TweetHello, my name is Benjamin Kellogg, and I am a 27-year-old author from New York State, USA. I also have autism, a neurological condition that has greatly affected my life.
Autism is an overriding factor in my everyday activities, from basic movement to effective communication, to how I process information, and how I associate with my family, friends, and environment. I have been able to compensate for much of how this condition has challenged me with help from a wonderful support system of my parents, teachers, therapists, and others who helped me improve myself physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and in countless other ways. I am grateful for everything they have done.
Communication was incredibly difficult for me when I was a boy. I could not get the words out to fully express how I was feeling, what I needed, or what I wanted to do. In my early years, screaming and biting were the best I could manage, hardly ideal for any meaningful conversation. Conversations were impossible for me to engage in without becoming frustrated. I did not know how to start and end one, take turns with the other speaker(s), and other social niceties. In speech class and with the help of my parents and the many support people around me, I learned better ways to communicate peaceably and slowly began to gain a solid command of language and meaning. I do feel more comfortable with writing my thoughts than speaking, but real-world interactions are no longer as much of a challenge.
Movement was arguably even worse. My gross and fine motor skills were severely underdeveloped for many years. This led to all kinds of problems I needed help with daily. Balance issues created a myriad of problems for me as I would fall down frequently. I had little arm and hand strength. I remember having the most trouble with tying my shoelaces. With very little control of my fingers, I could not perform the most rudimentary steps in the shoe-tying process. I relied on shoes with Velcro fasteners for more years than I probably should have, and, well into my teenage days, my parents had to help me tie my shoes before we left the house. It was many years before I could tie my sneakers on my own. Even today, after years of therapy and practice have enabled me to gain muscle tone, smooth out my motor skills, and gain control of many subtle movements, I still find some actions awkward and somewhat tedious. It is clear to me that there will always be more work to be done regarding my motor planning, but as with everything else in my life, I am willing to put in the hard work to improve myself.
These are but a few examples of the countless issues I had to negotiate on a daily basis when I was younger. Some still affect me today, but at least I am now aware of their effect on me and can prepare for them accordingly.
After I graduated from college, I decided that I would like to help other children with autism to learn the social and life skills I struggled to master when I was a child. For this purpose, I created a children’s book series called, “Noah and Logan Children’s Book Series.” These stories are about two young boys who, in each story, learn about a social or life skill.
There are five books in the series thus far: Noah and Logan Learn to Clean, Noah and Logan Learn to Share, Noah and Logan Learn to Tie Their Sneakers, Noah and Logan Learn to Care for Their Pets, and Noah and Logan Learn to Make New Friends. I am currently working on a sixth book in the series, Noah and Logan Learn to Use Their Manners. Noah and Logan are named after two of my young cousins who were born shortly before I created the series; in addition, I have added more characters for certain stories based on their cousins.
My writing is mostly a solitary endeavor, but for “Noah and Logan,” I collaborate with my mother, Theresa Kellogg, who draws the illustrations based on my ideas. For picture books such as the “Noah and Logan” stories, I feel it is vital that the text matches perfectly with the illustrations. I make sure each drawing shows everything being described by the text accurately and in a way that is easily understood by young readers. In addition, I have placed emphasis on “color” words that was a difficult concept for me to understand when I was a boy. In the text, these words are highlighted with the appropriate color and prominently displayed in the illustrations.
The response to the “Noah and Logan” series has been mostly positive and incredibly supportive. I have received feedback on several fronts, including parents and other family members of children on the autism spectrum, teachers, and therapists. The comments overall indicate that my stories have made a positive impact and have been helpful in teaching the skills represented in each book.
I am also working on several other writing projects at the moment. One upcoming endeavor is a book of poetry based on my life with autism. It will include all of my poems that have been published thus far, as well as many more based on parts of my life that I have not written about before or which I want to explore in more detail. These poems were among my first major works after I decided writing was my life’s calling; to me, they are personal and deeply meaningful, representing my innermost thoughts and concerns. I have had five poems published to date. For my first three poems, I was awarded a second-place International Naturally Autistic People Award in the Literary Arts category representing the United States of America at the ANCA World Autism Festival in Vancouver, Canada, in October 2017.
Ben at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY next to his latest published poem, “Finding My Voice,” which was published in this year’s UNIQUE Magazine.
Another project I am working on is a novel about a professional wrestling league. I have created an entire roster of wrestlers and the story will follow their lives in the ring as well as backstage, showing all sides of their complex world. I love pro wrestling, and being able to express this interest through my writing is a dream come true for me.
A big message in my writing and my life has been that people with autism are capable. If they have a dream, they can pursue it. No one path is perfect, but with love, support, and a willingness to keep going, anything is possible. I let nothing hold me back and I want my readers to be able to do the same.
CONNECT WITH BEN
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Theresa Kellogg – Twitter