East grad continues book series on autism

What started as one book has now become a series.

Columbus East High School graduate and author Kyndal Gary, 18, completed his first children’s book last year, “Something’s Different About Andrew,” to help explain his autism diagnosis to classmates and community residents through the fictional character “Andrew.”

And with a little help from his sister and encouragement from his family, two more books about “Andrew” are now available, providing more insight and awareness about how people with autism see the world and the struggles they may face navigating it.

The books, “Andrew’s Money Woes,” and “Living With Andrew,” will be introduced at a book signing at 2 p.m. Sunday (which is also Kyndal’s birthday) at the Bartholomew County Library Red Room, with copies available for $10 each. The books are also available at Viewpoint Books in downtown Columbus and through Amazon.

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“Andrew’s Money Woes,” came about through an experience in Kyndal’s life in which he struggled to understand money and how it is used, he said.

Kyndal was in Philadelphia with family members for a wedding, and his sister, Jaedyn, asked him to purchase a drink for her at a convenience store, he said. But in a mixup, he failed to obtain the change, and when he went back to get it, he mistakenly grabbed change out of a container and was stopped by the store personnel.

Many individuals with autism have difficulty figuring out how to use currency, and Kyndal also has had problems when he receives checks, not understanding that they are a form of money, family members said. He has been known to throw them away, something that his family members have reminded him not to do.

“People with autism have difficulty with it because we’re not very focused all the time,” he said. “The book teaches you that even if you have trouble with something, you can get better at it with experience.”

The third book, “Living With Andrew,” allows his sister Jaedyn to take the lead in writing, with Kyndal doing the illustrations.

Jaedyn said the book was actually her senior project for Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech High School, prior to her graduation at mid-year.

Jaedyn, 17, said as she and her brother went through school, particularly in elementary and middle school, classmates would ask why her brother would act a certain way and why he wouldn’t sit with them in the gym, she said.

The book explains the answers to those questions and talks about individuals on the autism spectrum, with basic information for those who don’t have someone in their life with the diagnosis, she said.

At a young age, Jaedyn said she knew something was different about her brother.

“When he was little, he would always line up his shoes from the biggest to the smallest — in that order,” she said. “And he would tell you every dinosaur’s actual name, not the nicknames.”

The book goes on to explain that Kyndal was sensitive to sensory noises, such as the loud noises in the gym at school, which is why he preferred not to sit there with her friends, she said. The book also explains that her brother would wear headphones while in school to help him deal with noise, she said.

There may be more books in the series in the future, Kyndal said, including an idea about a book about Andrew being bullied because of his autism, and how Andrew learns to be more social.

And he might draw on an actual event for another book, “Andrew Finds His Way Home,” detailing how at age 5 or 6 Kyndal walked away from his grandparent’s home near Columbus North High School in the dark early morning hours to walk to his father’s apartment in Quail Run on his own.

Kyndal is thinking about starting a graphic novel to further his illustration skills, with a dream of becoming an animator someday.

“That’s my dream,” he said of working in animation.

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What: Book reading and signing for the "Andrew" series of books about autism by Kyndal Gary and his sister Jaedyn.

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Bartholomew County Library Red Room, 536 Fifth St., Columbus

Cost: Free, but books available for purchase for $10