Autism is a super power in Wheathampstead mum's first book
- Credit: Joanna Hansler
A mother-turned-author has transformed her son's autism into a super power in her first book.
Wheathampstead resident Jo Hansler, 41, used her experiences with son Logan, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2013, as the inspiration for her quirky book The World According to Billy, which was released the week before World Autism Day this Friday (April 2).
"We have always encouraged our children to celebrate difference, and to embrace the uniqueness in people. My son doesn’t view his autism as a disability, in fact, he says it’s his super power!"
Jo previously worked as a one-to-one support worker at Bernard’s Heath Infants School and in January started a new role as an SEND family support worker with Hertsmere Schools Partnership, experiences which helped her ensure the book will work well both in an education setting and for families who have children with additional needs.
She explained how she has always told bedtime stories to sons Logan and Cae about their fictitious alter egos Billy and Wally to ensure they finished the day on a high and help them cope with any anxieties.
"I decided to start writing my stories down and obviously because the characters are based on my boys, the stories include all of their wonderful quirks.
"I’ve written five stories in total, but it wasn’t until lockdown presented some time, that would otherwise have been jam-packed with crazy life stuff, that I decided to finally turn my first story into a book. Fast forward a year and The World According To Billy was born."
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Jo wanted to use her writing to raise awareness of autism, and said her self-published book is a gentle way of introducing inclusion to a younger generation, encouraging them to not just accept differences, but to celebrate them.
"Logan could read before he could talk; at the age of 2, if we showed him a bunch of written words and asked him to identify a particular word he would point to it. He became fascinated with words and numbers and his memory was incredible.
"When Logan was five years old, we began to be able to have conversations with him and this is when we told him about his autism.
"This conversation and knowing the right time to have it, can be tricky, but it was important that when we told Logan he was autistic, we focussed on all of the amazing things he could do that most people could not. This is when Logan started telling people that he has a 'super brain' and he’s right, he does!"
The World According to Billy is the first instalment in The Sensory Superstar series and Jo is hoping to release her second book later this year.
After the postman delivered the first copy of the book on Friday, she took it with her when she collected Skyswood School pupil Logan.
"Logan’s face lit up like sunshine when he saw what I was holding, he couldn’t wait to show his classmates and they were all super excited for him. Logan said it was the best day of his life and the first time that people had crowded around him. He is beyond excited that he is 'famous' and can’t wait to start doing TV interviews!
"I’ve been overwhelmed at the amazing response I have received. I have already been contacted by local charities that would like to work with me and have been invited to read my book at a family festival."
Jo has an Instagram page - @thesensorysuperstar - that is full of positivity about autism and offers advice to other parents who may be on a similar path, including invaluable tips that she has picked up along the way.
The book is available now direct from publishers Troubador at The World According To Billy - Troubador Book Publishing and will be available on Amazon and Waterstones from April 28, which is the official publication date.