8 February 2016

Author Spotlight: Deborah Brownson

Today's author spotlight comes to you from Deborah Brownson, a mother of two boys with Asperger’s Syndrome. Her book, He's Not Naughty, is ideal for those who have just had a diagnosis of Autism. Although created for children of all ages and abilities, this 67 page fully illustrated book, is a quick and fun way of explaining to family, friends and classmates why children with autism behave the way they do. It has also been well received by health professionals and teachers too. Coupled with the distinctive talents of illustrator Ben Mason, who has Asperger’s Syndrome himself, this book provides a unique visual representation of what it’s truly like to have autism. To keep the attention of young children, Jake’s favourite toy Ted Ted has been hidden on every page of the book and on Deborah's website.

Please read on to find out more about the wonderful Deborah and all her hard work for people with Autism.

1. So first things first, tell me a little bit about yourself and your family?
My name is Deborah Brownson, I’m 40 years old and am lucky to live in a small village in the Lake District in the United Kingdom. I live with my husband, two sons and our cocker-spaniel Loki. Before I became a mother I worked as a Solicitor in Manchester for over 10 years.

2. What made you decide to write a book based on Autism?
My childhood dreams of motherhood didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned. After years of turmoil, stress, medical appointments, school meetings and an ocean full of tears, both of my beautiful sons were diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

As is often the case with this condition, it didn’t end there. My eldest son was also diagnosed with ADHD. My youngest son was also diagnosed with ADHD, an extreme Sensory Processing Disorder, Sleep Disorder including frequent horrific night terrors, a gluten intolerance, some Tourette’s Syndrome ticks and is currently under investigation for Dyspraxia. A veritable cocktail of medical conditions all bouncing around under one roof with sleep-deprived, exhausted and stressed out parents trying to keep it all together, living two hours away from our nearest relative, whilst my husband worked four jobs in order to keep me at home caring for our boys.

After diagnosis I was devastated, overwhelmed and crippled with worry about what the future would hold for them. I thought gaining a diagnosis would be the turning point for our family, but sadly it wasn’t. We got a label, but as is often the case, no help.

The title for the book, ‘He’s not naughty!’ was born out of utter frustration at the never ending disapproving looks as one or both of my sons had public meltdowns. If anyone could spend a day watching, feeling and understanding how hard life can be caring for a child with autism or indeed being a child with the condition, then they may think twice before making judgments. Sadly that can’t happen, so I thought I'll write a book.

3. What's the story behind your illustrator Ben?
Often having wondered how my children’s minds worked, I searched high and low for two years to find a talented illustrator who had also been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, in order to give a true visual representation of what it’s truly like to have autism. I found that in Ben Mason. He was recommended to me by a lady who was giving therapy to my son. She had been Ben’s teacher when he was the same age as my son and she said they were very similar to each other. I also thought that Ben’s success would give hope to parents like me, as Ben is an illustration graduate from the University of Central Lancashire. He was like my son but went onto graduate from university and has produced 67 of the most insightful illustrations I’ve ever seen on autism.

4. Did you have any help writing this book?
The project took over four years to complete with invaluable input from other parents, grand-parents, teachers, teaching assistants, Educational Psychologists, Consultant Paediatricians, Child Psychiatrists, Child Psychologists, School Sencos and even the Clinical Director for Children’s Community Health Services in Cumbria, so although I may have been at the helm, it was a team effort.

5. So where can we buy this fantastic book of yours?
You can download an E-book and purchase a printed book from our website:
www.hesnotnaughty.co.uk. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram too and I also share my experiences on Blogger. All links to those can be found on my website. I have also set up a support group on Facebook called Autism Support UK, which gives parents immediate 24 hour access to advice and support from people living the same life as them.

6. Are there any new books in the pipeline?
No new books as yet, however I plan to commission a whole range of ‘He’s not naughty!’ merchandise to remind all those surrounding your child that they have autism.

7. What advice would you give to the other Autism parents out there?
My hope is that my book will help everyone surrounding a child with autism understand him or her better and also that parents receiving a diagnosis of Autism don’t feel like it’s the end of the world, but see that it’s the start of a new and very colourful chapter in their lives.

My book helps explain why children with autism behave the way they do. If everyone around the child understands them, life can be good. Sadly even children with Autism who can speak, often cannot communicate effectively. This book does that for them. I don’t want any child to be placed in the heart-breaking position Jake was in ever again and if it helps just one child, then I’m happy.

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