News

31 Jul

2014

The Kids Who Don’t Beat Autism

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times as part of the Motherlode section.

The other day a stranger called our house, out of the blue, to discuss my son Jonah’s health. He’d seen my memoir about our family and autism in the library and he wanted to know if I’d heard about a treatment that was getting remarkable results. Something to do with ocean water, he explained.

Incidentally, this sort of unsolicited heads-up isn’t as unusual as you would think. Not for me or any parent of a child on the autism spectrum. We’ve heard it all — from gluten-free diets to hyperbaric chambers. We’ve learned to tune it out, most of it anyway. But some trace of the miracle-cure talk echoes; it can’t be unheard. Ocean water, huh? As it happens, I told my mystery caller, we’re going to Maine next month.

I could have kicked myself.

11 Apr

2014

The Sixth Stage of Grief: Buying a Puppy

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times as part of the Motherlode section.

Last fall, I received a puppy for my birthday. The gift, from my wife, Cynthia, was welcome, even if it came around 50 years too late.

Still, the undiluted joy I’m sure I would have felt as, say, a 6-year-old has been undermined by a nagging grownup question: What were we thinking, getting a dog? Probably, we were thinking – without realizing it at the time – that this has been a difficult year for our family.

Those difficulties began but didn’t end with our son, Jonah, who has autism and just turned 15. Social interaction, always a challenge for him, has become considerably more challenging during his teenage years. We figured he could use a friend. He is not only isolated from his peers these days, but he is also increasingly isolated from Cynthia and me. Jonah’s door is closed an awful lot and his self-imposed exile, not that unusual for any teenager, has still been hard to adjust to. Some days, I find myself staring at that door, wondering what happened to our adorable little boy.

7 May

2013

Autistic and Coming (Reluctantly) of Age

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times as part of the Motherlode section.

In the last few months, my 14-year-old son, Jonah, has grown taller than his mother. Which means just one thing: I’m next. In our below-average-size family, this doesn’t exactly qualify him for March Madness; still, it should be cause for celebration.

Jonah isn’t celebrating. Instead, he seems to be finding the prospect of growing up unsettling.

A lot of us do, but, in Jonah’s case, the mysteries of getting older are combined with the even more confounding mysteries of having autism. So while other kids are likely to take your word for it that growing up is a simple fact of life, Jonah is skeptical. Occasionally, he even expresses a desire to be short again, which probably explains why he asks his mother to stand on tiptoes whenever she’s next to him.

27 Nov

2012

‘Far From the Tree’ and the Literature of Autism

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times as part of the Motherlode section.

On a recent road trip, my son, Jonah, and I outvoted my wife, Cynthia, winning the right to listen to Steely Dan’s “Greatest Hits.” This provided Cynthia with time to fashion a pointed critique of the songs Jonah and I were happily singing along to.

“This music’s slick and vacuous,” she pronounced during “Dr. Wu.”

“Exactly,” I said. “We’re guys. We love ‘slick and vacuous.’”

These days, I’m drawn to anything my son and I can enjoy together. He’s about to turn 14 and has autism – two factors that increase, exponentially, the ways in which his brain works differently than mine.

24 Aug

2012

Sending a Child With Autism to Sleep-Away Camp

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times as part of the Motherlode section.

My 13-year-old son Jonah and his new best friend, Sebastian, were in the pool the other day, armed with Styrofoam water guns, when things escalated. I wasn’t there, but my wife, Cynthia, told me the story later. It seems Jonah was getting the worst of the shootout and after a while Sebastian’s mother suggested her son go easy. He didn’t. I’m guessing the fact that Jonah found the whole thing hilarious played a part in his friend persisting. But Sebastian also had another, more big-hearted reason for drenching my son.

“I have to toughen him up,” Sebastian told his mother when she warned him to listen one last time.

14 Jun

2012

Father’s Day, With Autism: Rethinking the Cool Dad

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times as part of the Motherlode section.

The cover story in the June issue of Wired magazine, celebrating geek dads, is ruining my Father’s Day. It’s got me thinking: should I be doing more?

Like building a hovercraft, dissecting a baseball, making gummy worms glow or instilling “an empowering worldview” in my child. These are just a few of the activities suggested in Wired’s “guide to being the coolest father on the planet.”

“Breathe,” my wife, Cynthia, says when I ask her what “an empowering worldview” might be. “Relax and breathe.”

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Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism

badanimalsJoel Yanofsky tried for years to start this memoir. "It's not just going to be about autism," he told his wife, Cynthia. "It's going to be about parenthood and marriage, about hope and despair, and storytelling, too." 

BC National Award for Non-Fiction Video

Joel Yanofsky at BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Click on the image to watch the video