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Chava, a girl with autism drawing at desk

Chava smiled as she created a drawing. The girl drew around her right hand, and then placed her left hand over the picture to trace it. After making eyes and a mouth, the seven-year-old added a paintbrush to the character's hand. "Are you an artist too?" she asked in sign language.

Young artist with autism handcrafting a colorful drawing

As Chava finished with a rainbow of colors her dad signed to his nonverbal daughter on the autism spectrum. "Remember how sometimes your mom and I talk about after you were born, to celebrate your birth we went to buy a flowering cherry tree? There was only one left and it was small and split down the middle, but just felt like the perfect tree. And since then at least one flower blooms on it all year long even during the coldest days of winter, because impossible things happen every day." He gave his daughter the tiny pink blossom. "If you put it between two sheets of paper and cover it with a heavy book it will press flat for your memory album where you can keep it always."

Little Chava placed the flower on the adorable character she drew, then covered it with another sheet of paper and laid a thick book on top. After the child with long dark auburn hair was ready for bed her mother peppered her with kisses, tucked her in, and turned off the light. Dots of glowing phosphorescent paint that her dad speckled on the ceiling and walls twinkled to create an illusion of the room falling away under a star-spangled firmament. Goodnight, Petals, Chave yawned thinking of her new imaginary friend on the desk.

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