Friday, 24 August 2012 17:49

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.

What was implied but unstated in this response was that that’s exactly the kind of thing a best friend is for. He knows what you need even when you and everyone else don’t.

When I refer to Sebastian as my son’s best friend I’m assuming a lot. That’s because Jonah, who is on the autism spectrum, has never really had what kids today call a BF, and while he and Sebastian have a lot in common – both are on the spectrum, for starters – they’re not emotionally entangled in each other’s lives the way I remember I was with the boys I hung out with at Jonah’s age. Back then, the smallest slights were painstakingly analyzed; alliances changed like the weather.

Jonah’s relationships with his peers, while often awkward and untenable, are never neurotic. Whenever I worry about his deficits in social skills, I try to remember that, growing up, I never liked my friends that much, especially my best friends. Still, my wife and I are enormously grateful for Sebastian and to him. We take his point. Jonah could be tougher.

Read the rest of the article in the New York Times

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