Daniel | Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana
Bethany reads her response to a writing prompt in Daniel Williams’ class at Easterseals Arc.
Daniel Williams makes notes on a whiteboard about writing prompts he will use in his writing class at Easterseals Arc.

Daniel Williams writes nearly every day; he credits all that writing with helping him understand himself. Now, about once a month, he comes to Easterseals Arc to show young people how writing can help them, too.

These aren’t his first visits to Easterseals Arc. From 2014 to 2016, Williams, who has autism, participated in the Transitions program for young adults.

About a dozen to two dozen people take part in Williams’ writing workshops. Most of those who participate are in the same Transitions program he was part of years ago.

His method in teaching the class is uncomplicated. He invites everyone to talk as a warmup to writing. In a recent class, he asked them how writing is part of their lives.

Solomon, one of those who says he writes frequently, says he often starts writing when he comes home in the afternoon.

“I usually write about how my day went, and I will show it to my mom to see what she says,” he explains.

After the warmup, Williams moves into the main work of the class: responding to writing prompts. He prepares two or three prompts for each class. The class is informal; these aren’t tests. Every prompt is intended to loosen up people in the class to express themselves in writing.

In a recent class, he asked everyone to write about a best friend. Bethany asks to write about two best friends. Williams tells her that would be fine.

“What about three? I have three best friends,” Bethany tells him. He agrees, and three it is.

Minutes later, after time to write a sentence or two or three on the prompt, he invites Bethany to read what she wrote.

“I have two dogs and a stuffed dog,” she reads. “He may not be real, but he is very loyal.”

Williams, 30, has navigated some difficult terrain in his life. His mother died in 2012 and his father in 2013. In the years since, he has lived with relatives in several locations and in housing operated by social-service agencies. Traditional work doesn’t always come easily for him; finding a job he enjoys and holds for a longer time remains an important goal.

There have been triumphs, too. Above all, he is proud to have published a memoir about his life, “My Voice: Faced with Autism.” In his book, he delves deep into his relationship with his late parents, his many living situations since their death and his progress in developing social relationships, something that is often more difficult for people with autism.

Throughout his book and his life, he sees his autism as sometimes an obstacle but never an insurmountable one.

“Whether it be physical or mental disability, we all deserve love and appreciation. We all live on this earth to be appreciated and kind to one another. My hope is that one day the world will have more awareness about autism and the individuals with it,” he wrote in “My Voice.”

Back in class, he offers another writing prompt: “Write about an adventure.”
Nick shares his travel adventure that ranges across the eastern United States, from hiking in Ohio to seeing jellyfish in ocean waters off Florida.

That prompt is an apt choice for Williams, as writing plays a large role in his personal adventure. The writing he has been doing since he was 12 has helped him discover himself and, as in the title of his book, find his voice.

That’s what he hopes to inspire in the people who join him for his monthly classes at Easterseals Arc.

“I want them to learn how to communicate with writing and words and how to use their gifts so that they can be proud to write,” he said.