Welcome, Ms. West. This is such a wonderful story, I can't help but wonder at what kind of personal experience you might have with autism. Would you mind sharing that with us?
I have high-functioning autism, so I guess you could say I have the most personal kind of experience with autism anyone could have. Writing The Key to Charlotte gave me the opportunity to share an inside look at autism from the perspective of an autistic. Because of being on the autism spectrum myself, I was able to draw on my own experiences and the way I perceive the world to make Charlotte more realistic.
I don't do spoilers, but there's a scene in your story where someone is trying to help Charlotte calm down, to back off from the sensory overload of the noises and odors at a gathering of a lot of people. Is this typical of people with autism at most levels? And if so, is this one of the things that a doctor of some sort usually helps them to learn coping mechanisms for? or is it usually learned at a more personal level?
Sensory overload is a fairly common occurrence among people on the autism spectrum. Essentially, autism affects the way people filter sensory input. Most people can filter out the unimportant information in a given situation and let in only what is important. For autistics, those filters tend to be reduced or nonexistent, which means they may take in all of the information instead of just some of it. Gatherings of any kind can be a very overwhelming experience, but how overwhelming it is depends on the individual. There are therapies available to help with sensory integration, but most of the coping mechanisms are learned through life experience.
I realize that there are many different levels of autism, but the mention of how touch bothers her...how extreme or common is that?
Sensitivity to touch is a fairly common sensory integration issue among autistics of all functioning levels. Some may feel severe pain from a light touch, others may feel extremely uncomfortable with something as simple as a handshake, and still others may have no issue with touch at all. As with everything else concerning the autism spectrum, sensitivity to touch and other sensory input varies by the individual. What one may find unbearable, another may have no problem with or even enjoy. For a more detailed description of what sensory integration issues can feel like, I wrote an article on the topic for KnowABit.com (http://knowabit.com/2010/12/
Wow. This is why I love to read. It doesn't matter what genre I'm reading, I can learn something from almost any story. Thank you for sharing so much with us! Now let's share some of the book with them!
Charlotte Harris can't speak due to a quirk in her autistic brain, but that doesn't stop her from communicating with others. Unfortunately, it prevents her from achieving two of her dreams--to praise God through singing and to carry on a simple conversation with her own voice.Zakaria Rush is the new Director of Children's Ministries at Charlotte's church, and he can't keep his thoughts off the partially mute blonde with a love for guitar music. Her innocence and love of the simple things in life intrigue him and make him long to give her what she wants more than anything: her voice.
Can Zakaria help Charlotte find the key to unlocking her ability to speak, or will his attempt to help her only lock away their chance for love?
Charlotte switched off the vacuum and breathed a sigh of relief. The silence in the small church was pure bliss. She pulled the plug from the wall and coiled the cord around the top of the vacuum, then returned it to the janitorial closet in the basement. Turning around, she pulled out her cell phone and checked for reminders.
Take the rag bucket home.Yes, she needed to wash the rags and kitchen towels. She returned the phone to her pocket and grabbed the bucket handle. As she headed upstairs, she heard the sound of a guitar coming from the sanctuary. Was someone playing a CD? It sounded like live music, but she’d never heard anyone in the church play a guitar.
Drawn by the soothing strains of the strings, she turned right at the top of the stairs.
No one ever came in the church while she was cleaning. The entire congregation knew her schedule—Tuesday and Saturday afternoons—and they always made sure to come at a different time. Charlotte had never been sure if it was because they didn’t want to get in her way or if her parents had talked to them about the importance of routine for her. When she was little, she’d gotten upset by people showing up unannounced, but now that she was twenty‐three, she liked to think she could handle surprises a little better.She peered through the open doorway and saw a man sitting on the edge of the platform by the plain wooden altar playing a battered acoustic guitar.
Her breath caught in her throat and her heart raced as she studied him. Not only was he a talented musician, he was gorgeous, more gorgeous than anyone she’d ever seen in this small Indiana town. His black hair was a little shaggy but stylish; his straight nose, high cheekbones, and tan complexion made her think of Native Americans and Italians; his lean build clothed in faded blue jeans, an olive green T‐shirt, and worn‐in sneakers made him look laid back. Peace filled his face as he strummed his guitar. The corners of his mouth turned up slightly, making Charlotte wonder if the sound of a guitar brought him as much joy as it did her.
Suddenly, he stopped playing and looked up at her. She tightened her grasp on the bucket handle.
He studied her with the most beautiful, warm brown eyes she’d ever seen. His smile caused her heart to flutter. “Hi there. Are you Charlotte?”
He didn’t seem to mind that she shifted her weight back and forth. Just as well. If she didn’t rock to release it, the nervous energy building under his gaze would make her cry.
“Pastor Ed told me I might run into you if I came this afternoon. I’m Zakaria Rush, the new director of children’s ministries.” He laid his guitar across his knees and chuckled, a deep, rich sound that warmed Charlotte clear through. “It’s a fancy title for a guy who didn’t want to grow up and found a way to turn it into a career.”
5 star Review
What a wonderful story! With just a glimpse into the heart and mind of someone who has to deal with the world a little differently, I felt like Ms. West shared a piece of God's love through her story. The pure emotion shared by Charlotte and Zak was like a cleansing rain on a hot summer day. She helped me see the world through the eyes of a truly innocent heart. What a glorious vision that is!
Well done, Ms. West! I loved it!
To celebrate the release of The Key to Charlotte, Ms. West is giving a copy to two lucky commenters on this blog tour. The rules are simple. Between October 28 and November 6, leave a comment on any of my blog tour stops (including this post) with your name and email address letting me know you want to be entered into the drawing. You can find a complete list of the blog tour stops on my blog http://thewestcorner.