I Wrote A Whole Kids’ Book So You Would Understand My Child
Children’s books don’t just entertain.
I published a book last month, and I’m proud to say that it was an instant #1 NYT bestseller. A Day With No Words is a book about the normalization of communication outside of speech. It follows a boy who is Nonspeaking throughout a day in his life, offering a window into how he moves through the world. It’s about connection, and it’s about the bond I share with my autistic son.
But the truth is, I never wanted to write a kids’ book.
If I’m being absolutely honest, at one point, I felt like it was beneath my skills. I wasn’t too sure about sharing the credit with an illustrator, either. Something funny happened, though: people kept asking me if I wanted to write a children’s book. I’m an autistic advocate raising children with autism diagnoses, somebody who speaks out on issues important to the autism community, on my website Fidgets and Fries, my social media accounts, and in my work as a consultant. And literary agents, editors from publishing houses, and even members of my audience kept telling me they wanted a children’s book from me.
I questioned what it was about me and my platform that gave off “children’s book” vibes. I talked about some incredibly heavy subjects and I took a lot of anger and harsh words because of it. Outside of being a mother and having children, what was it about me that people thought, “that’s a children’s book author right there”?
Honestly, I felt offended. How dare they look at my work and think I am only good for short books with pretty pictures?
This book had an ugly beginning, and I’m not proud of that fact.
But it all changed one day, as I was reading a book to my son that I’ve read more times than I can count. It’s called “The Koala Who Could.” It is his favorite book. That day, I finally allowed myself to get lost in why that was his favorite book. He loved the bright illustrations and the story told with words that rhyme and reminded him of songs. I gave myself permission to take in the excitement he held for this book. I got lost in his smile, how he would turn the pages to his favorite parts and then push the book back for me to read. Over and over. That smile, it lit up the room.
I let myself get tangled in his love for that book. I forgot how much stories mean to my kids. I read them, I created new stories for them, but it began to feel mechanical for me. Like this is just something we always do. I didn’t sit with the love of it all. And when I did, I wanted more of it.
Stories are our greatest tool for learning. When I sat down and combed through the history of my children’s lives, I found the “why” for my commitment to this children’s book. I remembered what age they were when they realized they were different and when the children around them made them feel as though their differences put them on the outside of everything. I spend so much time focusing on dismantling systems that are generations old, set and stuck in their ways, mindsets that are harder than stone to crack let alone break…why not try my hand at introducing small humans to an existence that is outside of what society considers to be the norm and teaching them to be loving, accepting, and compassionate?
Children’s books don’t just entertain. They inspire, they teach, they guide, and they invite the reader to experience a world they do not yet know. This increases their chances of them carrying this knowledge with them in their everyday lives. I wanted my story to be part of their journey.
Writing A Day with No Words was the hardest thing I have ever written. It meant the world to me, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it right. This wasn’t just my experience being his Mama I was sharing about, it was also sharing pieces of him. Would the audience understand our relationship? Would they relate to how close we are? How would I take it if someone felt as though something were wrong with a story based on our lives? Would that also mean they find issues with our lives? I had to pack so much into 600 words, I definitely used all of my brain and skills, sad that I ever thought I wouldn’t. I don’t care that I share a cover with Kate. My words, her art…we will move some mountains.
Let me tell you a story: Once, our family was at a zoo in Chicago. A young boy and his mom treated my oldest, who is Nonspeaking, uses AAC, and grunts at times, with the respect and dignity he deserved all because they read a book about a Nonspeaking crow named Otto.
I want my book to do that for another family.
I want the space to address the children. I want to normalize communication outside of speech and I want there to be a day when we can leave our home and be treated just as that mother and her son treated us at a Chicago zoo. This book can do just that. I truly believe it.
Tiffany Hammond is the voice behind Fidgets and Fries. She is an Autistic mother and advocate. Tiffany is a storyteller, using her own personal experiences with Autism and parenting two Autistic boys to guide others on their journey. Her activism is rooted in challenging the current perception of Autism as being a lifelong burden, cultivating a community that explores the concept of Intersectionality and Autism, and inspiring thought leaders through storytelling, education, and critical discourse. She has a Masters in Developmental Psychology from Liberty University.
Tiffany is a dreamer by day and writer by night. She doesn't care to write about herself in the third person, but can be easily persuaded to do so every once in a while. She lives in Texas with her husband, Alonzo, and their two boys, Aidan and Josiah. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.