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By Trishna Buch
Goretti Rerri is a mother, author and teacher. But what
sets her apart from other authors is that she uses her
personal experiences as inspirations behind her stories.
And in November of last year, she took her experiences
of being a parent of a child with autism to write a
book entitled My Box Of Chocolates: How My Child with
Autism Learned to Read, Write and More.
Laid out in a chronological fashion, the book details
the experiences of Rerri as she raised her daughter.
Rerri’s daughter, Teresa, was born in 1988 and diagnosed
with autism just before she turned four-yearsold.
The book discusses Teresa’s newborn years in
Nigeria—she moved to America when she was eight
months old—and goes on to discuss the process of
diagnosis, testing, each year of schooling and her
home life. And when I asked Rerri her reasoning behind
writing this book, she told me “I wanted to share my
experiences with young parents who are just beginning
their work with autism, so that they can be informed
about what this condition is all about and to learn from
my experiences. I wanted them to be empowered and
inspired by it.”
Rerri told me that, prior to her daughter’s diagnosis,
she did not have any knowledge of autism. “The only
time I heard about it was through a Barbara Walter’s
special on people with autism. They showed some children
in an institution that bore no resemblance to my
child, so I said, ‘no my child is not like that.” It was only
after Rerri noticed that her daughter was showing the
two most essential symptoms in a person with autism—
difficulty communicating and low social skills—did she
start to suspect that something was wrong. “What
people need to understand is that autism is on a spectrum,”
she told me. “So, while the children in the special
were on the high end of the spectrum, my daughter fell
in the middle.”
Rerri took her daughter to the pediatrician when she
was around the age of three, because she had not yet
began to speak. Her daughter, Teresa, was put through
a series of tests and, eventually, the psychological test
she took returned with results of her autism diagnosis.
This diagnosis changed the life, not only of Rerri and
Teresa, but of the entire family. “I have two older children
and, when my daughter would have tantrums in
public, my oldest child would walk ahead of us so as
not to be associated with the family. On the other hand,
my middle child, would stop and talk to strangers about
Teresa, as a way to explain her condition and gain
empathy.” Years later, Rerri learned that the reason her
oldest child would try not to be associated with the family
when Teresa was having her tantrums was because
she was afraid her friends would think she had a weird
sister. “And I told my child that, if people say you have
a weird sister, then they are just ignorant.” This was
another reason Rerri wanted to write this book, so that
people could be educated and so families who have
autistic relatives would know they are not alone.
Of course, when Teresa was first diagnosed, there
were not many books which talked about raising a child
with autism, which meant that Rerri had to refer to older
articles to gain knowledge on the condition. And when
Teresa was in the third grade, she decided to take this
knowledge further, and enrolled in Xavier University in
Cincinnati, Ohio to earn a Master’s Degree in Special
Education. “I earned my Bachelor’s in Nigeria and
worked as a training manager,” she told me. “I also had
an MBA in Marketing, but after being a homemaker
for a few years after my children were born, I realized
that I did not want to go back into the corporate world.
I wanted to educate myself so that I could have more
knowledge on my daughter’s condition.”
Along with her degree and personal experience, Rerri
is also well-versed on the topic of autism and other
developmental disabilities through
her professional experience. She has
worked as a school teacher, a parenttrainer
and an in-home trainer. I asked
Rerri to explain what the latter two
meant and she said that she would go
in the homes of children who are diagnosed
with developmental disabilities,
help the parents understand how they
can help their child at certain instances,
and then would model the actions for
the parents. “For example, I would
explain to the parent what they should
do when their child has a tantrum and
then I would model it for them.”
And Rerri also founded Emur
Disability Advocacy Incorporated, a
non-profit organization which wants
to empower and honor people with
developmental disabilities. “Because
I am so much involved with disability
that is my passion. And I see how
people with developmental disabilities
are disrespected, shunned or ignored
by the community. I felt an obligation
to increase awareness and to let the
public know that these people do have
skills and talents.” The organization
celebrates Developmental Disabilities
Awareness Month, in March, through
the Emur Awards. “These awards call
for nominations from the public for people
with developmental disabilities who
have contributed in their own little way,
to their community. We award them
with medals and certificates, we have a
big function and try to attract the press.
We just want them to see that they are
relevant and can contribute to society.”
And, as of right now, Rerri’s daughter
Teresa is 29-years-old, a graduate of
Clear Lake High School and attends
a center for people with developmental
disabilities. “The center has a host
of activities during the day, including
community outings and speech therapists
who come in to help them with
their social skills. They also have the opportunity to
continue to learn their reading, writing and math skills.
My daughter goes three times a week and she loves it.”
Rerri wanted to emphasize that, while her book is
directed to parents with children who have autism, it
is a good read for the public. Since the main point of
her book is to educate people on autism and other
developmental disabilities, and what it is like to live with
the condition on a daily basis, she hopes everyone will
purchase a copy. You can get a copy at or
from Rerri herself for $12.99. If you would like to get in
contact with her, you can do so by emailing gorettiz@ or by visiting her website at www.myboxofchocolatesbygrerri.

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