My oldest brother went to middle school way across town because it had the best special education program. It had a year-round schedule, so my parents pulled me out of my walking-distance elementary school and plopped me into a year-round school also pretty far from home. He and I had to take the bus every day, different buses but the same bus stop. Our bus stop was five blocks away from home. (And yes, every time my daughter whines about taking the bus to school, I pull the whole “I had to walk five blocks…” shtick. I can’t say there was snow because I lived in sunny southern California.)
Along the way every morning, my brother and I passed this boy. He was my age, but that didn’t stopping him from taunting my older brother on a regular basis. He was often calling him the r-word. Sometimes he’d aim his insults at me too. Oh, I hate that word. I hate how it has become part of the regular lexicon of young people today. It gives me shivers to this day. Anyway, I used to have this wish – that I could grow super tall, like Attack of the 50-foot Woman tall, and step over all the houses to get to my bus stop. Then I’d shrink to normal size again. If I could do this, we could avoid that boy’s house and the name-calling.
How the Book Came to Be
A little over a decade ago I was under a 3-book contract with a tiny publisher. I had already published two historical children’s novels with them, and I was struggling to come up with a new story. Although everything I had written up to that point in my career was either fantasy, horror, or historical fiction, I got a notion to write something personal. So, I dredged up my memories of all that bullying of my brother (and some different bullying that I personally went through in 6th grade) and cobbled it into a children’s book about bullying and autism. It was published in 2004.
That publisher was one of the pioneer print-on-demand and ebook publishers. This was when ebooks were a disk that was mailed to your house and POD books fell apart after one or two readings. Needless to say, the publisher went out of business soon after my novel came out. My book had a short life and died in anonymity.
A Book Gets a Second Life
In 2014, a new publisher, Schoolwide Inc., was looking for books for their new digital subscription book line, and they were open to previously published books. I pulled out that dusty old novel and did a big rewrite, updating the story, and submitted it. The book was accepted and went through two more major revisions. We gave it a new title. At long last, it was published last December.
My editor reminded me that Schoolwide had only purchased the ebook rights to the book, and I still owned the print rights. Well, I had a professionally edited novel, so what else was there to do but get it printed? With help from a lot of indie authors, I put all the pieces together and was able to release my novel, No One Needed to Know, through Amazon in January.
No One Needed to Know
No One Needed to Know is about an 11-year-old girl who has an Autistic brother 4 years older than her. They don’t go to the same school, so she has never bothered to tell any of her friends about her brother being ‘different’. Frankly, she didn’t really notice he was ‘different’ until recently. When she was younger, she just had fun playing with him. Now, however, she’s becoming aware that a 16-year-old boy shouldn’t probably be playing pretend at the park with his younger sister. He should be interested in older things, and he shouldn’t be bullied by boys that are younger than him.
Sure enough, when one of her girlfriends visits her home, she meets Donald and has to tell all the other kids at school about him. Now Heidi is being bullied too. Is she like him? Does it run in the family? The meanness makes her angry, and she takes it out on her brother. Her punishment for being a brat involves an enlightening experience, and what she learns from it give her an idea of how to get the kids at school to learn how to be kind and tolerant of special needs students.
Learning about Autism
When my brother and I were in school, I didn’t know he was Autistic. We were kids long before Autism became included as a special education category. He was declared “brain damaged” by his doctor and teachers. What a horrible diagnosis! He’s high functioning on the spectrum, and I wasn’t fully aware of why he behaved the way he did until my mother (an assistant teacher in special education preschool) and myself (also a teacher in special education) pooled our knowledge and figured it out.
I have worked with special needs students since 1991, and I’ve been in my current teaching position in an early intervention program for almost twelve years. One of the biggest differences between the novel of 2004 and the one that exists now is the amount of knowledge I was able to add to it. Also, at the end of the book, I’ve provided some resources about Autism, Siblings of Autism, Bullying, and fighting use of the r-word.
As for that boy, the one that bullied my brother every day? Well, my senior year in high school, he turned out to be a pretty decent human – to me anyway – with no apparent memory of what he did to my brother. Still, when he went to ‘friend’ me on Facebook a couple years ago, I hit ‘delete’. I forgive him, but I haven’t forgotten. Now he’s a bad guy in my book.
About D. G. Driver
D. G. Driver is an award-winning author of Young Adult and Middle Grade novels and is a member of SCBWI. She likes writing about diversity and social or environmental issues. Her work is usually contemporary fantasy. She lives near Nashville and is a teacher in an inclusive classroom of typically developing and special needs children in an early intervention program. When she’s not writing or teaching, she might be found singing and acting in a local community theater musical with members of her talented family.
Her most recent book, No One Needed to Know, is a children’s novel about bullying and autism. (The link to the book also takes you to info on how to get a Schoolwide Inc. Zing! subscription.) You can get No One Needed to Know on Amazon.