Books are “in” for sharing autism stories
My apologies for not keeping up more frequently during Autism Awareness Month. Duties at my station and the Minnesota Festival of Nations precluded my attention to the site, but with things quieting down for the moment, I have more time to address the site again.
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed with the explosion of media resources available on autism, it’s parents often writing books profiling their own journeys handling autistic kids. The latest to come forward is Shonda Schilling, wife of retired MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, with her book: The Best Kind of Different. She details her experiences raising Grant, the only child with Asperger’s Syndrome among 4 kids. Shonda shared some of her obstacles in an AOL Health Q&A.
Unlike Jenny McCarthy’s book, which documented the process that she believed “cured” her son from autism, Schilling considers those on the autism spectrum as having rewired brains. She also doesn’t equate Asperger’s, autism and autism spectrum disorder together. Parts of her story are familiar with other parents: wondering if she was a bad parent, what her son’s future would hold when she learned about the diagnosis, autism followers should get the drill by now. Unique to Schilling’s story was enduring her son’s uncommon behaviors often without her husband, until he officially retired from baseball in 2009. While most marriages end in divorce when autistic children are factored (the rate is far higher than those without autistic children, although celebrities could give families affected by autism a run :-P), Curt and Shonda hired a counselor to help sort out their differences. Since his retirement, Shonda says Curt has experienced her parenting struggles.
Shonda won’t be the last parent affected by autism to articulate her trials by written word. The variables are no different than what I’ve observed in faster, less detailed media on autism: that individual results will vary. Studying the Q&A, however, not getting a diagnosis for Grant until age 7 may have benefited her and the Schillings. Most kids have completed the largest percentage of vaccinations at that time, and her interview didn’t indicate that he regressed after getting vaccines. There are too many variables to make an indisputable conclusion, but it’s clear she chose to focus on what’s ahead for Grant, which will help him as he continues to develop.
I’m surprised Shonda’s book release hasn’t been played up more since the author herself is rather optimistic about her relationship and her children. However, Shonda doesn’t have the level of star power that McCarthy has (and only sports fans would be truly aware of husband Curt), and her perspective on autism is far less controversial than the former Playboy playmate’s. Mainstream media may see the release and her stories as “white noise” on the topic of autism, but I can’t imagine parents aren’t looking for ways to not only adapt with their autistic child, but their own relationship to ensure that autism won’t destroy the bond. The future of autism can be just as optimistic and unpredictable as every other disability or disease out there, but I’m not sure if major news outlets understand that yet.