‘I want to create a world where these traits are looked on in a positive light,’ says David Fox, who has undertaken a plan to co-write a series of books about Pop Fantastic, a little boy with autism. The character of Pop, who has adventures in a magical realm, is based on David’s own autistic son Oliver. In keeping with the magical world, Pop’s autistic traits become superpowers.
‘The stories will be set over the six weeks of the summer holidays,’ David tells us. ‘A lot of parents will tell you holidays can be more stressful than school time for autistic children as they get into a routine at school, but there’s no such structure when the holidays arrive. Going into the summer holidays, there are six weeks of potential anxiety for Ollie and so, each week, he will have an adventure. He goes into another realm, he comes back and tells his wonderful story to his parents and his sisters – it’s a marvellous adventure. Six weeks, six stories, that’s the premise.’
The public response to David’s plan to write the books has been overwhelmingly positive. Having promoted the idea online, on the radio and via other media, the project’s Kickstarter campaign more than achieved its target. ‘The goal was £10,000 to get the project up and running,’ David tells us. They actually raised £10,900, and the first instalment was released in October.
‘I’m liaising with a lady in Egypt who’s doing the artwork for us,’ David continues, ‘so when things come in from her, I’m showing Oliver. We wanted to keep it clean and simple because the books are primarily aimed at autistic children.
‘I want to try and incorporate Oliver’s fantastic memory and endless energy into the character,’ David explains, ‘as well as his clapping of his hands, which is very common in autistic children and is referred to as “stimming” – they do it if they’re feeling particularly happy or anxious – I thought: “What if he was able to do that so fast he could fly?” So I came up with the idea that Oliver finds himself transported into a magical realm and all these things that set him apart here are transformed into superpowers there and help him save the day.’
Oliver is one of a growing number of people in the UK diagnosed with autism. In fact, statistics from the National Autistic Society suggest that around 700,000 people are on the autism spectrum in the UK. ‘The rates indicate a rise in autism but, on the whole, people are still largely unsure of what it is,’ David continues. ‘If you see a little kid running around, clapping his hands, it might be quirky, but when it’s a 15 or 16 year old boy doing that, people can snigger and wonder what’s going on – that can be heart-breaking for an autistic young adult who’s perhaps aware they’re different, but possibly doesn’t understand why. It can also be heart-wrenching for a parent having to witness the giggles and the sniggers across the park or a playground. We’re trying to increase awareness and acceptance, as well as trying to provide a set of books that people will enjoy reading.’
For more information, or to order the first book, visit www.pop-fantastic.com