Rebecca Hamilton is a writer, a mom, and an autism awareness advocate that I met on Authonomy last year. I read her posted chapters of The Forever Girl, a New Adult Paranormal about a witch with a wicked case of tinnitus, and she read the opening chapters of January Black. Since then, she’s made Harper Collins’ Editor’s Desk (the prize for being a good writer and even better social networker) and published her book with Immortal Ink. I look forward to buying the book just to find out what happens after Chapter 6! But it’s her Asperger’s/autism posts that have kept me following her online. This one in particular stands out to me, because when I read it, I felt like I was reading about myself. I suppose that’s why the idea of writing a character with Asperger’s appeals to me.
Autism Spectrum Disorder has widened its umbrella in recent years to cover a very diverse range of conditions. There is low-functioning, which is the behavior many people think about when they hear the word autism. Gary Bell, (played by Ryan Cartwright on SyFy’s Alphas), is high-functioning, but he is no more representative of autism than the low-functioning stereotype. There are as many varieties as there are colors discernible by the human eye. (Forget Roy G. Biv. The ball park estimate is 10 million distinct colors.) Every person is unique, and while they may share symptoms, every ASD case is unique.
Yes, I identify with Asperger’s adults. If a doctor were to put that label on me, I might even feel relieved to have something to make sense of parts of my personality that have always troubled me. I struggle with socialization and communication, two hallmark symptoms of Asperger’s. Put me behind a keyboard, and I can be witty, even charming. In a live conversation, I often shrink like plastic wrap over a candle, even with people I know well. Asperger’s can manifest in interests as well, with the person putting tremendous focus into subjects or tasks, a trait I also display. Once I’ve got a story idea, I’m relentless. Every spare moment I have, I’m writing. At work, I can carry out projects involving repetitive tasks for months.
When Asperger’s symptoms are defined in depth, however, I fall off the spectrum. Asperger’s may give a person developmental issues…but the reverse is not also true. General anxiety can account for my social difficulties (Zoloft works wonders), and OCD could explain my obsessive behavior.
Oddly enough, despite my interest in the subject, I have met only one person with an Asperger’s diagnosis. His name is Jacob. He is 9 years old, and he LOVES the Red Sox.
Asperger’s, like all forms of autism, is not curable, but the difficulties can be helped with drugs and/or therapy. Jacob rides horses. It calms him down. It’s something he enjoys and so it is something that he looks forward to. It provides him interaction with someone (the horse) that doesn’t care if he’s awkward and won’t judge him. His mother swears that he was a different child after just one ride.
Jacob was my inspiration for Delilah Blue, a character of my new project “Virgo.” Instead of a nine-year-old Boy Scout, I’m working with a twenty-year-old DJ. He likes sports and she likes music. They are very different, but at their core, they’re also very similar. They are loving people. They are often overwhelmed by their environments. They meltdown; they try not to, but they can’t help it.
Delilah excites me. Her love of powder blue, her punk-chic wardrobe, her deliberate, precise handling of her turntables, and all the little details that Asperger’s may contribute to her personality…she’s stomping her feet in my head, demanding to be let out to play. I would love to make her Virgo’s main character, but she doesn’t want the job. She wants to spin records. She wants to be a producer. More than that, she wants to enjoy doing it. She had control of her life once; she desperately wants it back. The storytelling duties are going to fall to her friend Sam. He didn’t really want the job either, but their roommate Tommy’s the only one left. He’s the go-to guy when things go sideways, but day to day, he’s not the most dependable guy.