She’s an author whose professional and academic background seems especially appropriate for the writing of a book on autism and children.
Meet Dr. Rooman F. Ahad of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV, an assistant professor of pediatric neurology at the school as well as a child neurologist at the Grant a Gift Autism Foundation Ackerman Center, where a multidisciplinary team of physicians works in alliance with the clinical practices of UNLV Health.
A University of Illinois College of Medicine graduate who rose to chief resident during her child neurology residency at John Hopkins Hospital, which is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest medical institutions, Ahad then completed a clinical fellowship at the Johns Hopkins-affiliated Kennedy Krieger Institute Center for Autism and Related Disorders.
Yes, Ahad carries some impressive credentials, the kind that normally gives birth to medical book chapters or articles in peer-reviewed journals, which the Chicago native has, in fact, published. She is the only board-certified child neurologist in the state of Nevada with supplemental clinical fellowship training in the field of autism.
But her new book, Amazing Abe Has Autism, isn’t what you’d normally find on a neurologist’s bookshelf alongside DeJon’s “The Neurologic Examination.” In fact, while the 20-page book full of an artist’s illustrations is meant for children of all ages, it’s specifically aimed at the age group between the ages of three and six.
“The idea for the book really came from my own children and my patients,” she says. “I realized that I wanted to create a literary space for children to understand other children with special needs. I also felt that my patients and their families could benefit from a book that highlighted a loving, kind, young man who was navigating his life without any words but so much love to give.”
The story is told from the point of view of the main character, 3-year-old Abe. “I hope,” Ahad says, “the book will help other children and families to understand autism better and dispel incorrect information regarding the diagnosis.”
The book is imbued with hope – Abe’s thoughts throughout the book have a way of touching a reader deeply: “I want to be able to tell my daddy I love him…I know I will do it soon” ... “I really love…watching my friends play. One day soon I will play with them too.”
Ahad believes children can come to an understanding of autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disorder affecting communication and behavior that the CDC has reported affects 1 in 44 children in the United States. Although it can be diagnosed at any age, symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.
“I feel children’s minds are like blank canvases waiting to be painted with information they receive as they grow and learn,” she says. “I think there is an innate empathy in children and this only becomes stronger as they watch adults around them set good examples for them. For instance, if they see a parent or teacher show kindness and understanding towards another person, they, too, will exhibit that behavior. I do not feel that it is challenging for children to understand autism if they are taught about it in the correct manner.
No one will ever accuse Ahad of not putting enough thought into the book that is now available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
“I have been thinking of this book idea for several years,” she says. “Having a child with special needs really changes the trajectory of the life of many of my families. I wanted to create a relatable character and highlight his journey through diagnosis and therapies. This book is not only aimed to create awareness but also to help support siblings, friends, family members in their understanding of children on the autism spectrum.
Ahad began the book five years ago. "The draft copy sat in my home office for four years until I realized it was time to make it happen," she says. "I really felt like it was time and then eventually sent it out to publishing companies to see who was interested. The book was picked up by a publisher this past year and I have been working closely with them to help bring it to print. Looking back, I wish I hadn't waited so long.”
The publishing company assigned Ahad an illustration team. They worked closely together on the finished product.
“I would tell them my ideas, how I wanted the children to appear, his family to appear, the diversity of his support team and then they would create the characters. We spent many months going back and forth on the illustrations until I felt it reflected my ideas.
"My 10-year-old daughter would often sit with me and give me ideas or make recommendations on the drafts. I was juggling draft reviews in between clinic, teaching medical school students, and raising my own family. It was challenging but so rewarding. Every time I would get a draft copy in, I would stay up late reviewing the images and see how it could look better.”