Monday, April 2, 2018

April is #Autism Awareness Month by Rachelle Ayala

A lot of my topics come from my conversations with readers as they tell me about themselves and the people in their families. While writing Blue Chow Christmas, where the main character has Asperger's Syndrome, I got acquainted with a reader whose grandsons have autism. I also learned that Asperger's is now blended into the autism spectrum on the high functioning end.

After finishing Blue Chow Christmas, I got the idea to write about a single mother with two boys: one with autism and the other without. My reader helped me a lot with stories from her family, while I set out to do research. I read blogs, forums, studied nonfiction books, and chatted with my readers. I also watched a movie about Temple Grandin and read her book, Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism. I quickly realized that because autism is a spectrum disorder, everyone is individual in their symptoms and experiences. While there are similarities, there are also vast differences.

I did not want to simply portray my characters with autism in a stereotypical manner, and it helped that I never watched any of the movies like Rain Man. Instead, rather than focusing on the behavioral aspect of autism: the meltdowns, hand-flapping, screaming or repetitive motions, I endeavored to write from the inside out, by understanding what it was that the person felt inside and with the inability to communicate, how their frustration or oversensitive nerves would cause them to act in a certain manner on the outside.

Throughout my writing, I checked in with my friend who would either validate or correct what I wrote. It was very important for me to understand what was going on inside the person who has autism, and not just what was going on around them. My friend pointed me to a book, The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen Year Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida which was a treasure trove. Right before I did the final revision of my manuscript, I also read a fictionalized memoir, Paper In the Wind: Peeling back the lifespan of autism in the wake of tragedy by Olivia Mason-Charles. This book made me really think about what life is like for the caregiver.

I'm pleased to announce that my story, Playing for the Save, won the 2017 Readers' Favorite Gold Award for Realistic Fiction. It is dedicated to my friend, Frances Hampton. It is still a romance, with the hopes and wishes of the single mother, Jamie, for someone to validate her experience and to appreciate her and love her. But it also shows how autism takes over someone's life and isolates them from others. Because of the help I got from my readers, I hope this book will help other readers become aware of autism as well as understand it better and to appreciate and support those caregivers.

Playing for the Save is available at most online retailers. You can also get Blue Chow Christmas, the book that got me and Frances talking from most online retailers.

Cait Hart has been married to Brian Wonder for twelve years,
but does she really know him? The redheaded firefighter is dependable, loyal,
and kind to others, but he's never let her probe his feelings.
Available at your favorite online retailer [CLICK for STORES]

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