It is my pleasure today to host Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D., authors of the kid-friendly The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents), published by Free Spirit Publishing in 2012. Click above to read my review of the book.
Since April has been designated Autism Awareness Month, I thought it may be interesting to hear from two mothers/authors who collaborated to create this practical and informative book for kids. It is a book that elementary kids can read with parents and middle schoolers can reach for as a friendly guide. It is a colorful and inviting book that alternates between helpful advice, tips and tools, discussions, role-playing and fun cartoons and graphics. It is a timeless book that can be used by kids as a resource as they face new and different challenges as they mature.
People often ask me, “Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?” The answer is: “The one I’m writing right now.” This is true for many writers — we’re excited about our current work, the one we sit down to work on that very day. As much as we love our published books, we often have our head in the clouds — and our nose to the computer screen — for a new one.
Yet, there’s a book I get as much joy from now as I did while writing it and watching it be designed, illustrated, and published: The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Perhaps this is because the book is for my own son, who has autism. Or, perhaps it is because the book gives other parents and their children some of the answers they’re looking for, and the hope they need. Raising a child with ASD is a lifetime challenge. More importantly, growing up with autism/Asperger’s and dealing with it day-to-day is a lifetime challenge. I want to help young people meet these challenges with knowledge, confidence, and a sense of momentum. Each small step taken leads a child and his or her family on a path to greater success.
It’s been a great pleasure for Dr. Reeve and I to see the interest many grandparents of ASD children have in our book. These grandparents want to know: “How can I help my grandchild –how can we bond? How will autism affect my grandchild’s future? How can I best support my own child along the way?” Grandparents and other relatives of a child on the spectrum play important, enduring roles in the child’s life — especially when they understand what they’re facing. We all know the saying, “It takes a village…” and with a child on the spectrum, it really does.
Working with Dr. Reeve, I’ve come to see the critical need for a book for teens and young adults with ASD. Her tireless dedication to all her patients and to the ASD community inspires me to keep writing. Plus, my son is in entering the preteen years…I have a lot of work ahead, and much more to learn!
The most overwhelming feeling after publication of the Survival Guide has been gratitude towards my coauthor, who is in the business of writing and has been able to steer me through the entire process. Now that our book is published and has had very positive reviews I am motivated to do more. In one sense, having the “first” book published has made me feel inadequate in that I realize how much there is to say on the topic of “Surviving Autism.”
My colleagues have been very positive about the book, but more importantly I have received fan mail. I have had some very moving letters from people who have had contact with me in the past who upon seeing the book have taken the time to reconnect. I also have had letters from complete strangers who have reached out to express how grateful they are for our effort to help families and put a new resource on the market.
My most memorable comment about the book has come from my 24-year-old son who has autism. His response after reading the book was, “Thanks a lot, Mom — only 10 years too late for me!” One of my longtime patients in the clinic exclaimed, “Dr. Reeve, I didn’t know you could write. I thought you just talked.” Parents appreciate the book because it is colorful and active. It seems to lend itself very well to being picked up and put down as needed: a resource to be used repeatedly, rather than as a book that needs to be read straight through.
My hope for future writing is to work with my coauthor to create a second volume to the first book. Our goal is to write a Survival Gude for adolescents and young adults. I also have a book I would like to write on my own that explores the complexities of negotiating the mental-health system with a child: I intend to use real patient stories and vignettes. It is a bit overwhelming to think about writing on my own after all the support I received with this book!
Quote from the book: “We don’t believe in can’t or never. If you have ASD, there are some differences between you and other people. But your life can be about can. Never say never.”
Thank you so much for your insight and wisdom. I know many will look forward to your future collaborations on books! Many adolescents are reaching that age of transition into adulthood, and a volume directed towards their special needs would be valuable. Best Wishes, Patricia