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Brandish

Words about words, brands, names and naming, and the creative process.

#sparkchamber 090219 — Michael Jacques

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As the calendar turns to September, #sparkchamber goes back to school, learning by the inspired example of author Michael Jacques. Michael is a young adult who lives and works in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada. He has autism and an intellectual disability, and, although he can neither read nor write, he has just published his first book! Here’s his book, and here’s his story.

Michael uses the speech-to-text function of his iPad to document his experiences. His sister Kaila, a Creative Director at RallyRally in Toronto — a design studio dedicated to social change, working at the intersection of design and the public good — discovered his journal writing, the genesis for the book.

He began writing the book when he was twenty-one and finished at twenty-six. He shares stories of his life, touching on aspects of learning, inclusion, advocating, independence, and the power of perseverance. “I have learned so much while making this book. I learned that not only is it okay to ask for help, but you can achieve much more than you could imagine when people work together. This also supports my message of focusing on your strengths.”

Kaila and her husband Chris designed the book to be very visual, to help him remember the stories he talked about. They asked friends to illustrate divider pages for the chapters, and also included small pictures throughout the text to help him follow along. Says Michael, “In the end, my book turned out to how I would like to read books — with lots of visuals.”

Michael has a part-time job at Sobeys, Canada’s second largest food chain, and he sits on the board of Community Living Ontario through which he advocates for individuals like himself. He is also a passionate public speaker, sharing his story at schools and organizations to motivate and inspire everyone to critically think about inclusion, diversity, and compassion.

He hopes to write many more books and continue to make an impact in the world through his stories. “Ellen DeGeneres certainly inspires me, as she always says — as I do when I finish a presentation — Be kind to others.”

Wise words from a great teacher.

1.] Where do ideas come from?

My book is an autobiography so my ideas come from my life experiences 

2.] What is the itch you are scratching?

I always wanted to read a book but I can’t so I decided to think outside the box. With the help of my family and technology I decided to write a book. 

3.] Early bird or night owl? Tortoise or hare?

I only have a part-time job so I have a lot of free time. Also, people like myself who have challenges, don’t have many friends thus even more free time. So when I wrote the book it started as a daily journal and wrote [actually spoke into my iPad] when I had something important to say. 

4.] How do you know when you are done?

For me when the book was printed and in my hands I knew that part of the process was done. But it was also the start of me presenting and sharing my story with others. 

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