When Tyler McNamer was a high school freshman, he told his father he was going to write a book.
“Of course you are,” Jody McNamer told his son.
When Tyler said he’d already started, his dad asked how much he’d written, and Tyler checked and came back.
“Thirty-eight thousand words,” he said.
The book Tyler McNamer began five years ago has been published now. It is titled “Population One: Autism, Adversity, and the Will to Succeed,” and it has changed the lives of Tyler and his extended family.
For the last decade, the 19-year-old has lived with his mother, Kristina Tindall, on Bainbridge Island, while spending considerable time with his father, stepmother and stepbrother in Gig Harbor.
Though his parents love and support him, until they read his book there were many things he had never expressed to them.
“If I had been asked to pick something Tyler would never do, it would have been to write a book about his autism,” Tindall said. “When he was little, he’d express his feelings by banging his head on a wall, running into another child.
“When he talked about a book, I said ‘just start writing,’ and that’s what he did.”
Tyler’s reasons for writing were simple.
“Originally, I was writing to get it out of my head,” he said. “Then I thought I’d be more accepted at school if my classmates understood me. Then I wanted to help other people.”
The book wasn’t published until a year after he graduated from Bainbridge High School. He doesn’t know if it reached or moved his former classmates.
“Writing is easier than talking for me, and it’s my way of saying what I need to say,” Tyler said.
When he allowed his parents to read the manuscript, it wasn’t easy for either of them.
“When I read the chapter on divorce, I bawled my eyes outs,” Tindall said. “He had to put on these faces in each home, and at one point he said, ‘I don’t have a home. There’s Mom’s home and Dad’s home.’
“The book has helped me know him better. There were things he never would talk about that he wrote about.”
Tyler’s father had a similar reaction.
“I was amazed how much was actually going on for him that I had no concept was going through his head,” Jody McNamer said. “It’s embarrassing – I had no idea how much he was dealing with.
“He said he wanted people to see through his eyes, and he made that happen.”
Tyler’s book has chapters on love, pain, bullying and what living his life has been like.
“I was different, the way I talked or acted and my social skills aren’t great,” Tyler said. “Once in school I spilled chocolate milk on a girl I liked because I was so frustrated I couldn’t communicate.
“Hopefully, the girls I liked then will hear me now.
“I didn’t want to have people walk in my shoes, because shoes are just something you wear. I wanted them to see through my eyes.”
Being a published author has pushed Tyler out of his comfort zone. Earlier this year, he did a book reading and signing at the Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island.
“I’d worked there as a janitor,” Tyler said. “I wasn’t sure how I’d do, but I had two friends come by. One I’d known since elementary school. I thought it went great. I felt in control.”
Through his father, Tyler has other appearances lined up — including a writing seminar for as many as 600 Gig Harbor middle school students in May.
“That will be a challenge, but it should be fun,” Tyler said. “I enjoy writing, putting ideas out there. Good ideas, bad ideas, they all should be out there in the world.”
The book and what has followed its publication has stretched Tyler, though autism remains a constant.
“When I think of the past and relive some memories, it’s easy to let the past take over,” he said. “I have to force myself back to the present, at times. I do see things differently.
“I’m trying to be diverse. I love science, writing, music ”
Jody McNamer can choke up talking about his son.
“Tyler is unbelievably resilient. Through adversity, he has become an extraordinary man,” Jody said. “He doesn’t hold resentments.
“All his life, I’d say, ‘I love you, Tyler’ and he’d say, ‘I love you, too,’ by rote. A few weeks ago, out of the blue, he said ‘I love you, Dad’ — and that was the first time he’d ever said it first.
“I had trouble keeping my composure. He’s grown in so many ways, and we’re all so proud of him.”
You can learn more about Tyler McNamer and buy his book at populationone.com
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638