Questions for “I am in here” by Elizabeth Bonker and Virginia Breen

  1. What did you discover about autism that you did not know before?
  1. What poem of Elizabeth touches you the most?
  1. Have you been affected by an autistic person? Have you learnt from them? In what way?
  1. Have you tried to put a description of yourself into poetry? Does the poem “Me” resonate with you?
  1. What is the RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) used by Soma to teach Elizabeth to use the letterboard?
  1. The process of getting Elizabeth and her brother Charles into mainstream education was very involved. What did you think of this process?
  1. Qualities needed to manage the chaos of autism were shared with the reader. Which of these challenged you in dealing with your own difficulties?
  1. What did you think of the various treatments discussed eg. hookworms, working retreats?
  1. Virginia went through a list of rules for parents. Have you used any of these to help you in your parenting (or Grandparenting)?
  1. What did you think of Virginia’s understanding of God’s place in the world compared with her daughter?

If we have time I would like to find out if any of us have a poem (our own or a favourite) we would like to share with the group.


I am in here by Elizabeth Bonker and Virginia Breen

I am in here

‘She looked into my eyes and blinked hers slowly and deliberately, like a stroke victim, to show me that although she couldn’t speak, she understood what I was saying to her. I stroked her hair softly. ‘I know you’re in there, honey, ‘ I told her. ‘We’ll get you out.'”
Despite the horror of seeing fifteen-month-old Elizabeth slip away into autism, her mother knew that her bright little girl was still in there. When Elizabeth eventually learned to communicate, first by using a letterboard and later by typing, the poetry she wrote became proof of a glorious, life-affirming victory for this young girl and her family. ‘