Because You Are You

Sep 9, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Books & Tales, Tom Sims

by Tom Sims

Author, Michelle Ward-Hudler is a mother whose son is a child of wonder, curiosity, and love who also happens to love and grow with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

But it does not define him. It is simply part of the backdrop against which he and his mother tell great stories to a world that needs to hear them. Jacob embraces life with enthusiasm and joy. He knows many things and has interests that match his talents, but the most important thing he knows is that he is loved and cherished.

Michelle wrote a book with Jacob and for Jacob. It’s not about autism, but about value. It was also a way of coping with isolation during the recent pandemic lockdown. The book is called Because You Are You. She originally planned to keep it private, but eventually self-published it through Barnes and Noble. It is now available on Barnes and Noble’s website and will be on Amazon soon.

Jacob loves the book and shares it with others. He is very proud of his mother’s work and his own contributions to it. He is the inspiration, and at times, he was the main cheerleader.

In our interview, Michelle discusses her career as a dental assistant, working with her father, and her journey into art.

With simple, heart-felt words and compelling illustrations, Michelle Ward-Hudler tells the story of a parent’s unconditional love in a short children’s book. She aims for simplicity and conciseness in her writing, making it easy to follow, even for those who are tired or not in the mood for lengthy texts. She has crafted the text in a way that it can be read as if it is directly coming from the perspective of a mother, father, brother, or sister, rather than just sounding like a mother reading a story.

Here are excerpts from my conversation with Michelle Ward-Hudler. She tells her story better than I can.

Tom – Hi, Michelle. What prompted you to write a book?

Michelle – I have a little boy and he just turned 10, but when I wrote the book, he was about seven. He has autism and it was during that time when the schools were being locked down, and he wasn’t getting interaction with friends. It was a tough period where he wasn’t feeling like he fit in. He was feeling isolated and sad.

Michelle Teaching

We would always do what I call these heart-to-heart talks where we’d sit down on the couch, talk about our feelings, and try to create a little safe place for him. I was telling him how much I loved him, and then I suggested, “Why don’t we make some pictures? Let’s write down and let’s make a little story together.” And it just kind of came together in about 15 minutes.

Then, over the course of about two years, we were doing drawings by hand at home together, and he would tell me, “No, mom, I don’t like this picture” or, “Where am I in the picture? Where are you at in the picture?” It just took on its own meaning. We weren’t going to publish it but keep it private.

Then, I was showing a friend some of the pictures, telling her the story, and she said that I should publish it and put it out there. It is really what every parent wants to tell their child. We went through this crazy whirlwind trying to get published and I learned many lessons. It is now at Barnes and Noble.

Tom – What is next?

Michelle – My goal is to get a digital version on Amazon soon. We have done all the groundwork and are waiting for them to finish the process.

Right now, it’s just cute. We were doing deliveries and Jacob says, “You have my book I made.”

You could just see this smile on his face, pride. It makes me happy to see him so happy because he really had a big hand in it. It’s all because of him.

Tom – Your son reminds me of a friend of mine with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I got to know him when he came to work with us a few summers. He ate a lot of potato chips and liked to prowl around the house all night. Now he is a teacher and married.

Michelle – That sounds a lot like my little boy. He loves to skateboard. He likes his potato chips and his cookies. Right. He, likes to stay up late.

Would you like to come in and say hello?


Tom – I wanted to meet you. What is your name?

Jacob – My name is Jacob.

Tom – My name is Tom.

Jacob – Tom, it’s really good to meet you.

Tom – I want to write a story about your story.

Jacob – Thank you.

Tom – It is my pleasure. Do I have your permission to write that?

Jacob – Yes please.

Tom – Thank you. Is there anything you want to tell me about it?

Jacob – My mom wrote a book about me . And then it says, ‘because you are you,’ and it said, ‘I love you more than the whole wide world. I love you. Yes, it’s true. I love you more than the whole world. I love you because you are you.’ That’s right. Huh.

Tom – That’s really cool. Jacob. Okay, go play man. Nice to meet you.

Jacob – Nice to meet you.

Tom – Virtual handshake.

Tom – What’s your background, Michelle? What do you do?

Michelle – I’m a dental assistant. I work at my dad’s dental office. I’ve been very blessed. I was going to be a physical therapy major, and then, um, his dental assistant broke her hip and had some health issues and couldn’t return back. And he asked me if I wanted to step in and help him.

Through that whole process, it’s just been a blessing to be able to work side by side with him, see how hard his work ethic is, and getting to have special moments with him that I’ll never get back again. It’s just been truly a blessing. And his patients have become our family to me.

You build these really close relationships and, you know, it’s just, I’ve been very blessed with a special time to learn some really neat skills. I wish when I was younger, I had realized how much I liked dentistry because I really enjoy it. But when we are younger, we don’t think about those things. I was a dancer. I used to compete and I taught in a school and I thought, physical therapy would be right for me.

Life takes you through some different twists and turns. It’s been fun and exciting. I spend a lot of time with Jacob and his schooling. I’m his person who does all his homework with him because he learns differently. I create all his videos for learning because traditional learning methods don’t always work best for him.

We make a lot of videos and songs and things that help him. Our whole house looks like a school to be honest with you, because all the different learning styles he likes. It is a blessing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It’s a lot of fun.

Tom – You did all the artwork?

Michelle – Yes sir.

Tom – How did you get that background?

Michelle – I am not an artistic person at all, to be very truthful with you. But, when COVID hit, I started watching YouTube videos on how to sketch. I went through probably 500 big pieces of paper like artists use. I did sketches with coloring pencils and watercolors and you name it.

I just drew up all these different drafts and they start getting better. And then I started taking classes on specifics, shading. And then I was able to find sites and programs like Adobe Illustrator where you could upload things that you’ve done, and then you could use digital aspects to make it look more professional. And so that was really challenging because before this, I couldn’t draw a stick figure to be very honest with you, .

I love all the new technology now. It’s amazing how you can like, erase things, fix your imperfections, and do digital enhancement to make your work really pop. For people like me, that’s a blessing because I was getting really frustrated for a while. I had these ideas, but they just weren’t lining up exactly how I wanted them to look. I love to draw and paint.

My son’s a good artist and he would be watching the little YouTube videos and we’d be sitting down trying to draw elephants and then stars and moons. It was fun. We found out that he’s very artistic.

Tom – How did you develop your writing skills?

Michelle – All through school, I got writer of the month awards and that kind of recognition. But I never tried to write a book or anything like that. I’ve always been an avid reader growing up. Instead of toys I wanted books. I liked being at the library. I just loved reading. That was what I loved to do.

But to be honest with you about the story, I wrote it in literally 10 minutes at the file room at my dad’s office. We were working on it the night before and I was just telling my son little things about how much I loved him, but it wasn’t really flowing right. I had a 10-minute break, which is really rare.

I thought, “How can I do this?” I just got my cell phone out on Notepad, and I was cleaning it up a little bit. Suddenly I thought, “You know what? This sounds good.”

I thought we should make it a rhyming story and direct it toward babies and toddlers – that kind of style. It is really for a small child to be honest with you. It is just very simple; not a long read, just really kind of short and to the point. Hopefully, when the child is tired at night, can’t fall asleep, Mom or Dad can read it to them. Or you could be a brother or a sister. It could take on its own meaning from whoever’s reading the story to the little one.

Tom – I’ve always loved children’s books. I’ve thought some of the most profound books I ever read were children’s books.

Michelle – Some of those books just say so much. They really do. I’m going revise my book probably in a couple months because there is more to say about parents’ unconditional love for their children. I was like really praying about and thinking about. And then I was thinking about how I wrote it. We just love them just because who they are. Right. And I was thinking, that’s exactly how God loves us. He loves us, just as he created us.

In another version, it will be God who loves you because you are you. He loves you more than the whole wide world. He loves you. Yes, it’s true. He won’t change you for the world. He loves you because you are you or you are perfect.

It hit me in the middle of the night: That would be a great way to also get the message of God’s loved little ones too. We are going to be playing with that in a couple months and trying to figure out how we can do really good illustrations that look more modern. We will target today’s kids because so many of them are not getting the word or not getting exposed to church.

Tom – Michelle, thank you so much for this interview.

Michelle – I appreciate you taking your time out of your busy schedule. Thank you for reaching out to me.

Tom – It’s a pleasure. What a great message! Unconditional love!

We all need unconditional love. The best time to learn about it is early in life. Yet, we are never too old to begin.

Order Because You Are You from Barnes and Noble

You can also order it locally at

More of Michelle’s work can be found on Etsy.

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. Pastor Tom Sims spends time pastoring Granny’s Park Community church, leading 4141 Ministries with his wife, Andrea Sims, writing, teaching, and hosting various websites, blogs The Dream Factory where Ideas can be given room to grow, and Facebook pages such as The Politics of Compassion. You can also find him on Facebook.



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