Twelve-year-old Jonathan Bryan can’t verbally speak or physically write. He was born with severe cerebral palsy, has limited motion in his limbs and is in a wheelchair.
For most of his life, Jonathan’s parents used nonverbal cues like a smile or a frown to communicate with him. Educators determined he had profound learning difficulties and never taught him to read or write in school.
That all changed when Jonathan’s mom, Chantal Bryan, began taking him out of school for a few hours a day to read and write. By the time Jonathan was 9, he could spell anything he wanted to say.
Now with the help of an E-Tran frame, Jonathan not only communicates — he wrote a book.
‘I am a voice for the voiceless’
Jonathan, who lives in Wiltshire, England, uses his eyes to spell.
He gazes at the E-Tran frame, a transparent plastic board with letters and a color-coding system, and indicates with the movement of his eyes which letter he wants to use next. The person he’s communicating with holds the board between them and follows along as he spells.
“We’re literally looking through his eyes,” Bryan told CNN.
Jonathan’s memoir, “Eye Can Write,” lets readers look through his eyes too. It begins from his mother’s perspective, detailing Jonathan’s earlier life and how he learned to spell and write. It then switches to Jonathan’s perspective.
He also writes about his faith in Christianity, which is a big part of his life.
The book took him a year to write, his mom said. It came out on July 12, and he’s received a lot of positive feedback. Jonathan said this made the effort it took to write it worthwhile.
Though the book is about Jonathan’s life with cerebral palsy, his mother said many of its messages are universal. She’s excited for what it can do for other children and parents in similar situations.
What you see when you look at someone isn’t necessarily all there is know about them, she said.
“His body doesn’t do very much, but it doesn’t mean that his mind isn’t active,” Bryan said.
Jonathan says he was inspired to write the book to help other people like him.
“I am a voice for the voiceless,” he told CNN via his E-Tran frame, as dictated by his mom.
‘When we can spell … we can live life in all its fullness’
Now, Jonathan is fighting for all children to be given the option to learn to read and write.
A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to Teach us Too, a charity that aims to promote an educational system where all children are taught to read and write, regardless of their disability.
“When we can spell, it gives us a voice, and we can live life in all its fullness,” Jonathan said.
His mom said writing is her son’s passion.
“It is slightly crazy to have a 12-year old that’s written a book,” she said. “We’re very proud of him.”