About The Authors

Danson Mandela Wambua

Danson Mandela Wambua is an incredible 9-year-old with the heart and mind of poet. Until Danson was eighteen months old, he appeared to be a healthy, attentive, affectionate and highly-focused baby. But after struggling with a severe respiratory condition that placed him in ICU for several days, his demeanor changed dramatically and he became listless and withdrawn. He no longer responded to his name or made any attempt to speak. We don’t know if the illness was related to his autism, but Danson was eventually diagnosed as “non-verbal autistic.”

At 7, Danson began therapy at the HALO Clinic in Austin, Texas, where at last he discovered a way to communicate, by pointing to letters on an alphabet board. Almost immediately, he began sharing not only his feelings (love for his family) and desires (an Ipod and jeans), but also his spiritual and intellectual yearnings (to understand faith, and to be challenged by complex ideas and concepts). One day in August, after a brief lesson about poetry, Danson wrote his own first poem, and he has not stopped since.

Along with poetry, he is highly skilled at mathematics, swimming and nearly any activity that captures his imagination. His other interests include horseback riding, music (especially Mozart) and hiking. He lives in New Jersey with his mother and stepfather, Michele and Michael, and in Brooklyn with his father and stepmother, Mathew and Marysa, and his baby sister with his father and stepmother, Mathew and Marysa, and his baby sister Zaharek Mahalia Wambua. He currently attends Celebrate the Children in Wharton, New Jersey after having been home-schooled for 2 years. Danson has appeared (in video) on Oprah and Larry King Live, and The Today Show. His words give voice to an amazing spirit, one made of limitless love, deep wisdom and beauty.

Some Reflections from Danson's "Auntie Karen" Sutton

Danson is an extraordinary person. He is brilliant, spiritual, insightful, and prophetic. He speaks often of God, Nostradamus, nature, and humanity. He imparts his wisdom and beliefs in other-worldly ways. He is a unique presence on this earth and a messenger to us all. Listen to his voice and you will hear the lessons he is here to teach us. Danson is eight years old, non-verbal, and autistic. For all his abilities, there are many things that Danson cannot do. He has no sensory perception. He does not feel hot, cold, hurt, or pain as we do. At three years old he broke his arm and didn’t cry. He can jump into an icy pool and not feel cold. He can take a bath in scalding water and not feel hot. He will scream, kick, scratch, and bite you without knowing it hurts you. He believes his mind, body, and spirit live in a “host body” with no real connection to his physical self. He is a dichotomy of terms, encompassing love and hate, joy and sorrow, fear and fearlessness. He is amazing in every way.

Michele Pierce Burns

Michele Pierce Burns is a consultant, fundraiser, writer, and public speaker focusing on autism awareness and acceptance. She works part-time as a consultant for Celebrate the Children, a State-Approved School for Children with Alternative Learning Styles in Wharton, NJ. She is the proud mother of Danson Mandela Wambua, age 9, and has recently co- written a book with him entitled DANSON: The Extraordinary Discovery of an Autistic Child’s Innermost Thoughts and Feelings (St. Lynn’s Press, April 2009). Michele is currently collaborating with illustrator Louis Henry Mitchell on a second book for Danson entitled I Love Everything about You which affirms the belief that every child with autism is a perfect blessing exactly as he or she is (St. Lynn’s Press, Fall 2009).

Michele and Danson have been featured on OPRAH, The Today Show, Larry King Live, and in the documentary Autism Every Day which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. Michele volunteers and consults at: Sesame Workshop Healthy Habits for Life and Autism Awareness Project, as a member of the family services committee at Autism Speaks, HALO (Helping Autism through Learning and Outreach), Seeds of Hope Outreach in Southern Africa (dedicated to bringing services and hope to orphans due to AIDS), and at Connor’s House, a home-like community for patient-and-family centered care for children with complex health needs

Previously, Michele was a high school English teacher and co-founded two college preparatory-based charter schools and a summer academy. She holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University (English/Afro-American Studies), a M.A. from Stanford University (Education), and a M.Ed. from Harvard University (Administration, Planning, and Social Policy).She is a certified Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child teacher and a Reiki Master. She is so grateful to share her daily life with Danson and her beautiful husband Michael.