BOONE — Santa Claus probably gets his fair share of interesting requests. But one 7-year-old little sister left Santa with a thought-provoking question.
“Can you bring my brother’s words back?” author Patricia Taylor said of her then-7-year-old daughter, Addi, now 11. “The look on the Santa’s face was kind of priceless. Obviously, he wasn’t expecting that.”
Charlie, Taylor’s eldest child, was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old, and is non-speaking.
Taylor said that she had a conversation with Addi about Charlie’s non-speaking communication and thought she had answered all of her questions —until the Santa interaction.
Now, Taylor, based in Crozet, Va., has written “Runaway Words,” illustrated by Wendy Leach, a children’s book inspired by the inquisitive people around her wanting to know just what happened to Charlie’s words.
“I always have a special place in my heart for kids’ books,” Taylor said. “I love books just in general, all genres. If you saw my house, I have an obscene amount of books in here. I still remember the picture books that I love. If my mom tried to skip a line, I would know she was skipping a line. When you’re young … some of these stories really become a part of your childhood.”
Charlie uses a letter board to communicate, as well as body language, facial expressions, gestures and a photo exchange communication system application for tablets.
Taylor has visited her youngest son, Enzo, and his preschool class to read from “Runaway Words” and teach Enzo and classmates about interacting with people with disabilities, and that there are many more communication forms than speaking.
“There’s not enough out there for kids to start seeing (disability),” Taylor said. “If it’s not someone you interact with regularly, they don’t understand ‘why does this person not talk?’”
Taylor will offer two book signings for “Runaway Words” at Mast General Store in Boone from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 19 and 20.
“Runaway Words” can be purchased at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, IndieBound and on Taylor’s personal BookShop page at store.bookbaby.com/book/runaway-words.
“It doesn’t have to be autism-specific,” Taylor said of her book. “It is a children’s book, but it’s good for generating discussion at a variety of age levels. There’s a lot of other disabilities and disorders and things that impact communication than just autism. It’s more inclusive of people with cerebral palsy who can’t talk, traumatic brain injury and all kinds of things.”