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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Novel Featuring a Non-Verbal Autistic Character: The Place to Say Goodbye



My best friend's son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. I remember the night she called -- I was eight weeks pregnant with my first child, and it was my third wedding anniversary. I had gone to bed early because I could barely keep my eyes open and I had spent the day throwing up.  But then the phone had rung, and it was my friend.

"Happy Anniversary!" she said brightly, but then I heard the tears behind her words. "G was diagnosed with autism today."

I hadn't known that A and her husband had been seeing doctors for any issues, though I had suspected for about the last year that something wasn't right.  At G's second birthday party the month before, he had seemed much younger than 2, had thrown a fit, had flipped out while the candle was lit and during the singing of Happy Birthday, was still not talking at all.  I had not been around a lot of children, and for all I knew, these things could be normal, but somehow, I knew something was wrong. Still, A and her husband, M, had never told us they were seeking out help.

I didn't know what to say but I promised to come visit A at work the next day.  I had no idea how she would manage going to work with the newness -- the freshness -- of the diagnosis.  But the next day I met her there, and she took a break and we sat in the waning fall sunlight while she explained how G had been diagnosed. How overwhelmed she felt. How crazy this all was.

G. is 23 now. He lives in a group home and goes to a program on weekdays.  He has never said a word, doesn't use any form of communication. He understands what we say though, and he is sweet and gentle. He can put together a complex jigsaw puzzle amazingly well and he snuggles with his mom.  He also grunts, grinds his teeth, and squeezes his hands together in frustration. He has obsessive behaviors, like wanting to sit on the ground before he gets in a car and turning lights on and off repeatedly.

I recently published my third novel, The Place to Say Goodbye, about a 32 year old man, Carson, with the kind of autism G has -- nonverbal.  Because we don't know what nonverbal autistic people think or feel, I wanted to give them a voice, so only the reader is privy to Carson's thoughts.  The novel also features Carson's caretakers -- his identical twin 25 year old sisters who don't know what he thinks or how he feels.

Autistic people and their families need a voice -- and I hope this novel helps give them one. Here is the link to purchase the book:

Kindle Edition:
Judy Mollen Walters is the author of the novels, The Place to Say Goodbye (2015), as well as The Opposite of Normal (2014) and Child of Mine (2013). She can be reached at judymwalters@gmail.com

1 comment:

kennethandportia said...

I did plan to read the book in full, but as a parent of a nonverbal child, I think it's presumptive to say we don't know what they think or feel and then just give them a voice. One of the consistent comments people who have gotten to know my son make is that he definitely communicates. Translating those thoughts for a verbal world is not always easy, but several nonverbal people have communicated their thoughts in writing or with pictures or nonverbally. From what I've read so far, it seems your perspective about how autistic people think is inaccurate at best and certainly lacking in depth or insight.

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