All happy families are not alike...
Leo Tolstoy once wrote, “Happy families are all alike; unhappy families are all different in their own way.” Tolstoy was wrong, especially when it comes to atypical families. My family is very different from a lot of families; yet I would say we are happy.
My oldest son Nat, now in his twenties, has severe autism. My other two sons, Max and Ben, do not. Autism has provided a certain shape to our family structure; things have been very difficult for us, and yet autism is not a death sentence. Autism is not the end of the world; just the end of one kind of world.
My experiences with autism have run the gamut — an entire spectrum’s worth of changes in viewpoint. We are still, as a family, a work in progress. Sometimes we have it down; sometimes we are lost again. But one thing we are is a strong family, not defined by autism, but greatly affected by it, negatively and positively. Tolstoy was not right; come find out why.
I have written several books with this experience in mind. Most recent is Autism Adulthood: Strategies and Insights for a Fulfilling Life, which is a memoir-style account of my adult son’s early years of adulthood, as well as other autistic adults’ and caregivers’ experiences and wisdom about working with the tough realities of autism adulthood and carving out a meaningful life. The book is organized by theme as stories, with a lot of resources at the end of each chapter. My very first book, Making Peace with Autism: One Family’s Story of Struggle, Discovery, and Unexpected Gifts, is about how we have learned to be a family in spite of autism, moving beyond grief in the face of acute challenge.
The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide (For Dads, Too!): Creating a Balanced and Happy Life While Raising a Child with Autism is a collection of stories, discoveries, strategies, and honest insights from my own life and from other autism parents as well.
I have also written an autism family novel: Dirt: A Story About Gardening, Mothering, and Other Messy Business. This book is a family tale, of a couple’s impending divorce and their three sons. The rocky marriage, the oldest boy’s severe autism, the resulting sibling problems, drug abuse, and above all, love all intertwine in this story — with gardening in between. Writing Dirt was an escape for me, a pleasure, a hobby, and yet, imagining the characters of the three sons took me deep into their hearts and minds and in a strange way helped me understand them better. Or so I think. In any case, Dirt is a fun and moving novel of family struggle, relationships, and growth.
I’ve written many articles on parenting, special needs, autism, politics, and life in general, that convey moments of struggle and resolution, of self-doubt and understanding. My work has appeared in a variety of publications, from educational journals to the New York Times. I have covered topics such as my autistic son’s bar mitzvah, his transition to adulthood, my middle son’s adjustment to the high academic expectations of sixth grade, and the day I volunteered in my youngest son’s kindergarten class.
Look around my site and blog, and find out why all happy families are not alike…