A once ‘locked in’ schoolboy written off as unteachable is now a published author after his mother taught him to speak – using his EYES.
Jonathan Bryan, 12, was born with cerebral palsy leaving him unable to walk and speak, and his family were told he had ‘profound and multiple learning disabilities’.
But his determined mother refused to give up and taught him how to use his eyes to speak, by flicking them towards letters on a clear perspex spelling board.
In just over a year Jonathan went from being totally silent to saying whatever he wanted – defying former teachers who never taught him to read and write.
And now the schoolboy has used his voice to write his very own professionally published autobiography Eye Can Write: A Memoir Of A Child’s Silent Soul Emerging.
One of his literary heroes is Sir Michael Morpurgo, wrote the foreword for the book and will be appearing alongside Jonathan at a Waterstones book launch in London.
Speaking via his spelling board yesterday (Mon), Jonathan said: “My writing method is slow.
“I plan and then I write. I don’t like like to repeat the same word twice, so I like my thesaurus.
“I wrote most days, but not on Sundays or on holidays.
“When I am writing, I don’t like it when people predict the word I am writing half way through. It’s very annoying.
“The best bit of writing the book was finally seeing it in hardback.
“The hardest bit was the editing. It took ages.”
Proud mum Chantal, 41, from Chippenham, Wilts., added: “I think as a family we are all really proud of Jonathan and what he has achieved.
“A few weeks ago he received the first two copies of the book and decided to give them to his two sisters, after dedicating the book to them. It was very sweet.”
Jonathan was born at 36 weeks and four days after his mother suffered a placental abruption when she was involved in a car crash.
He has severe cerebral palsy, kidney failure and supplemental oxygen dependency.
After he was born, doctors said he had suffered a lot of brain damage and one remarked he had “one of the worst MRI scans he had ever seen”.
He attended a specialist school for disabled children but was never taught to read and write.
Chantal, who also has daughters Susannah, nine, and Jemima, six, with husband Christopher, 43, a vicar, said: “Jonathan later told me it was ‘babysitting’.
“High level babysitting admittedly – lots of lovely activities, but no learning.”
The family were visited by an expert who suggested that Jonathan may be able to communicate through his eyes.
Chantal started to home-school him aged seven and began by teaching him to spell, until he was able to choose pre-selected words.
But fast-learner Jonathan got bored of his mum’s chosen words when he was writing a story, aged nine.
Recalling the moment, Chantal, said: “He was unlocked.
“I asked him a whole load of questions, and in some ways it was quite reassuring to realise that we did know Jonathan all along.
“I asked him what the most frustrating thing was for him, and I expected him to say not being able to speak. He said it was having his face washed.”
Jonathan uses three boards – letters, numbers and punctuation – which are held up in front of him, so he can make a selection with his eyes.
Family members and friends then typed out his words on a computer, when he is writing his book.
He started writing his 192-page book after he finished his SATS exams in June 2017, and the first manuscript went to the publishers around Christmas.
His final version was approved in May and he received the first hardback copy last month, ahead of the release in major books shops on Thursday.
The launch in Waterstones Piccadilly will be opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury with a prayer, after Jonathan wrote to him.
Jonathan, who attends a mainstream secondary school most days, said: “I feel excited and a bit apprehensive.
“I’m apprehensive about what if people don’t like my book.”
He has already started writing a fictional story, but when asked what it was about, he said: “Wait and see.”
One of his literary heroes is Sir Michael Morpurgo, who wrote a foreword for the book and will be appearing alongside Jonathan at a book launch in London.
The War Horse writer said: “His words tell us so much about our universal human resilience, our capacity for understanding, our longing to communicate.
“Jonathan has opened the door for us into his world, and reached out his hand to us in his writing.
“When we take his hand as we read, he is not locked in any more. And neither are we. We join him in his journey, he joins us in ours.”
Jonathan is also launching a charity on Thursday called Teach Us Too, which aims to make sure all children are taught to read and write, regardless of their label.
His share of the book proceeds will go to the charity.
Eye Can Write: A Memoir Of A Child’s Silent Soul Emerging is published by Bonnier Publishing.
It is available to buy on Amazon and in all major book shops.