I’m currently updating my first published book, an autobiography as a mother with an autistic child. My son, Benjamin, was non-verbal as a small child and was later identified as having High-Functioning Autism. He is now a published author and speaks at churches and schools about his experience growing up with autism. You can still get a copy of the first edition but some of the links in the resources are outdated. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction of the book.
Where do you go to, My Sunshine?
“You have the most beautiful blue eyes, my handsome baby boy. Why can’t I see you behind them? Where do you go when your eyes wander away from me?
I hold you in my arms and stroke your tiny face, run my fingers through the yellow strands falling across your brow and I search for a glimpse of soul connection, but you are nowhere to be found.
If I let go of your small hand you’ll run away or you’ll walk in an endless straight line and not care where you’re going. You won’t see the people on the path in front of you or the tree that blocks your way. You won’t run excited to play with the other children on the swings because they’re not there in your world.
We walk by the lake. I point at the birds, gracefully gliding, skimming over the lapping waves. A young puppy barks and, for an instant, I see a puzzled frown on your tiny forehead, then it’s gone.
I show you the delicate, colourful blue petals of the Forget-Me-Not and we stop for a while to listen to the rustling of the birch. But you walk where I walk and stop when I stop only because I hold on tightly to your little fingers so you don’t slide down the bank and disappear. You have no response to these wonders around you.
I tell you how God made all these things. How He loves you and created you as part of His masterpiece too. How you have a purpose inthis life and how I’ll do my best as your Mummy to help you find that purpose He has planned for you. But you don’t seem to hear a word. You just stare into the distance.
We walk back on the path and I sing to you “Forever Young.” You don’t sing along or dance in circles around me giggling. But oh how I love you my Sunshine.
Where do you go to, my sweet baby boy, when your eyes wander away from me and you’re lost in your autistic world.”
I wish all of you a very happy day today, be it Valentines Day, Love Day or Tuesday. I don’t for one moment profess to be an expert at any of the above (well, Tuesday I could handle, I guess), so I’m going to hand you over to the experts:
What Is Love?
For the Christ followers out there, here’re a few scripture verses from 1 Corinthians: (not only for weddings!)
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a New International Version (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
Just a recap; this was written by Paul to the church at Corinth and is for all believers to remind them that Christ taught us to love one another. It’s a beautiful passage but it refers to the love of all people, not just romantic love. However, I still think it goes well with a couple starting a life together, don’t you?
For The Lovers
I’ve met this amazing speaker in person and had the privilege of taking a few of her classes at a writer’s conference. She’s a straight-talking Christian woman who doesn’t mince words. So if you’re looking for that little something extra today, well here’s Sheila’s award-winning book.
For the past two years I’ve been speaking at schools and public events about my life on the Autism Spectrum and what it was like developing from lower to higher-functioning autism. I’ve found myself in a rare position of being able to communicate and inform teachers and parents about what that experience has been like from an inside perspective. Although it wasn’t until recently that I began advertising my speaking more openly.
So far I’ve spoken on a daytime talk show, at schools, at a church, and at autism-related events. It’s been a very fulfilling experience to be able to share my experiences and help others to understand the condition.
If you are looking for someone who can talk about autism with inside experience, click on the link Schedule a Speaking Event to look over my information for doing speaking engagements. Or if you know anyone who might be interested…
Today I’m very happy to introduce you all to a fellow author, Sally Meadows. It’s an honour to share some of her story with you.
Sally Meadows is a two-time national award nominated Christian singer/songwriter, author, and speaker from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Sally is guest blogging today via a question-and-answer session to tell us a little bit about her creative journey as well as her children’s picture book The Two Trees (2015), about a boy on the autism spectrum.
Here’s a big question to kick us off: What is your Kingdom purpose?
Wow, that is a big question, and one worthy of each of us to consider! First and foremost, this life has certainly been an interesting journey for me! It seems that my Kingdom purpose has shifted as often as my career has changed. (I’ve been a scientific editor, children’s entertainer, teacher, university outreach educator, and engineering technical editor.) But if I can identify one common ministry thread it would have to be that I have a heart for those who are often overlooked or undervalued by society: children (especially gifted and/or differently abled), differently abled young adults, Aboriginal youth, and immigrants. I am a strong believer in helping those in these underserved demographics discover and grow in their gifts to reach their full potential.
Since I left the corporate world in 2013 to work full time on my writing, music, and speaking ministry, my Kingdom purpose has focussed on encouraging people of all ages (with a special interest in women 40 and up) to passionately pursue God’s call on their lives. I would like my own life to be a testimony as to how God can do amazing things—He has a special purpose and plan for each one of us—by giving my life fully over to Him. My blog, “Butterfly’d: Unfurling Glory in An (Extra)Ordinary Life”, is all about inspiring others to unfurl God’s glory in their own lives.
What is a typical week like for you?
As an author, speaker, and musician (sometimes all at once!) I am involved in widely diverse projects, so I don’t really have a typical week; it really depends on what’s going on at any given time of year and can be seasonally related. April is Autism Awareness Month and is one of the peak times for me to travel to schools around the province doing author readings of my children’s book The Two Trees. At this particular time, I am also working on a new children’s book manuscript as well as a couple of inspirational short stories for adults. Finally, I have a new partnership with a fellow singer/songwriter and we are already in the studio recording our first single! Never a dull moment here!
Tell us about your book The Two Trees; what motivated you to write it?
The Two Trees is the story of two brothers: Jaxon, who is the younger brother and narrates the story, and Syd, who is on the autism spectrum. The story shares in narrative form the challenges families that include a child on the autism spectrum face on a daily basis. Its primary purpose is to raise autism awareness while giving a voice to siblings, whose needs may often be overlooked. My initial motivation to write the book was to help parents identify characteristics of being on the autism spectrum that may be masked by giftedness (such as we see in the character Syd). The book’s purpose has grown from there; it is now used across the country in classrooms and clinical practices, and by autism specialists, social workers, counsellors, universities, and more as a resource to open up discussions and educate. As for motivation, I have family members who are on the spectrum, and as a former teacher, have taught children with autism who have widely variable abilities. So I have seen first-hand the challenges—and successes—of families that include a child on the autism spectrum.
One thing I have done lately is to donate books (The Two Trees) to two autism organizations offering for them to receive 100% of the profits. Also, from now until the end of August (at least), $5 from every The Two Trees book sold on my website will go to various autism organizations. (I wanted to give back because they were so supportive during the launch of the book.)
What is your The Two Trees presentation like?
I start with a reading of the book (about 8 minutes long), have a brief discussion about specific topics including autism, bullying, and the importance of being a good friend (5-10 minutes depending on the audience), then the kids have about 40 minutes to do hands-on activities themed to the book. These activities are keyed to things that appear in the book including dinosaurs, rocks and minerals, trees, bullying versus being a good friend, and more. The Two Trees was written for ages 5-9 but the presentation is certainly suitable for families and the general public. I have done presentations at schools, libraries, museums, and autism events. I am grateful that I (and the venues) receive funding from the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG) to do these presentations, although organizations can also book me outright. For details about my presentation, please go to: http://sallymeadows.com/speaking.
Can you do a presentation outside of your province?
Absolutely! I travel across Canada for various events, so if you are interested in having me come and speak at your school, autism event, or other venue, I would be happy to let you know if/when I will be in your area. Although SWG funding is not available for out-of-province venues, I would be happy to discuss terms for a visit.
Your website indicates that your book The Two Trees can be used for fundraising. Can you tell me about that?
This is of primary interest to autism organizations, but really any group that has a vested interest in raising autism awareness (i.e. an elementary school) can take part in this. Basically, I will provide The Two Trees to your organization at wholesale cost and you can resell them at a profit. Here is the link for more information: http://sallymeadows.com/fundraising.
Thank you so much, Lynne, for the opportunity to share about my book The Two Trees during this Autism Awareness month!
I’m very happy to have you visit with me and my readers today, Sally. May God bless you in your work as you inspire us to live out our purpose and passions. Sally can also be found on the ChristianAuthors‘ bookstore website, where we both promote our work. Lynne
Dancing on the Bus, a short story I wrote about finding love in unexpected places, was accepted to be included in a recently published book called, Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon, the third in a series of short stories and poems.
My story is about being accepted and loved as a child, by total strangers. Later, as a mother, I saw that same love and acceptance for my own children. (Side note here; the picture is of my son from the story, showing love and acceptance to another child he met that day for the frist time. Paying love forward never fails).
Raising Benjamin Frog – A Mother’s Journey with her Autistic SonAn autistic child’s non-neurotypical perspective on a daily walk to school with his mother. First published as a short story by the child’s counselling centre. The mother’s neurotypical perspective of the same event follows. We hope we’ve given you a glance into the way an autistic mind differs from a neurotypical mind. Written by myself and my son, Benjamin Collier.
THE CROSSING-Part 1
The Child’s Perspective
Along they walked, side by side. He’d been told enough times now to remember the rule. They always walked side by side when they walked to school. He didn’t have to hold her hand; she said that was ok as long as they stayed together. So he walked by her side and talked in his head to his imaginary friends. He was oblivious to his surroundings most of the way and the other mothers and children who walked the same path. But he noticed that some of the other children held hands with their mothers, swinging their arms back and forth. Their mothers had obviously told them that they had to hold hands. He wondered why they had different rules from his mother. He’d come to accept, but still constantly question, why rules applied to some people and not to others. The rules were different for the bigger people, the parents and other adults, and sometimes his big sisters too.
His mother greeted the crossing guard and the other mothers as they came to the crosswalk. Then suddenly, her young son darted from beside her and started off across the road. Approaching cars skidded to a screeching halt. Faces were red with panic and anger. The drivers scowled and the crossing guard blew her whistle with ferocity. The boy’s mother lunged forward and ran to grab her son from in front of the cars. As she did she could hear the other mothers shouting heatedly at her son. “Unruly child!” “That was a stupid thing to do!” “You know you never cross without the crossing guard!” And she heard some mutter under their breath, “Terrible mother” and “Ashamed of herself.” She carried on across the road, holding tightly to his hand now, trying to ignore the comments and keep calm. After all, they didn’t understand. Her son looked like any other child. Why wouldn’t they expect him to follow all the rules?
The boy heard the words they shouted at him, but he took none of it to heart. They were just repeating the rules, feeding him the information he already had. The rules were just stupid. That’s all there was to it. And there were too many of them. He preferred his world. There he could do whatever he wanted without rules and he could play all day and no one got annoyed with him. His world was safer and happier. He wondered why other people didn’t live in their own worlds too. Why did they insist on living in a world that didn’t make any sense? Why did he have to live there?
When they reached the other side of the road his mother kept a tight hold of his hand and told him to look at her eyes. He knew that was the signal she wanted to talk to him. He knew he had done something wrong again. His puzzled little face lifted and he gazed into her eyes, trying his best to concentrate on her words.
“Why did you try crossing the road without the crossing guard?” she asked in a soft voice.
A question? He wasn’t expecting that. Didn’t she already know?
“It was safe to cross,” he answered, “The cars were all far away. I knew they would stop in time and they did. I was right. Why am I not allowed to make the cars stop instead of the crossing guard? Why do I have to wait for her to say it’s safe? Why do the cars listen to her and not me?”
His mother frowned a little, at first, then something lit up in her eye and her lips curled. He believed that was what people called a smile. “Because she has the STOP sign”, his mother said, “And you don’t.”
He thought for a moment, a frown on his tiny forehead. Then he looked up at her and gave her his own smile; he knew she liked that and it’d make her happy. “Okay”, he said in his matter-of-fact voice. Maybe some day when he was old enough he could buy his own STOP sign. Satisfied with that dream of the future, he ran to the playing field. Free for a little while till the bell rang and the confusing rules would start again.
She knew their walk to school was always an adventure to him. They would set off from home and stroll along the sidewalk to the road. It was just the two of them and his four friends; Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello. He never went anywhere without them. They kept him company in a world where she couldn’t go; not yet anyway. They were his companions when no one else wanted to play with him.
At first, he would take them in to Kindergarten with him, but his teacher had become annoyed on several occasions at his lack of attention in class. So now they stopped at the playground on the way to school where he had to say “Goodbye” to his imaginary friends. Sometimes he would look so sad. He asked his mother if they would be alright until he got them after school. They were as real to him as if they were his classmates; maybe more so. They didn’t call him names.
He ran free for a while. She had come to realize that he needed a lot of freedom from the world he didn’t understand. He needed extra time to just ‘be’. She watched him as he mumbled words she couldn’t comprehend; his arms flailing and his voice getting louder with shouts and screams for no apparent reason. He was so happy, just to run and not be confined to rooms and paths and the never-ending rules she had to constantly teach him. Her baby was happy. She loved to watch him play in his world.
He had learned, finally, to stop at the end of the path and wait for her. They had made an agreement that if he stopped all by himself he wouldn’t have to hold her hand anymore. He rarely wanted any physical contact. She missed the sweet baby boy she could hold tight and hug all day. He didn’t seem to want hugs at all, but he would let her kiss him goodnight, and he held her hand if there were cars close by; only if there were cars.
They were nearing the crossing guard when he suddenly darted across the road! She screamed his name as approaching cars barely managed to stop in time. One car came to a screeching halt and she saw the look of horror on the driver’s face. Everyone, the drivers, the crossing guard, the other parents, even the other children, all scowled and shouted at her son. They told him he was a bad boy and he needed to behave better. She ran to the middle of the road and grabbed his hand.
As they finished walking across the road, the crossing guard blew her whistle and held up her sign. The other parents started to cross too. Their whispers were intentionally loud enough for her to hear. “Terrible mother!”, “Should be ashamed of herself!”, “Not enough discipline obviously!” were all ringing in her ears as she held tight to his tiny hand and got him safely across the road and away from the other parents and children.
She felt like shouting at them all, “He has autism! That’s why he sometimes behaves like he does! What’s your excuse?!” But she had tried her best not to let her son see her get angry with other people. She didn’t want him to think that’s the way people should deal with disagreements. So she asked him quietly why he had run across the road instead of waiting for the crossing guard to tell them it was safe.
He explained, in his simple, broken words, that he had looked to make sure the cars were far away and he knew they could stop before they got to the crossing. He asked her why the cars wouldn’t stop for him if he wanted to cross the road. Why couldn’t he make the cars stop if he was right? Why did they only stop for the crossing guard?
His mother frowned a little at first, then her eyes lit up and she smiled at him.
“Because she has the STOP sign”, she said, “and you don’t”.
He looked at her, puzzled. She was used to that look all too well. Then a feint grin came across his little face; a rarity for him. She loved to see him smile. Off he ran into the playing field, alone, or maybe not. Maybe he had some other imaginary friends who he left at school until the next day. Either way, he was free again, happy in his own world for a few minutes, until he had to join the other children in this world again and deal with another rule that made no sense to him at all.
In Benjamin’s latest blog, he answers a series of questions he’s frequently asked about life on the Autism spectrum. Amusing and informative answers on Autism and Christianity, driving, relationships with other Autistic people, and other questions. Ben’s humour shines through as he explains how he tackles his daily life with a non-neurotypical point of view.
As I’ve been talking with people over the years, and I’ve started doing speaking engagements, there are certain questions that tend to pop up more than others as people want to know about my experiences living with Autism, or just want to get to know me in general. I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a blog post addressing some of the most frequently asked questions that I’ve been asked, and the overly complicated answers that I’ve come up with. Though in some cases I’m able to offer a simpler, less detailed answer as well.
Is it “Ben” or “Benjamin”?
The quick and honest answer is: either will do.
But some of you are perfectionists and won’t be satisfied with that answer. If there are two possible options then one of them must be the better choice. And I can totally relate to that. So I’ll lay…