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Wrapping It Up

  • Posted on December 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Yesterday I was absorbed in a necessary, cathartic task. I took my finals for this semester. The first one took longer than I expected. When I came upstairs, I told Mark, “My statistics final tried to annihilate me, but I reign victorious!” My statistics instructor “cheated.” She presented the questions of the final as real life scenarios. She gave us a few hints, but we basically had to figure out for ourselves how to get the answers to her questions with the data given. I don’t know how well I did. At this point, I’m just glad I’m done. My HR final was essay questions, so that went much more quickly.

As far as I know, I’m all set to restart in the spring. I’m registered, funded, confirmed, and everything. The only thing I have hanging over my head, school wise, is one final paper that was, surprisingly enough, due after the final. I have my first draft finished. Since writing is kind of my thing, my first drafts are better than many of the papers that are turned in as polished copies, or so I’ve been told. The one time I ran out of time and had to turn in a first draft I got an A, so I guess it’s true. It kind of takes the pressure off, especially since I do have time to polish it up.

Anyway, school is almost wrapped up for the nice winter break. (I don’t start up again until January 20th.) I’m also almost completely caught up with my work. Pretty soon I’ll be able to sit back and relax, at least for a few moments. For now, though, I’m still plugging away.

Reliving the Struggles

  • Posted on November 13, 2013 at 10:00 AM

While my family still faces some pretty significant challenges that are influenced by our children’s special needs or society’s perception of our children’s special needs, we’re really doing quite well. It is a comfortable time to go back and reflect on the experiences that brought us to this point, which is what I’m doing in writing my memoir about our early years.

Most of the time, I feel at peace with my life and what we’ve been through. We made it. We’re okay now. But going back and reliving those struggles shows how much those emotions, those moments, and those injustices still affect me.

Sharing these moments in my book is making it easier for me to share these moments in other places. It’s opening me up and helping me to be more honest with a wider audience that doesn’t understand, but can come to understand better with a little more sharing. College classes give me an excellent opportunity to practice this kind of sharing, but I also find myself sharing in other environments as well.

I’ve learned quite a lot from going back over those painful memories. I remember how I saw things then, but I see things differently now, and I try to capture both in the book. The process is also helping me to see things here and now a bit differently. So many of us spend so much of our time communicating with each other, and that certainly has value, but as knowledgeable as we are of our own stories and of each other’s stories, targeting one another misses out on the wider audience we have to reach in order to change things for our children.

Think about a moment in time that has caused you pain because you or your child were not appreciated for your differences. Then, find a way to share that moment outside the traditional circles. Send the moment out into the wider world. Bring a little understanding to those who might not otherwise be exposed to the stories we live and the message we have to share.

A Call for Support

  • Posted on October 24, 2012 at 8:00 AM

So, I’m writing a book. It’s become my big to-do project. But I also have to write to support my family. Every hour I spend on my book takes away time I can write to support my family. So, I’m raising money to offset the difference.

But that’s just my immediate motivation. There’s a whole ‘nother dimension to this fundraising business that I want to talk about.

In my community, we have a big fancy library that is full of books and movies and CDs and CD-ROMs and books on tape and all sorts of good stuff. Nothing wrong with that! But, when the boys were first diagnosed with autism, there was very little “good” stuff on autism in that library. Last time I checked, there’s still not. It’s not that they didn’t have any books on autism, but they were all skewed away from anything remotely pro-neurodiversity. I typed “neurodiversity” into the computerized card catalog and it just laughed at me. Actually, it tried to redirect me to something that didn’t even start with “neuro.” If I remember correctly, it was “necromancy.” Sound like fun?

Sometime after that, it was Autism Awareness Month and the boys’ school had set out a selection of books about autism that were available through the Family Resource Center. Jenny McCarthy’s latest book (I didn’t bother to look at the title) was prominently displayed. Nothing remotely pro-neurodiversity was available.

I’ve looked at various collections available in my community since then. I’ve read some books that I found intolerable, others that I found misguided, still others that I’ve found merely unhelpful. All the books that I have found useful and appropriately respectful of the subject matter have been books I’ve had to buy for myself.

So, here’s my plan: I’m going to donate copies of my books to as many of the places I looked for loaners as I possibly can. I’m going to assume the full cost of donating in my own community, but I’m asking for your help donating books to other communities. I’m targeting public libraries, Family Resource Centers (both in the community and in the schools), and any similar lending library families use to learn about autism. It’ll take time for me to hit them all, of course, and I’m not even sure I could locate them all. But I’ve got to start somewhere.

I’ve already pledged that any donation of $250 or more will earn a donation of five books. I’ve also pledged that any donation of $500 or more will earn a donation of ten books. I already have one donation of $500, for a total of ten books.

Here’s a new pledge: If I reach my half-way mark of $1,250 by November 15th, I will use a portion of the funds raised to donate a total of 25 books, plus any donations earned by single donations.

To reach this goal, I need your help. If you’re considering donating, then please donate before November 15th. If you can’t donate, but want to show your support, please press the “share” and the “like” and the “tweet” buttons on the link provided. Please leave comments. Please like comments. Please help raise the awareness level of this campaign and encourage others who can afford to do so to donate.

Thank you! Together, book by book and dollar by dollar, we can ensure that people who are looking for information on autism can find information that helps them to empower the people with autism in their lives!

Writing in Anger

  • Posted on October 22, 2012 at 8:00 AM

There’s a fine line between passionate persuasion and outright anger. In the blogosphere, we often cross that line with ease. There’s no censor. There’s precious little moderation. I know, in this realm, I’m far from the angriest of writers who write about autism and neurodiversity.

Lately, however, I’ve been doing a lot more professional writing. Seeking a wider, more diverse audience requires a moderation of tone. Luckily for me, I have a co-writer on some of my projects who doesn’t hesitate to tell me when I’m writing from an angry place. He’s even gone so far as to say that I don’t sound like me when I’m angry.

There’s part of me that wants to stubbornly cling to my anger. I feel as if I have a right to be angry. Considering some of the injustices we’ve faced, I’d even go so far as to say I’d earned it. But that’s not even the point. Whether I have a right to or not, I am angry.

But, when it comes to my writing and what I’m trying to accomplish, my anger doesn’t really do much good.

Then again, there are times when anger has its place. Those pieces are shorter and for a more select audience (which is part of the reason it works so much better on a blog). It just takes knowing when and where to unleash it and when and where to keep working at it until I can produce the content I want with a moderate tone.

The fight for justice will not be won with anger alone, but anger does have its place. You just can’t get stuck there.

Reliving the Moments

  • Posted on March 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM

I love being a writer.  I’m glad being a writer gives me the means to share my stories and to advocate for my children.  But, honestly, sometimes it sucks, because impacting the lives of others requires sharing my own, especially the painful moments.

I’m working on a book that I describe as a “persuasive memoir.”  It’s more than a typical memoir, but it relies on sharing my experiences to show how I got to where I am.  I’m also collaborating on a book about special education, and this first one that we’re working on focuses on what parents need to know when they’re just getting started.  It seemed, from the conversation I was having with my collaborator, that he thought I sort of knew what I was doing when I first entered the world of special education.  But I didn’t.  So, I had to put into context for him what my entry into special education was really like.  And then, he wanted me to write up that story for the book.

It hurts.  Even though I’ve moved on from these moments, even though I understand the importance of sharing them, it hurts to write them down.  Part of my process in writing is to immerse myself in the moment again, to capture how it felt and what was going through my head.  I’ve come a long way since these moments, but going back to them still hurts.  Perhaps it always will.

But this is what I do.  It’s what I need to do.  By sharing my experiences, I help those who are living them now to know they are not alone in those experiences, and that there is a time after those experiences when things do get better.  It’s about humanity and hope; it’s also about helping others to get the information and wisdom that I lacked, that I wished I’d had, without having to come the long way around to discover it.

And sharing my experiences with a professional of the caliber of my collaborator also benefits me.  I’m still learning.  The curve is steep, and I’m still climbing.  Every new bit of information, every trick, every technique helps me to serve my own children better.  Sharing that with others helps them to serve their kids better.  And, in the end, the world will be a slightly better place for the work I’m doing.

That’s worth doing.  But that only makes the pain worthwhile, not less.

“Wow!”

  • Posted on October 21, 2009 at 1:47 AM

Can I just say that again?  “Wow!”  Today has been a great day, and I just don’t get to say that enough.  It’s not that I don’t have good days or even great days.  It’s just that things get so busy the “great” just goes flying by and I don’t stop to reflect until the humdrum days come.  So, I want to take a moment out of this very busy day and just say, “Wow!”

The reason I want to write is because I cannot imagine making a living any other way and still being happy.  I’ve tried various jobs and experienced various degrees of unhappiness doing those jobs.  I love to write, and as long as I believe what I’m writing, I’ll write just about anything.  Getting paid for it is just one of those bonuses that life throws at me every now and then.

The reason why I write about neurodiversity is different.  Blogging, of course, is cool, because you get to interact with people spread across the world in dialogues you’d not likely have in any other way.  But writing for publication goes beyond even this.  I’m working on a piece about The Autism Acceptance Project.  E-mailing back and forth with Estee is always great.  I’ve enjoyed her work for years and this project (mine, not TAAP), started expressly because of that friendship and my admiration for her work.  Busy as she is, I’m pretty sure I could e-mail her just to say “Hi.”

Today, I had an opportunity I probably wouldn’t have attempted without this project.  I got to call and speak with Michael Moon!  And I have to say it again:  “Wow!”  Of course I’ve spoken with autistic adults before (I can’t imagine having a child diagnosed with autism and not seeking out autistic adults for their insight, though I know it happens), and I always have to shake myself afterwards and try to understand where the prejudice comes from.   But, wow, is Michael an impressive person!

His photography is inspiring, his music is tingling (in a very good way), and his words are powerful.  Get a taste of his work and know that is his time to devote to the site hasn’t quite caught up with his aspirations for its content (which means there’s more to come).  But the content is rich and moving as it is, so check it out!

Busy or not, I couldn’t let this “great” fly by without one last “Wow!”

On Writing

  • Posted on October 17, 2009 at 12:44 PM

I have wanted to write since I was ten years old.  My first love is for stories – all kinds of stories.  Novels, short stories, ballads, anecdotes, movies, and television are some of the mediums I tend to gravitate towards.  I have written one novel (it’s in a box) and have another pinned to my wall.  I’ve written and published short stories, but my success in fiction has been less than mediocre.

I knew I wanted to write for a living and pursued a few different strategies to do that.  The latest is business writing, which should result in a viable small business by this time next year.

Writing non-fiction didn’t really interest me until recently.  It was a practical avenue to break into business writing, but other than blogging I didn’t see the non-fiction venues as my thing.  While I intended to write a book about autism someday, trying to share a different perspective than the books I’d read when my kids were first diagnosed, I didn’t really take it seriously as a professional pursuit.

I don’t know about other people, but I tend to get flashes of insight.  I see my interests and activities align in an unexpected way.  Writing, professionalism, neurodiversity, and the need for more mainstream attention to this important perspective was an unexpected alignment for me.  The quality, quantity, and marketability of my writing have gone up significantly since this alignment became apparent to me.  After over a decade of trying to write professionally, I sit down and write about a topic I’m passionate about, and lo and behold, my work is accepted, and then another piece is accepted and published.  On it goes and I hope it continues.

I don’t expect to make a living writing about neurodiversity, but I do hope to make an impact.

For those who are interested, I now have a working writing blog up.  Its primary target is the writing group I started, but the material on there is useful for almost anyone who’s interested in writing.  If you want tips on how to break into publication, just ask and I’ll tell you what I can.