Emily Grodin found her voice and demands to be heard

The Valley College student shares how nonverbal autism has impacted her life.

By Cassandra Nava, Online Editor

Valley College student Emily Grodin types on her MacBook laptop. Her main form of communication is done through writing. Tuesday May 11 2021. Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Stephen Castaneda/The Valley Star)

For 25 years, Emily Grodin’s voice was buried under a condition that forced her into a life of silence.

Grodin began typing as her primary form of communication in 2016. Now nearly five years later, the Encino native published a book. She was diagnosed with nonverbal autism at 2 years old, restricting her ability to share her thoughts, feelings or opinions with peers and teachers. Her newfound ability to communicate gave her a new lease on life.

“It is everything to me,” said the 29 year old when asked about what writing means to her. “It is my ticket into the world.”

The Valley College student uses assisted typing, or facilitated communication, to share her thoughts. With the help of a communication partner, Grodin types on her iPad that says her words aloud. This technological help allows her to participate in a world that she was forced to view from the sidelines. Valerie Gilpeer, Grodin’s mother, said when her daughter began typing, the brilliance she always suspected poured out.

“Unfortunately that’s how we measure people; we measure people’s intelligence by how articulate they are, and what they have to offer us,” said Gilpeer. “So you can imagine the reception she was getting all those years when people didn’t know how much she had to say.”

Emily Grodin co-wrote a book with her mother Valerie Gilpeer called “I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust.” The book details Emily’s nonverbal autism. Tuesday May 11 2021. Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Stephen Castaneda/The Valley Star)

Grodin and her mother recently co-wrote “I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust,” a memoir that details the history of Grodin’s life through each of their perspectives. Gilpeer provides background information on her daughter’s life with autism. Peppered with Grodin’s poignant writing throughout the book, readers can begin to understand how she felt during her years of silence. With rave reviews from NPR, The Washington Post, Kirkus and Amazon, Grodin’s story is more than just inspiring. Her strength lies in her attention to detail and ability to capture emotion.

According to Gilpeer, “I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust” was released four years and eight months to the day her daughter first started typing. Grodin’s lyrical prose allowed her to sum up a vivid description of her life, as the title of the memoir stems from an abbreviated version of the original, “I have been buried under years of dust and now I have so much to say.”

Due to her inability to speak, Grodin soaked up the life around her by listening. Her love of learning and being a “news junkie” — as her mother referred to — led to an internship with her local Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel of the 45th district.

Asking Gabriel hard hitting questions about local community issues led her to be labeled as a journalist. She harnessed that passion into her education and currently studies journalism at Valley, where she has fine-tuned her passions and discovered her direction. Grodin relies on her writing not only to speak, but to inform and be an advocate for others.

With hopes to write a poetry book in the future, Grodin shares her writings on social media. When scrolling through her Instagram account, viewers see photos of a young woman’s travels and adventures, but scattered throughout the cheerful grid lies photos of her piercing words. In her writing, Grodin addresses the internal struggles she faces with autism, but focuses on the positive aspects.

Her poem “The Good Fight,” featured in the spring 2021 issue of Spectrum Life Magazine, shows her incredible resilience.

“I will still fight if I have to, still scream if need be,” wrote Grodin. “If life won't be what I need, I’ll fight to make it right for me.”