November 1, 2013

Raising Autism: Surviving the Early Years

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:54 am by autismmommytherapist

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It’s done! Five days ago I pushed the “I accept” button on Amazon’s self-publishing program, Create Space, and yesterday my memoir, Raising Autism: Surviving the Early Years became available to the public.

Yes, there is (at least) one very large glass of wine in my immediate future.

I’ve written about the book before, so I won’t go into lengthy detail again, but I have to admit to all of you it’s a huge moment for me, plus a relief to have it finished. I started it seven years ago when I shipped my first child off to full day school, wrote about a third of it when I was pregnant with the second one, then hurried to finish it just in case our last child would ultimately be diagnosed with autism as well. The “just in case” came true, and I put the book on hold to once again work with one of my kids, and finally had time this year to see it published.

As I mentioned before in my first piece, all the profits will be split between four autism organizations- namely Autism Speaks, Parents of Autistic Children (POAC), Someone Special Needs You (SSNY), and my son’s school. I’m hoping I get to write some big fat checks to these worthy organizations who have all played such a big part in Justin’s and Zach’s progress and happiness, and by extension, our family’s.

Please consider purchasing it (it’s available on Amazon, the CreateSpace eStore, and will be available on Kindle in about three weeks) and/or spreading the word to anyone you think might be interested in reading it. I promise my sense of humor comes through, and I pinky swear it’s not a “weeper”. Simply writing our story was incredibly cathartic for me- my deepest wish is that it will help those of you in the autism community as well.

Below is a brief excerpt from “Raising Autism”, a review, and links to where you can purchase the book. As always, a huge thank-you to my readers for their continued support, it means the world to me!


Excerpt from Raising Autism:

“Raising Autism” is the story of how my eldest son and I survived his early years without dissolving entirely the fragile and tenuous bond we had crafted with one another since birth. It is the story of how his father and I made every difficult decision, from choosing his schools, his therapies, and even to where we would ultimately come to reside, while constantly agonizing over whether we had made the right, and often irrevocable, choices. It explains how his diagnosis called into question everything I thought I knew about myself and motherhood, and challenged me to consider exactly what I was willing to surrender for my child- career, geography, friends, and perhaps my known self. This hard-won knowledge would sustain me through not just my firstborn’s diagnosis, but ultimately through my second child’s as well.

Over time I have learned to embrace the altered landscape of our dreams, to measure the depth of my love for my sons, and most importantly, to reconcile with their diagnosis and move on with my life. I’ve named this book Raising Autism for several reasons. In part the title harkens to the often Herculean task of simply getting through the day while encountering the myriad of challenges autism presented to our family. I also called it Raising Autism as celebration for those parents able to conjure a different concept of family, of what it means to love, respect, and take pride in their child while simultaneously rewriting a new version of the rest of their lives as well.

This is our story.

Review for Raising Autism:

“It is a thing of beauty that McCafferty constantly finds some way to draw poetry out of her daily experiences, dealing with her sons’ autism…She expresses herself with a fine mix of candid humor, wit and grace… Her unique parental insights and perspectives make “Raising Autism” an excellent piece of literature for thousands of parents out there who are experiencing autism’s double-edged sword of confusion and wonder for the very first time…”

– Vanessa Ira, Managing Editor, Exceptional Parent Magazine

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Autism-Surviving-Early-Years/dp/1484912616/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=138…

Link to CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/4264622

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September 16, 2013

Raising Autism: Surviving the Early Years

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:36 am by autismmommytherapist

Summer 2013 Part 2 117It came in the post today, bound in bubble wrap, so tightly encased it almost defied my interventions to release it. I almost missed it amongst the other packages (we are an “order online” family), came close to passing it over in the rush to get dinner on the table, make lunches, and organize my kids for the next day’s events. Once I realized what it was I took the tie to free it from its confines, and couldn’t help but smile at the weight of it in my hands, both physical and metaphorical.

Today I unwrapped the final proof of my autism memoir about my boys. I must tell you that I am more than a wee bit excited I’m so near to publishing it.

Those of my readers in the autism community (and that’s most of you) may well be thinking, “for the love of God, not another autism- mommy –memoir,” and as there are literally hundreds of them in existence, I hear your angst. Amazon and even the Barnes and Noble bookshelves are rife with this type of writing, and truly, some of them are wonderful reads (I’ve listed a few of my faves at the back of mine).

So why, you may rightly ask, is it necessary to unleash yet another autism memoir upon the world? Well, I’ll share with you that mine is somewhat unique in that it centers around raising not one but two young children on the spectrum, one who is non-verbal and considered severely affected, and one who is more verbal than most and considered high-functioning (there’s a little something for every family here).

Our story spans two states, Virginia and New Jersey, and begins ten years ago, when autism was just beginning to take such precedence in the news and become somewhat of a household word. It describes what it’s like to do thirty hours a week solo with your own autistic toddler without losing your sanity (or at least appearing not to). I share every strategy I’ve used to help my kids acclimate to the world, so there’s a practicality to the memoir as well.

Finally, and just as important as the above reasons itself, it is not a weeper. I’ve allowed my own rather sarcastic humor to shine through, the same humor that was my saving grace while conducting those thirty weekly hours of therapy with my boy. I promise, it will make you laugh.

And even if you’re immune to my humorous charms, by purchasing it you will have contributed to an autism organization, and helped a child.

I’m proud of this book for several reasons (okay, mostly just proud I managed to write one while raising the two autistic kids, but there are other reasons as well). Nine years ago when Justin was diagnosed it became immediately apparent to me that I would have to make my leave-of-absence from teaching a permanent hiatus, as frankly no day care nor nanny would have been willing to care for my son. His behavior was truly that difficult back then, and since principals seem to frown upon their teachers not showing up for work, I knew after his diagnosis it was time to “retire. ”

I also knew resigning my position might effectively end my career, as even back then jobs were hard to come by, and I might not get another opportunity to work. Given that I loved my career and was fairly uncertain as to how being my son’s primary therapist was going to float with him, it was a real time of uncertainty for me. I did feel incredibly fortunate I could stay home with him and help him, since Virginia’s Early Intervention program was, quite honestly, pathetic, affording me eight hours a month of services when my son required at least eighty, if not more.

But despite feeling lucky about our circumstances I realized I still needed something of my own, even if I had to put that dream on hold for a while. I decided that once Justin was in school I would write our story, and use it as a fundraising vehicle. I got a bit delayed by a surprise pregnancy (trust me, a welcome but BIG surprise), and then by my youngest son’s regression (it makes the book longer, you’ll get your money’s worth). Finally, however, I finished it (hurrah!) and will be proud to donate all the profits “from here to eternity” to four different autism organizations- namely Autism Speaks, Parents of Autistic Children (POAC), Someone Special Needs You (SSNY), and my eldest son’s autism school.

I’m really hoping I get to write some big fat checks.

As the publishing date gets closer (I anticipate about 4-6 weeks from now) I’ll be happy to share more about my book Raising Autism: Surviving the Early Years and more information about the organizations I’ll be supporting. Right now however I’m going to go get that manuscript and attempt my final edit(!) while my kids are in school, so wish me luck.

And, as always, thank you for reading and for your wonderful comments!

December 1, 2010

“All I Can Handle, I’m No Mother Teresa”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:03 am by autismmommytherapist

Kim Rossi Stagliano’s “Kimoir” All I Can Handle, I’m No Mother Teresa”, a memoir about her life with her husband and three girls on the autism spectrum, finally made its debut a few weeks ago. Although it’s been sitting on my bedstand for weeks mocking me for my lack of free time, it wasn’t until recently that I finally had the opportunity to ignore both my children and Facebook for a few hours and sink my teeth into it. I pretty much devoured it in one evening, an impressive feat considering we were in the throes of the stomach virus chez McCafferty. The fact that I wasn’t just squandering my time with reality tv and drinking heavily (this was one NASTY little virus) is a rousing endorsement for the book in and of itself.

I read pretty much everything parents write about their autistic children, both in the hopes I’ll glean some great tip I haven’t thought of that might help my own progeny, and also because discovering other people’s stories has helped shaped my writing about my own. I admit, when I finally got the chance to pick up the pretty pink-covered tome, I began to peruse it through three completely different lenses. First, I read it from the perspective of a mom, all of whose children reside on the autism spectrum as well.  Second, I looked at it through the eyes of a writer, one who has also penned a manuscript about her little darlings. The third lens perhaps was the most important however, as I poured through the writing as a harried woman desperate for Christmas ideas for her neurotypical brethren.

Sorry, friends and family, guess I should have written “SPOILER ALERT”.

I wasn’t certain anyone could pull off writing an entire book about three autistic children, the accompanying challenges a family faces, AND accomplish it with humor as an integral aspect woven throughout the work, but Kim Stagliano has done it. By writing hilariously about her struggles to secure adequate schooling and services for her girls, her husband’s multiple layoffs, and her myriad moves (one of which included returning to her parents’ home with all three kids in tow, perish the thought), she managed to make their story completely relatable to someone with absolutely no direct experience with the disorder. Trust me, by doing so she deservers the medal AND the monument. As my readers know, autism is often not the funniest of “gigs”.

She also writes with stunning honesty about her marriage as well, and I admit the chapter in which she highlights a moment of loud clarity on a golf course conjured up several of my own “make it or break it” moments in my union, which I’ve noticed most marriages which last longer than the equivalent of a guarantee possess even without disabled children in the mix. Her prose is witty, her vignettes engaging, and most importantly, her story simply transcends autism. I laughed on and off for the better part of three hours (which doesn’t happen often here), and I admit I’ve dog-eared several of the funnier pages as references to get me through the impending holidays when the chocolate runs out. Hell, it is MY copy after all.

So the upshot is, if you don’t know me personally, I recommend you purchase it because I guarantee you’ll learn something, find your own life and family somewhere within its confines, and most importantly, whether you tend to a difficult child or not, you’ll also laugh your ass off.

And if we’re related or friends, guess what’s going in your stocking this year. At least you know how much to spend on me.