Currently, I am working on a memoir of my experiences as a young mother with three children with autism, tentatively entitled Embracing Chaos: Discovering Autism and Neurodiversity. This book is under contract with Influence Publishing. While there are many autism memoirs, especially from parents, this one is notably different in that it is not focused on finding a cure or a treatment for autism. Instead, this memoir focuses on understanding autism and my journey to becoming the advocate my children needed me to be.
As the mother of three children with autism, I have personal, hands-on experience with a wider variety of autism than many other parents do. Furthermore, my children span the spectrum of autism. My oldest autistic son, Willy, was diagnosed with regressive autism and is now a high-functioning young man who also has epilepsy. My middle son, Alex, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS and is considered low-functioning, because he does not talk and he experiences severe sensory processing challenges. My youngest child, Ben, is somewhere between his two older brothers, because he talks, but does not communicate effectively and is easily overwhelmed by his sensory experiences.
When the boys were younger, which is the time period covered in this memoir, I ran the gauntlet of autism at a severe disadvantage. I learned to navigate the special education system. I learned to navigate the special health care system. I learned to advocate for my children and to stand up to those who would deny that my children were worthwhile as they are for who they are.
In the lexicon of narrative, I became a hero.
Now, I want to share my journey with others. I want others to understand why I fight for my children’s rights. I want them to understand how I see the world on behalf of my children. And, perhaps most importantly, I also want to help others learn to advocate in spite of the disadvantages they may face.
My memoir is broken down into three parts and each part is broken down further into rather short chapters, designed to be read easily in short bursts.
The first part is Discovering Autism. This is the story of how I went from not knowing my children were developmentally delayed to learning that my oldest son had autism. In the lexicon of narrative, this first part is also where I go from being a clueless wanderer to the realization that I would need to become a warrior, including experiences that initiated that shift. The end of the first part is the pivotal moment, the midpoint, where I shed the last of my passivity.
The second part is Discovering Neurodiversity. This is the story of how I went from ignorance of the disability rights movement to being empowered by that movement to fight for my children’s rights. In the lexicon of narrative, this second part is where I assume the role of the warrior and end up, at least figuratively, as a martyr for my children. The end of the second part is the climax and the denouement, which satisfies the needs of the story itself.
The third part is Embracing Difference. This part is outside the story dynamic and is a call to action for my readers. This part is a manifesto that answers the questions: “What am I doing?” and “How can you help?”
Embracing Chaos: Discovering Autism and Neurodiversity is just the start. After I have completed and published my memoir, I will begin establishing a non-profit organization devoted to fulfilling the vision disclosed in the third part of my memoir. While this organization doesn’t have a name yet, the organization will revolve around the exponential power of E3 = Enrich * Employ * Empower.
I will also begin writing subsequent titles for publication. I’ve already begun the initial planning phases for two books to follow up my memoir. One, tentatively entitled Autism to the Third Degree, will discuss the complexities of parenting multiple children with autism. I will share coping strategies or solutions to the many challenges families with children with autism face, including epilepsy, feeding issues, and behavioral problems. The other, tentatively entitled Neurodiversity at Work, will discuss the complexities of neurological differences in the work place, helping both workers and employers to create successfully inclusive environments. Both titles will be tied to my advocacy work.