Jane Hawkes, Manager at Hal’s Books
Helping SENCOs achieve autism understanding in schools using Hal’s Books
As well as running an electrical contracting business with my husband, I also work with my 18-year-old son William to promote a positive message about autism through books he has created and illustrated.
William was diagnosed with autism aged six and, when he became a teenager, he started to worry about what he could do when he left school. My husband suggested setting up an online business for him, so we created Seashore No.4 – a shop selling nautical-themed homeware.
It was at a networking event I attended to spread the word about Seashore No.4 that I met the author Jude Lennon and an idea was sparked to help William write a book.
From there Jude carefully crafted William’s vision into a book aimed at nine to 12-year-olds. The result was ‘Hal and the End Street’, which was launched in April 2018 and became a great success – reaching number one best-selling status in its category on Amazon. A year later, William worked with Jude on a sequel, ‘Hal and the Parties’, which follows Hal on his 16th birthday and preparations he’s making to attend college. Although a fictional character, Hal mirrors William’s thoughts and feelings on life.
Hal’s Books has opened so many doors for William. Last year he won an award from the national charity Dimensions in recognition of his work to convey a powerful message about his disability, and this year he was awarded a 12-month mentorship at Comics Youth – a CIC running a project named ‘Lived Experience’, where individuals who are commonly unrepresented in literature are given the platform to tell their story. He’s learning how to draw comic novels and use software that puts them together, so with his Art & Design college course as well, he’s staying busy!
We were excited when, off the back of ‘Hal and the End Street’, he was commissioned to illustrate a children’s book using watercolours and our latest news is that a producer is exploring the opportunity of turning Hal’s adventures into a television programme! This is a fantastic development because books can’t always be accessed by children with disabilities; TV, however, with its visual capabilities, opens William’s work up to a much wider audience.