Back to The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018

Our Winner: William Hawkes

Category: Sports, arts and entertainment

Will, you are an inspiration to many teenagers. Thank you for bringing Hal to the world.

Creating Hal, the autistic protagonist

Will is 17 years old and was diagnosed with autism when he was 6. While at school, he felt there were no books with an autistic main character, so he decided to create one.

“Will wanted other autistic children to have a mascot like themselves and to help other non-autistic children have a better understanding of how their classmates may be feeling.”

Hal and the End Street, the debut

‘Hal and the End Street’ is the first book Will created with children’s author, Jude Lennon.

It was fate; Jude’s chance meeting with his mum connected the two artists and in 2017 the project began.

Jude and Will met in a quiet café in Liverpool. Until then, Hal’s adventures were safely stored in Will’s imagination, but as he shared them with Jude the pair started to get excited.

Will Sports, arts and entertainment LDA Leaders' List 2018

They wrote the story together. Will’s passion for the book to be as accessible as possible saw them create it in a dyslexia friendly font and with short, easy read chapters.

Will’s skilled hands drew the illustrations that brought Hal to life.

While this is incredibly inspiring, it wasn’t easy for Will. He’s a modest young man and lacked confidence in his abilities. As you can see, he’s extremely talented and we’re pleased to say his confidence is growing throughout this experience.

Will Sports, arts and entertainment LDA Leaders' List 2018

“During the process of writing the book, Will was pushed out of his comfort zone. He doesn’t like being the centre of attention.”

In the spotlight

The official book launch was a bustling event – not something Will was used to or particularly keen to take part in.

But a special guest appearance by former Marvel artist Tim Quinn helped him come out of his shell and the two hit it off.

Will Sports, arts and entertainment LDA Leaders' List 2018

‘Hal and the End Street’ proved popular. Will found himself being interviewed for the radio and BBC TV news.

This wasn’t anything he’d ever done before. But as you can see in this clip he took it in his stride and is now a confident spokesperson for Hal’s books.

Parents, teachers and children have praised his work. He’s inspired other children to draw and has given his peers a book they can finally relate to.

Will Sports, arts and entertainment LDA Leaders' List 2018

“Will, you are an inspiration to many teenagers. Your ‘can do’ attitude is something young and old can look up to. Thank you for bringing Hal to the world. I will definitely try to ‘Be more Hal’” – Michala Leyland.

“I teach in secondary school. One of my children, who’s on the autistic spectrum, told me to read this. I have bought two copies for our KS3 library and his friends are queuing up to borrow it!”

“This is an amazing book, a must have for parents who have teenagers with autism or anxiety problems. This book has really helped me and my son so much. We understand each other a bit more after reading Hal.”

What’s next?

You’ll be happy to hear, that Will is already planning book two!

Hal has just turned 16 and is facing a hectic year ahead. First thing’s first, to go downstairs and celebrate his birthday with his family. But this isn’t the only party he’ll have to prepare for; it’s 1977 and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee sees street parties galore.

How will Hal cope? Will this prepare him for the inevitable 17th birthday party? Watch this space and you’ll soon find out…

We are so happy that Will was able to make his dream happen. It takes a special young person to identify a problem and then do something about it. Will is a talented person and we can’t wait for the second book.

Get in touch about this story

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