Mt. Juliet author D.G. Driver held a presentation on autism Thursday afternoon at the Lebanon Public Library.
Driver’s new book, “No One Needed to Know” is aimed at readers 8-13 years old and focuses on an 11-year-old girl named Heidi who deals with the pressures and responsibilities of having an older autistic brother.
Heidi sees her brother bullied by children in the neighborhood and worries if her friends find out about him she will get bullied, too. She’s often impatient with her brother and blames him for when things go so badly for her at school.
But, Heidi also needs to learn more about her brother’s condition and ultimately teach others why he’s special and how to be kind to all people with special needs.
In her presentation, Driver said that while it’s often hard to pinpoint the inspiration from her books, this one comes directly from her personal experience.
“When I’m writing books that are about mermaids and shape shifting orcas, it’s a little bit harder to say,” said Driver. “But, for this book, it’s not. This book came straight out of my life. My brother, Joe, is four years older than me, and he is autistic. So, I looked back at the time when I was 11 or 12 years old and the feelings that I had and the experiences that I was having, and I pulled from that to create this story.”
Driver stressed that it’s not an autobiography, and a lot of the events in the book are made up, nevertheless, some of it did happen to her. Outside of writing, Driver currently works as a special education teacher.
“I, my whole career, have worked with special needs kids,” said Driver.
In her presentation, Driver explained what autism is and how it can affect people who are diagnosed with it.
“Autism is a neurological disorder, which means it affects the brain and the way the brain works,” said Driver. “It is not an illness. It is not something you can catch, like the flu. There’s not a cure for it. Autism usually causes difficulty with social interactions. So, people who are autistic have a hard time relating to other people. They may not be able to read your emotions. They might not be able to read things like sarcasm. They might not be able to look at your face and understand things you’re trying to say to them. They’re very literal.”
Driver went on to talk about bullying and how it can affect not just those with autism, but everyone.
“My brother was bullied,” said Driver. “We used to have the same bus stop. He went to a different school than I did because he was older, but our bus stop was the same. So, we would walk there, it was a good four blocks away, and we always had to pass by this boy’s house and every day he would call my brother a really bad name. It was hurtful, and I didn’t like it. I knew that guy later in high school and he tried to be my friend and he tried to be my friend on Facebook and I won’t let him, even to this day.”
Books about teaching empathy and kindness to children are gaining in popularity. For that reason, “No One Needed to Know” won the 2017 Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Silver Medal for Best Preteen Fiction. The novel also won the 2017 Purple Dragonfly Children’s Book Award and the 2017 Human Relations Indie Book Gold Medal Award for Special Needs Awareness in Children’s Fiction.
Driver is a familiar face in Lebanon. She performed in the Centerstage Theatre Co. productions of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Father of the Bride” last year and she directed “Miracle on 34th Street,” which was performed at Winfree Bryant Middle School.
She has been a published author for more than 20 years, and she is a teacher at an inclusive child development center in Nashville. To learn more about Driver and her books, visit dgdriver.com.
By Jacob Smith