Photo: Cindy and Robbie Gelormini
By: Evan Wechman
It’s tough enough for people to survive the loss of their parents or grandparents. However, for local interior designer turned author, Cindy Gelormini, the loss of her beloved son Robbie was both shocking and painful.
Robbie was a sweet, loving young son who suffered from Autism and its subsequent seizures. Unfortunately, this led to his passing away in November of 2017 at the age of 21. Many parents would just become hardened or stay in their home all day, but due to Gelormini’s strength and faith, she wanted to teach students, parents, and even other teachers about autism.
In early 2021, Gelormini released a trilogy book series titled Robbie’s World and His Spectrum of Adventures! The author who also illustrated the books credited the creation of the series as part of her ” healing process.” Though much of the work was completed during the pandemic, the author remained on task and the words and pictures came easily to her.
In her children’s book series, she created the character of Robbie the Penguin who has autism so children can relate to the adventures of Robbie. Some may wonder where the idea of a penguin with autism came from, and Gelormini believes Robbie was trying to send her a message from heaven.
Shortly after his death, when his mother went to the group home he was living at to collect his belongings, she found toy penguins almost everywhere. She also found out that the last movie he watched was the classic “Happy Feet.” Gelormini who has a strong Christian faith concluded “Robbie’s trying to tell me something,” and the idea of the book series was born.
During the last year, Gelormini has tried to get the books into the hands of as many teachers as possible throughout the state. She wants to destigmatize some of the negative and incorrect assumptions about autism. Robbie, like many other students with autism were bullied in public schools because they were misunderstood and seen as weird.
The local author found that when schoolteachers read the books to their students, they adored Robbie the Penguin. Gelormini said the “kids fell in love with Robbie the Penguin.” In addition to the stories involving Robbie the Penguin, at the end of every chapter, Gelormini offers a segment called “Mom’s Minute”. In this special section, the author explains the real-life events which the story was based on and teaches the readers how autism affects the behaviors of people with this diagnosis.
According to Gelormini, the universal message of love is spread throughout her books. Throughout the stories, the mother tells Robbie the Penguin “I love you just the way you are.” This is something the author feels all children can connect with. Unfortunately, many children with autism have confided to the author that they wish their parents loved them the way she loved Robbie.
While Gelormini has been promoting her work for over a year now, she is aware there is much more she can do to educate the public about autism. She can be found advocating for parents and children with Autism on her podcast, “Spectrum Perspectives,”. This can be found on Spotify, Apple, or YouTube.
Her mission has many parts as she wants to plan retreats for parents of children with autism so they can form friendships, relax, and share ideas for assisting their children. Gelormini has already started some support groups for these parents. She feels such experiences can be very instrumental in helping these parents because it can often be a long, and isolating experience for them. The author knows first-hand how lonely the process can be and that such parents “never get a break.”
She wants to provide some relief to these hard-working mothers and fathers while building a more positive community for children with autism. She credits her strong connection to her faith for being able to persevere after her son’s death and remain an advocate. She firmly believes God wanted her to “love him (Robbie) the way he is.”
She also has a larger dream of using the book sales to buy a farm and build several group homes on it. Here, children can ride horses, make friends, and participate in a lot of outdoor activities that Robbie enjoyed. “It drives me and pushes me forward,” said the author.
Whether this dream turns into a reality is uncertain, but Gelormini’s message of love for others endears her to local schools. According to her, “I would love to see the books in every elementary school in New Jersey.”
The Robbie’s World series can be found on Amazon.com.