June Youth of the Month, Deleah Payne, Wrote, Illustrated and Self-Published Book to Raise Awareness About Autism

Deleah with McGary teacher Mrs. Betsy Nellis

Not many 13 year-olds can say they’ve written and illustrated a book, but Deleah Payne isn’t your average 13 year-old. The incoming McGary eighth grader self-published a 63-page book called “Our World,” which celebrates autism awareness and explains autism from Deleah and her younger sister Delynn’s perspective. 

Autism spectrum disorder is considered a developmental disorder that affects behavior and communication. Individuals diagnosed with autism may experience repetitive behaviors, restricted interest and have difficulty interacting with other people, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“She has often expressed to me that she feels like people don’t understand her social challenges, and that she is constantly searching for a way to educate others. She does a fantastic job illustrating different aspects of her life both in her writing and drawings, then shares them with the classroom as well,” said Deleah’s teacher Mrs. Betsy Nellis.

“Autistic kids have special needs, but we also have special talents and interests,” Deleah says in her book.

Art is one of her favorite subjects, and she regularly sketches and paints. Through her book, Deleah has been able to connect with others all over the world, many of whom also have autism. 

“A year ago there was a little boy that made a drawing of me and him and he wrote a sweet letter about him reading the book,” said Deleah. She messaged the boy, and he mailed her the copy of the artwork. 

Deleah wrote, illustrated and self-published “Our World”

“I hung up the artwork, and when I am sad I can look at the pictures,” she explains, saying the artwork and the creators messages inspire her to keep doing more.

Speaking of more, Deleah’s next project is a comic book. She will again be writing and illustrating the entire piece by herself.

“I want it to be magical!” she said, explaining that it will use zodiac-inspired characters as human super heroes. Deleah let me know she is a Capricorn!

Deleah is certainly a creator and an acute observer. Even when not making art, she’s always looking for inspiration in unexpected places.

“I love going to restaurants and looking at the art around me while I eat, because this can give me new ideas. I also really enjoy going on car rides. I love getting out of the house and going somewhere new, but mainly I  just enjoy listening to music while I watch everything go by the window,” said Deleah.

She’s also very interested in technology, video games (especially Nintendo Switch) and hopes to soon have a YouTube channel where she plans to discuss animation, gaming and traveling.

“Deleah’s inquisitive nature and her willingness to let me delve into her world on a daily basis has helped me to grow as a teacher of students on the spectrum immensely,” said Mrs. Nellis. “Deleah and my other students have a unique perspective on the world that we neuro-typical people will never get to experience, and I am constantly amazed at how their view has changed mine. She is honest, true, and doesn’t beat around the bush. She’s helped me in my quest to be more direct myself!

Deleah, along with her mother, are working to create a nonprofit called Differently, Talented, Extraordinary, Autistic, Minds (D.T.E.A.M.), which they hope will give autism students a platform to be creative through writing, sports, art and music.

Click her to purchase Deleah’s book.

To nominate a student ages 5-18 for Youth of the Month, click here.