primeau says of Adewunmi’s book and their efforts to bring her work into the classroom. “She is inspiring, and I think the kids are going to remember the message of acceptance from the book.”
Our Brother Robin: An Autism Acceptance Story is available now on Amazon in both languages and Adewunmi has sold more than 120 copies so far.