Tuesday, 07 May 2013 17:50

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.

My wife, Cynthia, the practical one in the family, has dealt with this issue by tracking down a suitable book to read with Jonah. “What’s Happening to Me?” is a primer for boys going through puberty. With chapters like “Getting Hairy,” and “Down There …,” it’s straightforward and cheerful. But I’m still not sure it addresses Jonah’s real issue: which is not why is all this happening to him but why does it have to happen? In other words, why can’t everything go back to the way it was?

As the impractical one in the family, I’m ignoring all the puberty stuff – a convenient strategy, I’ll admit – and taking the philosophical high road. When Jonah asks me why he can’t be little again, I tell him that’s just the way life is. Jonah remains skeptical. He doesn’t come out and say it, but I can guess what he’s thinking: “That’s not fair!” And he’s right; it isn’t. Who wouldn’t want to stop time if they could, or just slow it down a little?

I’ve also been telling Jonah not to worry about the future since that’s what is really behind his concern about getting taller. He’s worried about the special challenges he already senses await him. Here, too, my advice isn’t helpful or especially credible. When you’re the parent of a child growing up with autism, worry is all you do. You’d be crazy not to.

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