By Hoa Quach
In 2009, six words changed Rusty Trimble’s life.
“Daddy,” said Andrew, Trimble’s son, “can you write a book?”
It was Andrew’s response to a bath-time puppet show Trimble had put on for him every day. The puppet show, complete with five to 10 different characters, was conceived by Trimble to keep Andrew entertained in the bath and interested in stories.
Adhering to his toddler’s request, Trimble got to work and wrote his first book, “Andrew’s Great Train Adventure,” in just three months at the age of 38.
“Ever since I was kid I liked writing stories,” said Trimble, a San Diego native. “I kept thinking I’d write a book and I never did. It was as simple as Andrew saying those words. The only thing I wasn’t sure of was whether to draw it or write it. I decided to do both.”
Today, Trimble is the author of 13 books, with the most recent being “Andrew and the Pirate Cove.”
But Trimble didn’t just write books to keep Andrew entertained. He wrote books to engage Andrew, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3.
“When my wife, Nickcole, called me and told me they wanted to test him for autism, I just started crying,” Trimble said. “I kind of knew [he was autistic] but it didn’t occur to me until the diagnosis came. He’s still the same kid but we just need to do a little more work.”
For Trimble, the extra work included writing books that would spark Andrew’s interest.
“At the time he was diagnosed, he didn’t like reading books, but he did like illustrated books with animals,” Trimble said. “He goes through the motion of reading the books, but he takes a more direct interest with my books. He speaks about it with a high level of interest. But if he has trouble remembering a book, I know it’s because he had trouble reading it.”
Using Andrew as his inspiration, Trimble has also made it a goal to donate 50 percent of his book’s proceeds to the National Foundation for Autism Research.
Trimble said he hopes to end the stigma against autism and raise awareness about what the disorder really is.
“A lot of people tend to throw autism into one bag and I was one of them, and now I’m able to see the bigger picture,” Trimble said. “The biggest road block for autism are the misconceptions. It creates a barrier for understanding.”
Trimble recalled a time when he and Andrew were shopping at Target last year. Andrew was occupied with the CD sampler box, listening to the music. Another customer then told Trimble he “had a lot to learn about being a dad.”
In other surroundings, he’s had other experiences.
“People find out he’s autistic and they shy away from him,” Trimble said. “I get the ‘He doesn’t look autistic’ comment a lot. It’s something I take very personally.”
Despite the challenges, Andrew is earning high marks at school and loves to socialize with people he encounters. He also has a little brother, 2-year-old Tyler.
“He’s very friendly, very outgoing and very cheerful,” Trimble said of Andrew.
Andrew continues to inspire his father to continue his writing career. He’ll release the sequel to “Andrew and the Pirate Cove” in November.
“Andrew has been my inspiration for all of it,” said Trimble who works full-time in IT. “He’s already asking me about the third and fourth books. He’s keeping me busy. If I’m still doing the same thing I am doing today, I’ll be happy. As long as Andrew still likes the books, I’ll be happy.”
Trimble will be at the Mission Hills Branch Library for a meet and greet at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 12. For more information, call the library at 619-692-4910.
—Contact Hoa Quach by visiting her website, hoawrites.com.