Weekly Feature



2015-09-10 / Lifestyles

Author uses life with autism as part of narrative

by ETHAN POWERS
Reporter


Benjamin Kellogg’s “Noah and Logan” series seeks to help children learn basic life and social skills. Benjamin Kellogg’s “Noah and Logan” series seeks to help children learn basic life and social skills. The next children’s book your son or daughter learns from may soon come from a 21-year-old professional writer in Mexico, New York, but if it weren’t for the advent of technology and the writer’s own resiliency, the books may never have reached your child’s hands.

Benjamin Kellogg is an adult living with autism. He earned his associate degree in arts and humanities and social science, with a concentration in writing, from Cayuga Community College in 2012.

While it was a creative writing course in college that initiated Kellogg’s inventive spark, the act of writing itself was once a major challenge rather than a form of catharsis.

Because of motor skill deficiencies and underdeveloped muscle tone attributed to the autism, even rudimentary physical actions such as holding a writing instrument and maneuvering it on paper were obstacles Kellogg found stressful in elementary school. Writing assignments were anxiety-inducing hurdles.

“Ben has issues with his motor skills, so writing with a pencil was difficult,” said Theresa Kellogg, his mother. “So, when you add in the fact that they were asking him to write about things that really didn’t interest him, it made it very hard for him.”

Yet, even when given ample creative freedom, Kellogg was often discouraged by the physical hardships of putting pen to paper. That changed dramatically when his mother, a former secretary, taught him how to type. Writing with a keyboard offered Kellogg a less physically intensive way of developing and recording his ideas, freeing him from the invisible chains that shackled him artistically.

“Basically, I just kept at it for a number of years, and I became a lot more comfortable writing,” said Kellogg. “It gradually became one of the easiest things for me to do.”

Now, Kellogg’s preferred form of communication is writing. It has become a way for him to retreat into the recesses of his mind and put to paper what he often finds difficult to convey verbally.

“When I come up with an idea, I spend a while thinking about the main message I want to get across,” he said. “Then I just get to work writing it out, and then I go back and refine everything.”

Influenced by the fantasy and escapist realms of Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and Dr. Seuss, Kellogg’s introduction to the world of literary publishing started with his “Noah and Logan” series, which depicts two boyhood friends who confront some of the challenges of learning basic life skills. The Kelloggs’ initial quest to find a publisher was an extensive, exhausting process that ended successfully, as Ben notes, with his mother “doing cartwheels in the living room.”

“It took me about two years to find a publisher, and also get them to agree to publish,” said Theresa Kellogg. Kellogg now has two books on the market and is working on a third. Currently, the series is available exclusively as e-books, though the Kelloggs are trying to get them printed as well.

Each book features one of the social or life skills that Kellogg struggled with as a child, be it sharing, cleaning or learning to tie sneakers. In essence, the creation of the “Noah and Logan” series began as a way for Kellogg to help other children with autism.

The illustrations that are featured prominently on each page are drawn by his mother, with Kellogg dictating exactly what he wants illustrated. Kellogg cites his mother as one of the driving forces behind his writing.

“When I was growing up, a lot of the services that autistic kids currently have access to today weren’t really around in their current forms,” he said. “But my mom and dad were a great support system that helped me to learn the things I needed to learn in life, and I want to pass on what I have learned to other kids. Doing that through a children’s picture book seemed to be one of the best ways of doing that.”

For Kellogg, literary success has less to do with the number of books sold as it does with the connection they make with the reader.

“My hope with these books is that through seeing positive examples of those kinds of life skills and actions, that child will be able to have an easier time with those skills in their own life.”

For more information on Kellogg and his writing, as well as for ways to purchase his books, visit www.benjaminkmkellogg.com.

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