Cecily Paterson answers
about Love, Tears & Autism.
Why did you decide to write Love, Tears & Autism?
I started keeping a blog about my son’s road with autism just after he was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 3. In the five years it has been going, people have found it helpful. I began to think that writing a book from it would be practical and encouraging for families with children on the autistic spectrum.
What motivated you to write the book?
Every Thursday for a year, I would drive across Sydney so that I could drop my preschooler and his baby brother at my mother in law’s place for the morning. I’d say a quick goodbye and head out to the shops where I could do all the things I needed to do and then at the end, sit at relax in a café with a book, a piece of cake and a pot of earl gray tea.
After my little boy was diagnosed with ASD, I quickly swapped my Thursday morning novels for books about autism. I scoured bookshops and libraries for information and read everything, mostly crying at the same time.
Unfortunately, though, I never really found the book I was looking for. The technical books were heavy and discouraging, and the personal stories were either overly depressing or unrealistically cheerful.
I wanted a book which explained autism in real life language, gave me practical help, emotional support and told me that there was light at the end of the tunnel. I never found it, so I tried to write it. Hopefully, I have succeeded!
How did you come up with the title?
A few weeks before the diagnosis, I had a rather extraordinary experience with God.
As I was praying that He would give me a particular gift in ministry, it was very clear to me that He wanted me instead to ask for the ability to love people.
Of course, I prayed the prayer, never realizing that the biggest test of love – having a child with a disability - was just around the corner. Throughout our journey, I have been very aware that the many dark times and the intense emotional pain have been for a purpose – to teach me to love others as God does. So I’ve cried a lot, but I’m loving more because of autism.
Tell us a bit about what your book covers?
Even though the book is about my son and his diagnosis and journey with autism, it’s really actually about me. It’s about what I did, how I felt, what I learned and what I’m still learning through it all.
Having said that, I should be more specific and say that it is about autism and what that can entail for a family. It is about different therapies and treatments. It is about depression and counseling. It is about prayer and answers (or not) to prayer. It’s about relationships, it’s about church and it’s about suffering and hope. It’s about a life getting turned upside down and righted again.
Do you hope by writing the book that you’re reaching out to men or women who are having or have had the same experience?
I really want people to know and to feel that they are not alone. For a long time I felt very isolated and lonely. I hope that my book will be a friend to the person out there who needs a friend today.
I’d also like it to be read by friends and churches and extended family members of parents who are struggling with a child with autism. Sometimes people just didn’t understand the issues. For example, my son looks normal and it was hard for some people to accept that his antisocial behavior like public screaming and tantrums wasn’t a result of bad parenting or him being a ‘naughty’ child.
Was there a particular audience you were aiming to reach through telling your story?
I wrote for a few different groups; parents of autistic children or children with other disabilities; their families, friends and churches; and anyone who needs encouragement or who loves a good, honest struggle story.
What did you set out to achieve by writing the book?
To be real and to be honest. I wanted to let people know that’s it’s ok to feel sad about things. It’s ok to say, “this is a tragedy” and to have a cry and to get angry. I also wanted to share my spiritual struggles and let people know that God can cope if we question him. And that he still gently loves us even when we feel we have almost no faith left.
The book is extremely honest, to the point of being raw in parts. In some ways I feel scared about putting myself and my feelings ‘out there’ but in other ways I hope that this will encourage people who are struggling.
How do the themes of the book relate to current issues in society today?
Autism is on the increase around the world. In Australia about 1 in 160 children is on the ‘autism spectrum’. More and more people either have an autistic child or have a friend or a relative who has an autistic child. It is a condition with no known cure and no known cause.
HOW DO WE GET A COPY OF LOVE, TEARS & AUTISM?
Head to my books page, scroll down to the bottom and order. Or ask your local bookstore to get it in.