When Rain, Sylnita Livas-Bougère’s son, was diagnosed with autism in 2014, she set out to raise awareness of his condition.
“We teach children aged 4 to 8 the basics of English, math and things of that nature,” said the resident of Thibodaux. “My goal is to teach them the basics of social responsibility.
As a result, the illustrated children’s book “My Friend Rain” was released on July 1. The author held a dedication Sunday at Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt in Thibodaux.
The book, inspired by the 9-year-old son of Livas-Bougère, is told from the perspective of a little boy named Evan. This explains why some of their friends and classmates may behave or interact differently.
“We have to teach them early on that, hey, these are our friends,” said Livas-Bourgere. “They might be a little different, but by the time they hit their teens and adulthood, that’s part of the norm.”
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In the United States, about one in 54 children is diagnosed with autism, and boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than girls, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Livas-Bougère, a teacher and special needs advocate who has been writing since the age of 13 and has written for several publications including The Daily Comet, began working on “My Friend Rain” following a meeting with a neighbor’s child in 2017.
“One day Rain was playing in his own front yard and a neighbor’s grandson was playing across the street,” she said. “She looked terrified because Rain was stimulating. I noticed that none of her adult family members explained that she shouldn’t be afraid or why Rain is different. It dawned on me. They didn’t understand or knew how. ‘My Friend Rain’ teaches children, and perhaps adults, how our peers who live with autism can still be great assets in our lives.
Although the pandemic has shaken many businesses and schools, Livas-Bougère said 2020 was a blessing in disguise for her as it allowed her to finish her book.
“This book has actually been in the works for four years,” she said. “With COVID, I was forced to sit down and concentrate. My intention was only to raise awareness. The outpouring of support from the community has been amazing, and I am very grateful for this opportunity.
Livas-Bougère has stated that “My Friend Rain” is the first in a planned series. The second installment, “My Friend Rain’s First Day at School,” is expected to be released early next year.
The author said she hopes her son’s story will inspire others to learn more about autism.
“I don’t think Rain knows he’s as big a star as him,” she said. “Honestly, I always told him that everyone would know his name, but I just didn’t know that would be the way to go. ”
To buy a copy of “My Friend Rain” or to find out more about the book, go to Livas-Bougère page on Amazon.com.
– Editor-in-Chief Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.