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Author Lawrence Williams casts a light on autism with his debut novel, "Hugs." Photo by Christina Macone-Greene
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Local author’s inspiration comes from son with autism

RANCHO SANTA FE — His book titled “Hugs” was inspired by Lawrence Williams’ experience of raising his son who has autism. The Rancho Santa Fe resident hopes this work of fiction can help educate others on autism. More precisely, Williams aims to help people be more compassionate and understanding.

Williams, a retired entrepreneur, always had a penchant for writing. Every year, he would write a letter to each of his three children and give it to them on New Year’s Day. He did this until they reached 18.

Williams’ wife, Nina, surprised him one Christmas and compiled all the letters into a book.

“As I reread those letters, I thought there was a written history here of the relationship that I had with my son, Tyler,” he said, noting how his son was diagnosed with autism when he was 9 months old.

Tyler is now 29.

A diagnosis of autism in the 1980s was different than it was today.

“I had no idea what it (autism) was,” he said. “There was no Google. There was no internet.”

Williams said he found one book on autism in the bookstore and a couple of books on it in the library. From there, it was a matter of researching medical journals and teaming up with medical specialists.

For Williams, his novel, “Hugs,” was always there because of the letters. It took a few years to write the manuscript, and much of what he experienced in his life with his son is reflected in the book.

While the roots of the story are about a father trying to find ways to communicate with his autistic son, the father discovers he has a unique power. He has the ability to reverse autism in children by hugging them. While every hug helps a child, it diminishes the father’s mortality. He loses a bit of his life each time. And if he hugs his son, he will completely lose the power of the hug.

“As the book progresses, there is a moral dilemma,” he said. “If the father continues to do this, he’s eventually going to lose his life. So, the question becomes, “How do you say no? How do you not treat the child that you so desperately want, your son?”

The book also addresses all the different challenges that this family faces when the rest of the public figures out he can do this. 

Williams said he had some goals to address when crafting the book. The first was conveying the challenges that people face with a child with autism.

“There’s a lot of self-imposed loneliness,” he said. “There’s a terrific loss of spontaneity. You can’t just pick up and go if you have an autistic child because they may throw a fit. They may not like the shirt you put on them, or they may not want to wear shoes that day.”

When his wife, Nina, read the manuscript a wave of emotion washed over her.

“After the tears, I realized there were so many things we did go through that I just forgot,” she said. “And it all came back.”

She found her husband’s work very touching.

For Williams, his character who could change the life of a child with a hug was a vehicle to introduce readers to autism. It was to raise awareness.

“My whole intent for this book is for people to realize that there’s so much potential there if they get past the fear of asking a question or getting involved somehow,” he said.

The book also offers a sense of hope. Williams and his wife were told that their son would never speak.

They were told wrong. Tyler can also read, write and do math.

Williams encourages parents who have just discovered their child has autism to move forward with early prevention and education. And above all, to never lose hope.

“Hugs” is available on Amazon and the Balboa Press Online Bookstore.