I am an author, blogger, journalist, and public speaker living in Brookline, Massachusetts. I have three sons, the oldest of whom is in his twenties and has severe autism. Nat was diagnosed with autism at age three, back in 1992, what I call The Autism Stone Age. After many false starts and different school programs, Nat did finally reach his stride at a vocational school for people with autism. He learned how to work and how to function fairly independently. Now he lives in his own apartment with a caregiver, and he works 5 days a week. I have learned that with autism, never say “never.”
I have been publishing op-eds, commentaries, articles and essays since 1997, on disability, parenting, and living happily, in places like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Exceptional Parent Magazine, Family Fun, and Education Week. I have appeared as a guest on the Today Show, MSNBC, ABC News, PBS, NPR and CNN. I am the author of Making Peace With Autism as well as The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide. My third book, Autism Adulthood: Strategies and Insights for a Fulfilling Life will be out in April 2016.
I give keynotes and speeches at places like Harvard Medical School, New York State Autism Society, Autism Society of the Midwest, the Massachusetts State House, the Arc of the US Annual Conference, and the National Autism Center. My writings took me to a state dinner at the White House in honor of Special Olympics in 2006.
Through my essays, keynotes, articles, and books, I am trying to make sense of autism and find a way to my oldest son, and help others with this challenge of autism at the same time. This diagnosis does not mean the end of the world, but it is the end of some things. It is also the beginning of a very long road. If you can accept that this person is different, but a person nonetheless, you are halfway there. For the rest of the way, you need a few great friends, a lot of information, and a sense of humor. As Ned Batchelder, my husband of 31 years, says, “Learn to declare victory and get the hell out!” Throw away expectation, and you may be pleasantly surprised.