How My Book Changed My Life
By Diana Bilezikian
In 2014, I published a book; “Dear Diana…Diana’s Guide To Independent Living For Adolescents And Young Adults With Different Learning Styles And Special Needs.” My cousin suggested writing it after enjoying hundreds of my long, detailed, interesting e-mail messages to her and others about independent living, a subject about which I am an expert. I myself have special needs, and have spent my life learning to live independently. First, I learned at home with my parents and teachers, and then, at Chapel Haven. Chapel Haven is a program for young adults with special needs who want to learn how to live independently. I am a graduate and now a community member at Chapel Haven.
Once I had the idea to write the book, it took at least five years before it was published. The editing was much, much harder than the contents. At first, my parents helped me with editing, but once I found a publisher, I had a great deal of help from Kirsten McBride at AAPC Publishing.
I thought that writing a book would be easy, but I found out I was wrong. It was a huge amount of work. If I had known that ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t even have tried. So, it’s just as well that I didn’t know, because when I finally became a published author, my life changed for the better. I have more self-confidence. I am more outgoing. Ten years ago, I would have been anxious and nervous, but now I particularly enjoy going to events in reference to my book. For example, several times a year, Chapel Haven has Open House, which helps to give visitors an idea of what it’s like to be a student there. My jobs at Open House include selling copies of my book and also, making a brief, appropriate welcoming speech to all of the visiting families and prospective students.
Every time a copy of my book is sold, the proceeds go to Chapel Haven. In addition to the fund-raising, my book has made a lot of people aware of the program at Chapel Haven. These things make me proud; proud to be doing something for Chapel Haven, and proud to be helping people with special needs who have struggled, as I have, to learn how to live independently.
After my book was published, a friend of my parents sent an autographed copy to Dr. Gerard Costa, Director Of Child Development at Montclair State University. He wanted to meet me and learn about Chapel Haven. So he came to Chapel Haven for a visit. He met Mike Storz, the President of Chapel Haven, and we told him all about our program. Then he invited me to come to Montclair to meet his class. His students were learning how to become special education teachers and other professionals. I was a little bit nervous, but with some help from Dr. Costa and Mike, I got the courage to serve as his guest speaker. I gave a short speech and answered all their questions. Once I got started, it wasn’t so hard knowing what to say. Sometimes I had to have the students repeat and clarify their questions before I could answer them, but once I understood the question, I always knew the answer because of my personal experiences. I have visited Montclair twice and I have another invitation to visit again soon. Although these students are college graduates, I feel that they can learn ever so much from me, and at the same time, I am learning from them. As a result of all this, Dr. Costa has honored me with an invitation to be a part of the Affiliate Faculty At Montclair.
Writing and publishing my book has allowed me to speak for myself and many others who are like me. I am proud to be that voice. #