Courtesy photo Local artist and author Gary Duffey is hoping his first children's book ÔWindows' will be the springboard to a foundation that provides help for families affected by autism.
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published: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Local author's autistic daughter inspires book
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- When one member of the family is autistic, Gary Duffey told the News-Sun, the entire family is caught up in the disease.
"It's the ripple effect," Duffey said.
Autism affects children in different ways. No two respond to the same treatments or strategies.
"It takes patience," Duffey explained.
"A lot of families go through hell. Babysitters and most day care centers are out; they have no idea how to handle a child with autism."
Duffey explained how his two older stepchildren -- Laura Castle is 13, and Desmond Gaines is 10 -- have made sacrifices as well. For example, for years he and his wife couldn't attend Laura or Desmond's games. He is proud of the older children's resilience and compassion in helping with his youngest daughter.
Simply put, those afflicted with autism are overwhelmed by their senses -- overloaded with input from their hearing, smell, taste, touch and sight until they cannot bear it and act out.
Duffey's 7-year-old daughter Makayla, for example, will cover her ears. Frustration and overload often lead to tantrums, some lasting as long as 10 minutes..
Melissa Duffey, Makayla's mother and Duffey's wife, explained how she can no longer work at a full-time job. When Makayla is home from school, Melissa has to be there, too.
Over the years, Duffey has thought a great deal about other families dealing with the same complicated problems.
While having an autistic child in the family has been expensive and difficult for the Duffeys because only one parent can work, he is aware that other families are even more hard pressed.
Which is why he thought so hard about how to make a difference.
A talented artist, Duffey began to think in terms of writing a book.
He could write and illustrate children's books and set aside a portion of the profits to build a foundation dedicated to helping families cope.
He decided to call the foundation Artists Against Autism and began the process of creating one, although the paperwork on that is still being completed.
His short-term goal is to provide needy families with funds to be used to help pay for all the special needs of a child with autism.
His long-term goal is larger and more expensive. He hopes to persuade other writers to also donate some of their royalties. One day, he said, he wants to open a center where autistic children can spend the day safely and parents can take a much-needed break.
Those goals are still dreams, but now he has taken the first step.
It came when his wife had been encouraging him to finally get started.
"Write the story," she told him one afternoon recently, after accusing him of procrastination.
Simply to prevent a lecture, he told Melissa, "OK, I'll write about that window," pointing across the room.
It proved, however, to be the trigger. He imagined Makayla looking out of windows. It took only a week to write the book, and another month to illustrate it.
Now it has been published by Abbot Press, and will be available through bookstores in just a few weeks. It is already listed on Amazon.com.
Duffey's story is simple - a little girl looks out of windows recounting what she sees.
The illustrations are whimsical and lovely. Duffey used every medium -- from crayons to chalk to highlighters to colored pencils.
"Windows are all around me, each with a different view," Makayla observes in the book.
"This is only the first book," Duffey said. "That's all I'm going to tell you about that. What can happen next? We'll see how far we can go with this."
Melissa nodded agreement. "He has a cause and at least we know we've tried to so something."
Duffey will be outside Gene Brenner's store on Sebring's Circle on Sept. 14-15, selling the book and autographing it. Look for it at Books-a-Million in a few weeks.
Gary (by: Tammy Liskey - 8/8/2012)
Congrats Gary, so happy for you...thanks for reading the book to Sophia and I. It is awesome..I will see you on the 14th to get my signed copy.
Gary Duffey (by: Jason Spence - 8/2/2012)
I'm extremely proud of you and hope all of your dreams and wishes come true. You deserve this Gary!
Congrats (by: Joyce Dean-Cassia's mom - 8/1/2012)
Best wishes and we will be in line for your book!!!!
Autism (by: Joyce Abney - 8/1/2012)
My daughter has not one, but two autistic children. She works and he stays home. Next week they will start school - the older in 2nd grade and the 3 yr old in special classes at the elememtary school. Dad will finally have some relief and maybe even a job!
GREAT ARTICLE!! (by: MR. WONDERFUL - 8/1/2012)
Awesome! (by: Julie - 8/1/2012)
Great job Gary and good luck on reaching those goals..
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