Assistant Managing Editor
SPRINGFIELD Jacqueline Williams-Hines is using the world of literary fiction to educate others about autism. Through her book series, "No Small Victories," she is dispelling myths and painting a clearer picture of the disorder.
The series' main character, Joshua, is named for the youngest of her three children, who is living with autism. Through simplistic storytelling, the reader is taken through many challenges that Joshua, and others living with autism, face.
"I'm not suggesting that my books are a manual, but it gives you an idea," Williams-Hines said. "You have to keep in mind that I am not a therapist. I am a specialist in Joshua because this is the face of autism that I understand."
She said the goal of her series is to break down stigmas and provide understanding not only for inquisitive youngsters, but for teachers and even parents raising children with autism. "Traditionally, within our community, sometimes you find that people are kind of reluctant to look for services. I think just in talking with other parents, I kind of have this feeling that sometimes there's this stigma attached. As a mother you feel like there had to be something I did wrong," Williams-Hines said. "There is no known cause and there is no cure. Speaking with other mothers, there is that sense of guilt. They are a little reluctant to come forward and look for services [and] early intervention is definitely key."
"Joshua and the Startabulous Dream Maker," the first of the series, started out as a poem. Family and friends told Williams-Hines that she should turn it into a book. After consideration she agreed that a book would be a better outlet to introduce various aspects of autism. It provides an overview of Joshua's life with autism and was aimed at his peers.
"It's really difficult for children with autism to form relationships. They lack the social [skills] that we take for granted. That is something that has to be taught to them. With other children who don't understand that, they come off as being weird," she explained. "Children are children. The more information that you give them, then they start to see beyond that."
The second installment, "The Adventures of Suther Joshua from Planet Yethican," was released in early 2008, and came to fruition thanks to a community grant and local fundraising walk-a-thon. The book hones in on the preoccupation children with autism often experience with certain objects or ideas.
"With my son it was Disney movies. He could watch the movie and recite the dialogue verbatim. I have a friend whose son loves 'Star Wars.' I used that as a way to explain. He took his preoccupation with wanting to be a super hero and he taught himself how to ride a bike," Williams-Hines said.
The third in the four-part series will hit book stores this spring.
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that is more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Currently, 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with autism.
To purchase copies of the "No Small Victories" book series, check out www.bn.com or www.authorhouse.com.
To learn more about Williams-Hines and her efforts visit www.jacquelinewilliamshinesbooks.com.
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