Paul Nelson is a middle school teacher, a widower, and the parent of Michael, “an amazing 18-year-old son with autism,” as Paul describes him. Michael has inspired Paul to write a series of young adult/adult fiction books, which Pace University is now using as required reading for their undergraduate Special Education students. Hear what Paul has to say, read an excerpt from one of his books, and watch a video interview . . .
Writing Through Autistic Eyes
In 2013, after a 16-year battle with lupus, my wife, Cynthia passed away. Our son, Michael, had been diagnosed with autism in 2000. Michael is mostly non-verbal, with moderately severe autism. After Cynthia’s death, I thought long and hard about how Michael saw what was happening in his life. I knew I wanted to write young adult fiction, aimed at teaching tolerance and acceptance. I decided to write a book from Michael’s point-of-view, and Through Fisher’s Eyes: An Autism Adventure was born. I tried very hard to write this book as Michael might, if he were able. I wanted to show his struggles, but I also wanted to show his amazing abilities. So, I made the book a fantasy work, where Michael, (Fisher) and his autistic friends, discovered that they had super powers. Together, they used these powers to fight an evil gang in high school. The book contains many episodes from my daily life with Michael, and many fantastic adventures.
I wanted to keep writing. I wrote the second book, Dark Spectrum, from the point-of-view of the evil character in the first book. (Jonah) Dark Spectrum was my absolute favorite to write. It continues the story, and is filled with ghosts, demons, civil war heroes, and a huge battle in Gettysburg, PA. I wanted this book to appeal to young male readers, because many young men in central Pennsylvania, where we live, are not encouraged to be tolerant and caring. Thus, Michael and I have had some real challenges in this area.
Michael loved it when I read to him from the first two books, so I kept going, and wrote A Problem With the Moon. This third book is told with an emphasis on many of my experiences, and feelings, as a care giver. It features aliens, a mysterious figure named Triptych, and a large, burly Pennsylvania Mountain Man, named Mountain John. It portrays the importance of people with disabilities in the world. (In many ways, I believe that people with autism are the “normal” ones, and most of us are plain crazy.)
Michael and I continue to have many daily adventures. He is my rock, and the hero of my life. I’ve never found his autism to be a “curse.” Sure, we’ve had challenges, but he has changed the way I see life for the better. He’s opened my heart, and made me a far better person. I wouldn’t trade my life with my autistic son for anything in the universe . . . and beyond.
Video interview with Paul on Autism Live
(Paul’s segment, in which he’s accompanied by Michael, is toward the end of the program.)
Click to buy Paul’s books on Amazon.