Photo: Pam McLoughlin / Photo By Helen Taylor
NEW HAVEN — Eighteen-year-old Chase Taylor has autism and doesn’t relate to his typical peers, but he’s engaging the world as an author and illustrator.
Chase’s, “The Letter Critter Series,” — are children’s books based on colorful letter critters he created, and stemming from his ongoing love of the alphabet.
Chase, who lives in Waterbury, but recently made an appearance at an autism awareness event in New Haven at Brennan Rogers School of Communications and Media with his mom, Helen Taylor, began his series with “The Letter Critters,” — an introduction to his colorful letter characters — and recently published, “The Letter Critters Biographies,” about their lives and has already started a third book highlighting the letter critters’ talent.
What was the biggest challenge to Chase in writing book number 2, which took him eight months?
“Trying to get it to be perfect — clean with no mistakes,” said Chase, a soft-spoken man who offers answers of few words.
Although Chase is different socially than his typical peers — he doesn’t look to interact — he is intellectually on target and a member of his high school’s National Honor Society.
Chase said it feels good to be an author and has bolstered his confidence.
Helen Taylor, a tireless statewide advocate for autism awareness and fundraiser, said Chase, a letter lover, already had “critters” drawn for all 26 letters — 13 of them girls, 13 boys — when she suggested they make a book out of them.
In his latest book, “The Letter Critters Biographies,” fans hear about the critters’ lives, with Chase using colorful vocabulary words to represent each letter.
For instance, the letter “A’’ has “anxiety to ants,” and, writes Chase, “Ants make me very apprehensive. Alligators and aliens are also scary to me.”
In other entries, the letter “G,” plays a “groovy guitar,” the letter “I” lives on “Iguana Interstate near the ink store,” and the letter “K” is a “keen kicker,” who is good at making, “Kumquat Kimchi in the kitchen.”
Helen Taylor, a volunteer for Autism Speaks, board president of CT Families for Effective Autism Treatment, and Special Olympics Coach, said proceeds from the books, available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, go right back into causes related to autism and to cover printing costs. The book is self-published.
Helen Taylor and her husband, Al Taylor, who have an older son as well, didn’t know until he was about 3 1/2 years old that Chase had autism.
Soon after, they delved into advocacy, including build one of the largest teams, “Chase and Friends,” for Autism Speaks’ annual walk. The walk in Waterbury this year is June 2 and begins at library Park.
Helen Taylor said she and her husband never made Chase feel differently because of his autism, but rather always looked for ways to work around the rest of the world and for the world to work around them.
She believes everyone has a niche despite a disability such as autism or other special needs and it’s a matter of finding and nurturing that.
She said promoting awareness and acceptance are key, because, “If we’re not knowledgeable about why a person’s different, we tend to be judgmental.”
Acceptance, she believes, is saying, “This person is different from me and that’s okay. How can I help this person and I have a relationship, because even though they’re different, they’re not less.”
Helen Taylor said that while Chase is smart when it comes to school work, he’s not independent like typical 18-year-olds and doesn’t self-advocate, although having his books published has pushed him to self -advocate more.
“We have to show them how to get out of their own world,” she said. “It’s our job to prepare them for society and prepare society for them.”
Team Chase and Friends will hold a fundraiser April 27 in the form of an “old school dance party,” to be held at the Palace Theater. For more information contact Al Taylor at 203-525-8420 or actjamsproductions.com.
They will also hold a “Paint and Sip” fundraiser April 20 from 5to 8 p.m. at Raymour & Flanigan in Waterbury, 410 Reidville Drive.