Adonya WongAs a parent to a child with autism, Adonya Wong understands the unique challenges and rewards that responsibility entails.

As an author, Adonya hopes to share that experience with others affected by autism and those wanting to learn more about it.

Her first book, In My Mind: The World Through The Eyes of Autism, creatively explores the inner world of an autistic child  through the form of a children’s picture book.

From exciting adventures to silly games and conversations with imaginary friends, the main character of the story — inspired by Adonya’s son, Nicholas — brings readers into his world.

In doing so, he demonstrates how one child with autism sees the world, and, in turn, how the world often sees a child with autism.

Adonya’s motivation for writing her book stemmed from the realization that there was a scarcity of literature directed to and written for autistic children and their families.

In My Mind was written to help raise awareness about autism, and she hopes that the reader will gain a deeper sense of compassion and tolerance for those “different” than themselves.

To help promote her book, Adonya has  launched a “Globe Trottin’ for Autism” vrtual book tour starting on January 19 and concluding on January 29, 2009. During the tour, 11 different blogs will promote In My Mind and feature her answers to questions about life with autism, writing, the publishing process, and discussing future projects.

Along with insightful interviews, you can read reviews of In My Mind and listen to an audio interview by Autism Hangout. To learn more about the book you van watch the following video:

I came to know Adonya during the December 16, 2008 Autism Twitter Day. As a result, I was invited to participate in this unique marketing initiative. This blog entry represents day 2 of the 11 scheduled stops.

As part of my participation in this unique event, I had an opportunity to ask Adonya some questions. I asked her about issues relevant to the themes of this blog: social media, education and autism (an issue of great personal significance to me).

Below are my questions and her answers — please feel free to post any questions you might have for Adonya in the comments section of this blog:

1. Tell me more about your son, Nicholas: what does he like to do, what are his strengths, what are his dreams? In what ways is Nicholas an inspiration and teacher to you?

Nicholas is an avid reader and quite the talented artist.  We go through about 6 Doodle Pros a year, so, hopefully, Fisher Price will see this post and send me vouchers once a month or quarter.  He also enjoys the computer to the point where, some nights, he gets a little teary eyed when told to shut it down.

Early last year, I stumbled upon a nifty little application, Zac Browser, and it has really opened up the Internet for him in ways I couldn’t have imagined.  The creator, Jon LeSieur, has a grandson on the spectrum, and he developed this application to simplify his web experience, thereby, making it more enjoyable for him.  I’m grateful he decided to share it with the world.  I highly recommend it!

I wish I knew what Nicholas’s dreams were.  He doesn’t always speak conversationally and his cognition of such a complex question is a bit low.  Whatever his dreams may be, I’m sure they’re grand.

I credit Nicholas for being my grounding source.  I feel that his presence in my life has made me more patient, tolerant and empathetic of others.  With every new day, I learn to just “be” and go with the flow.

He often tells me, “It’s okay, Mom” as he wraps his arms around me, and it is in these moments that I truly know that everything is going to be okay.

2. In what ways do you think you book can be used to educate and inform people not affected or touched by autism about what it is like to live with a diagnosis?

I initially didn’t write the book to educate folks since being a writer wasn’t even anything I was contemplating at that time in my life.  I didn’t even realize I had a story in me until I finished typing out the words to In My Mind.  The book, literally, came to me in a flash.  Some would say it was Divine Intervention!

As for me?  Couldn’t really say, but apparently, I am supposed to share my life’s experiences which is why I’m here today, talking about my first published work.

The book has been read by several people not “living” with autism and based on their responses, I can say that my book is shedding a different kind of light on the mind’s of those looking into our world.  In My Mind is a perception-based book.  People are often too quick to judge what they see without looking for the deeper/hidden meaning behind someone’s actions.

It is my wish that my book will get folks to stop the judgments and be more accepting of those perceived as being “different” than themselves.

3. What role did social media play in the production and/or promotion of your book: did you use any specific websites/services to develop ideas for your book and which websites/services are you using to market your book?

Social Media has played a huge part in promoting my book — it seems to be the current trend in getting people to notice you or your accomplishments.  Shortly after I received word that my book would be published, I put up a presence on MySpace and Facebook.

I have since added several Ning networks (most of them dealing with either writing/published authors and autism) to that list as well as Twitter (which is how I met you, my friend).

I also have a website that I put up shortly before the book’s pre-release.

4. For the aspiring published authors out there (myself included), describe the process by which you found and were signed by your publisher. Also explain what the writing and production process was like — in what ways was the Internet part of that process?

Finding a publisher was easy.  Although, I didn’t choose the self-publishing route, I did get signed on by a Print-On-Demand publisher.  Getting published the traditional way meaning going with a well-established and widely recognized (by way of their name) publisher requires money (finding a literary agent) and, oftentimes, years of walking the grounds.

My publisher has lowered the percentage of manuscripts they choose for publication from 4 to 3.5%.  My experience with them, so far, has been positive.

My suggestion to an aspiring author is to get your story on paper.  Then join groups like Critique Circle and get others to mull over your work.  Now, this is not something for the faint at heart.  If you’re someone who doesn’t like criticism in any form, I suggest you choose another path.

Anyhoo, some of the members of Critique Circle are editors, and I’ve read of a few people getting signed because of their relationship with these folks via this platform.

I didn’t use the internet to help me with my book as I am living with someone on the spectrum.  I had my everday experiences to fuel my writing.  Children’s fiction is my genre of choice, and I don’t anticipate having to do any “outside” research for any of my work.

I recently purchased a book by successful self-published author John Kremer titled 1001 Ways to Market Your Books.  I am also a member of his Ning network, Book Marketing.

5. Will the book have any kind of online companion presence, perhaps a resource site for parents and other interested individuals?

My website is a work in progress.  However, I do offer links to sites that have been helpful to me over the years.  I will be updating it soon with writing/publishing information.  But I anticipate that happening after my site goes through a redesign. I will, however, be adding worksheets for children that I hope will stimulate their imagination and encourage them to follow their dreams.

Special thanks to Adonya for writing her beautiful book and including this blog in her Virtual Book Tour!  If you have questions of your own about In My Mind, please leave them in the comments section of this blog, below.

Also be sure to visit the next stop on the Virtual Book Tour, The Bon Bon Gazette, where Adonya will answer additional questions.  While you’re there be sure to place your daily entry for her giveaway.

To enter, simply comment about your relationship with autism, what you are doing to raise awareness, and how In My Mind has touched your life. Be sure to visit all of her stops to qualify for this amazing prize!

One lucky reader will win a gift basket containing an autographed copy of In My Mind, a copy of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wish You Knew, packages of Enjoy Life™ and Namaste Foods™ goodies, an eco-friendly cleaning starter kit (Whole Foods® 365™ brand), and (1) $50 Amazon.com gift card!!  This prize is valued at $200!!!

To learn more about In My Mind and what it’s like to live with autism, visit Adonya’s website or her blogIn My Mind is available online at Amazon.com, Books-A-Million.com, Borders.comTarget.comTate Publishing and coming soon to a bookstore near you! Note that a portion of the author’s proceeds benefit Tulsa Autism Foundation.

You might also want to visit the other stops on the Virtual Book Tour:

So, what’s in your mind about autism now?

A belated reminder that Autism Twitter Day is now underway on Twitter.com!

autism-twitter-dayThis unqiue online event is focused no raising “positive autism awareness.” Prizes are also being given out and virtual “panel discussions” have been scheduled for 9AM, 12:30 PM and 8 PM (Pacific Standard Time).

Who can participate? Twitter members who are members of the Autism community or anyone with a direct or indirect connection to Autism (parent, sibling,  relative, teacher, therapist, friend).

When posting a tweet, use the hashtag “#ASD.”  To follow the conversation, open a browser to www.summize.com and input #ASD.

Reply to any tweet of interest or relevance to you and add to the conversation! And, even if you don’t get there today, you can still search the hashtag and learn about Autism at any point in the future.

Aside from my personal interest in better understanding Autism, I am also drawn to the implications of it from a social media research perspective.  I am eager to see what I will learn from it and how it might further strengthen the role of social media in our daily lives.

For additional information, visit http://autismfamily.tumblr.com or head on over to Twitter – my username is @doctorious.  Tweet you there!

Two years ago, on August 2, 2006, my world was forever changed.

Autism AwarenessIt was on that day when my older son, Jacob, was officially diagnosed with autism. By the time we received the official diagnosis it was clear that he was on the spectrum, but the official diagnosis really made everything “real.”

Prior to that point we had enrolled Jacob in occupational and speech therapy classes (at our own expense) to help him learn to more effectively communicate.

He had minimal language, but was more prone to pointing to things he wanted. More commonly, he would take our hands and guide us to what he wanted.

Jacob’s diagnosis allowed us to receive a vast array of services — free of charge — through our Regional Center, a quasi-governmental agency that connects children with special needs with qualified providers. The main service we receive for Jacob is a one-on-one therapy called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Jacob qualifies for 40 hours a week of services — which now are divided between his time in school and the ABA he receives at home.

After approximately a year with one vendor who we found to be highly disorganized and unprofessional, we were fortunate to change agencies. Jacob now receives his ABA therapy from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) — a worldwide leader in the field founded by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh. We have also explored alternative biomedical treatments and experimented with a gluten and casein-free diet.

Without question the past two years have been beyond hard — I could have never imagined our family would have been confronted with so many life changing and life threatening situations. In early 2006, as it was becoming increasingly clear that Jacob was dealing with something more significant than speech delay, his younger brother, Max, was born six weeks premature with a host of life-threatening challenges of his own.

For Max, basic survival was the main issue — he nearly died three times in as many months and I even gave him CPR — on my birthday of all days — after he stopped breathing, turned grey and went limp. We spent weeks in hospitals with him, NICUs, PICUs, Children’s Hospital, you name it. All the while we knew that Jacob needed more help than we were able to give him.

The experience drained us emotionally, financially and physically. Having one special needs child is one thing, having two really tests you. We sometimes refer to Jacob and Max as our “million dollar babies,” because the direct and indirect medical care they have both received in the past two years has easily totaled $1 million or more. Fortunately we had insurance, but unfortunately, our insurer was adept at finding all sorts of clever reasons why they were not liable for paying for various treatments.

However, despite the multitude of challenges we have faced in the past two years both Max and Jacob have made tremendous improvements. By most accounts they have both beaten the odds and continue to surpass expectations.

Although he still has a ways to go, Jacob is now very talkative and interactive. He is full of joy and has an impressive ability to play with words and exhibit creative thinking. Max is a gregarious fireball who has a lust for life that is inspirational — he is the kind of person who other people want to be near. I admire them both tremendously and know that they are my strength.

I now feel that I have my sons back and am finally able to experience something close to “normal,” whatever that really is! I can now imagine what it will be like in another two years and am excited and hopeful about the potential both boys have.