April is Autism Awareness Month, and Mt. Juliet children’s author D.G. Driver recently released a new book for anyone looking to learn more about autism.
She will speak about autism and read from her book, “No One Needed to Know,” on April 8 at 2 p.m. at the Linebaugh Library in Murfreesboro.
“No One Needed to Know” is a story about an 11-year-old girl who learns to deal with the pressures and responsibilities that come with having an older autistic brother. The book is targeted toward readers 8-13 years old, and is based loosely on Driver’s personal experiences growing up with an autistic older brother.
“I always enjoyed playing make-believe with my brother and hanging out with him at the park,” Driver said. “When I turned 12, I stopped wanting to play that way anymore, and he, at 16, still did. That’s when I began to understand how different my brother was from the other kids his age.”
Driver decided to write a book to which other children who are siblings of autism or other challenges might relate.
In “No One Needed to Know,” Heidi sees her brother bullied by children in the neighborhood. She worries that if her friends find out about him, she will get bullied, too. So, the book is also about how to handle bullying.
Driver said she was bullied in sixth grade but not about her brother. Still, she used her memories of that hard time to create the tough scenes in the novel, and she also used some of her experiences as a teacher in special education for scenes toward the end.
Courtney Morgan, a literacy coordinator with United Way, was an early reader of the novel.
“Heidi is one of the more convincing 11-year-old characters that I have read in recent times,” Morgan said. “She is smart, passionate, caring, athletic and yet still has the flaws that make her a convincing, well-rounded character. Throughout the story, Heidi has many struggles that readers can relate to as she is grappling to understand life, especially her brother, who isn’t quite like every other 16-year-old… “Consequently, as you read through the scenes of this book, you can feel the love, confusion and cringe-worthy moments that come along with self discovery and a preteen’s introduction to the encroaching awareness of other’s opinions.”
Driver is a multi-award-winning author of young adult and middle-grade novels. She likes to write about diverse characters dealing with social and environmental issues. She has written articles for Autism Society of East Tennessee, Geek Club Books and Multicultural Children’s Book Day, among others, and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has lived in Mt. Juliet for nine years.
In addition to writing, she is the lead teacher of the infant classroom at a child development center in Nashville that helps special needs children alongside their typically developing peers. She is also a performer and will be in a production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” alongside her husband, with Center Stage Theater Co. in May in Lebanon.