Autistic Typer’s Poetry Reviewed by Bestselling Author Don Mann

Click image for video presentation of The Ember - words and music by John Smyth; narrated by John's dad, Jim.

Click image for video presentation of The Ember – words and music by John Smyth, with narration by Jim Smyth, John’s dad.

John Smyth is a nonverbal autistic who, until recently, had no ability to communicate with anyone – parents, doctors, educators, siblings. As with many similarly afflicted individuals, John, a highly intelligent young man, was diagnosed as having a 3 year old’s mind and warehoused by his local school system in “life-skills” training until he was 17.

However, John’s capacity to communicate was discovered in December of 2010, at the age of 16 1/2, and improved through supported typing, a form of Facilitated Communication. He tested out of middle school math in 6 weeks, and passed state assessments for English 10 and Algebra without needing to complete the coursework.

Since then, John has discovered his love of writing, including poignant poetry that eloquently expresses his frustrations and desires. Visit John’s website, to read his work. (opens in new window)

One of his poems, The Ember, made its way into the hands of 3-time NY Times bestselling author, extreme athlete, motivational speaker, and former member of the US Navy’s SEAL Team 6, Don D. Mann. Don was so moved by John’s poem that he wrote this unsolicited review of The Ember.
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The Ember: A Review by Don D. Mann

Don D. Mann, SEAL Team 6 / USN, ret.

Don D. Mann,
SEAL Team 6 / USN, ret.

“I recently read a very touching and moving story about a severely autistic 19 year old named John Smyth. For the first 16 years of John’s life, he appeared to lack nearly all communications skills and have intelligence ranking closer to a vegetative state.

Then what some would call a miracle occurred. Medical professionals learned that John in fact was not only very aware of his surroundings and what was happening to him, but that he had been encyclopedically absorbing everything around him. And he discovered his own, very powerful means of communication – as a writer.

John wrote an incredibly inspiring poem, called The Ember, for his English class. As I read and heard his father narrate The Ember, I felt goose bumps develop all over my body. I was incredibly moved, touched and inspired at the same time.

Much of my life has been involved with teaching and motivating people to become stronger physically but more important, mentally. As a SEAL we call this “strengthening our Combat Mindset”. As a motivator, I call this “Reaching Beyond Boundaries”.

John understands these concepts better than I do. He does not allow his autism to define who he is. He does not allow this obstacle from holding him back. John took control of his life and reached well beyond the boundaries others placed on him.

I can promise you this, if you read John’s poem, listen to his Dad’s narration, you will not only develop a real fascination and admiration for this young man, but you will become a stronger person through John’s powerful words. I do hope you share this with your Family and Friends.

With great respect and admiration,
Don D. Mann
SEAL Team 6/ USN/ret.

We want to thank Don Mann for his kind words and insightful observations.
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About Don D. Mann

Don Devereaux Mann, a former Navy Seal, adventurer, noted extreme athlete, and author, travels the world as a motivational speaker and trainer, specializing in Corporate Team Building and Leadership Training.

Mann, whose credentials include being a decorated combat veteran, Corpsman, SEAL Special Operations Technician, jungle survival, desert survival, and arctic survival instructor, advanced hand-to-hand combat instructor; and Survival, Evade, Resistance and Escape Instructor. He is the author of the autobiography Inside SEAL Team 6, My Life and Missions with America’s Elite Warriors and The Complete Guide to Adventure Racing

Mann has over 35 years (1,000+ races) worth of competitive racing experience, and was once ranked 38th in the world as a triathlete. He is known for producing and directing more multi-day, multi-sport, adventure races, triathlons and SEAL training events than any other person in the world.

For more information about Don D. Mann, including his complete biography, visit his website,
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