I feel like I am slowly learning more about disability. I have a number of friends that have children with special needs and I want to be helpful and supportive. Part of that is trying to understand their life with its various joys and challenges. To not assume, but to ask questions. To be willing to make a mistake in trying to help, in order to learn better ways to be a friend.
Love Tears & Autism, is the story of one family in the first few years of realising their son has autism. Written by the mum and from her point of view it is a raw, honest account of the pre-school years. From the trying to fall pregnant years, to the early happy baby days; from the mild concerns that he wasn’t quite like other kids, to the increasing concern over his tantrums and inflexible behaviour; from a diagnosis of autism to then seeing a way forward with treatment and management. She is bluntly open about her own struggles and frustrations, her crisis of faith, depression and her views on disability.
While it is a highly personal and individual story, it is a great insight for anyone seeking to understand the challenges of a child with autism. Those for whom autism is a part of their life will find understanding and acceptance of their emotions and reactions. For those who do not live with it daily, it gives a good idea of the challenges and how we, as outsiders or supporters, can be of help (or not!)
She challenges all parents to ask themselves “what do you want from your children?” Often it is selfish things. We want our kids to be well-behaved, well-dressed and manageable so that we look like successful parents. She is very honest about her own struggles with this and how she thought she was seen as a parent and whether or not it mattered. She is also achingly honest about how she felt about disability before her son was born and her fears of not being able to love him fully. This openness will be balm to other parents who have wondered the same things but felt unable to express it.
There were times when I swore, usually but not always under my breath. There were times when I put my head down on the kitchen bench and cried, wishing that it would all go away...
But there were also times when even though I thought I couldn't go on any longer, or do it anymore, that I realised that I loved this child, and if I wasn't going to help him, then no-one would. It was out of sheer, desperate necessity that I could somehow find another scrap of energy - from either me or from God somehow - to quiet my own angry heart and offer my son the calmness that he needed so much. (p140-1)
This book is really an introduction to parenting a child with autism. I hope she will go on to write again about the early school and then later teenage years in the future.
For more on the topic of disability, I have also reviewed Take Heart, Ella and You Owe Me Dinner. As for two other points of view on being a parent of a child with a disability, you might want to read the snippets at Welcome to Holland (disability) and Welcome to Beirut (autism). I know a father who has found Welcome to Holland particularly helpful in processing his own feelings about his child with special needs.