When Ian was just three, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. What that meant in reality is told in "Strangers Together: How My Son's Autism Changed My Life" ($5.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; also in Amazon Kindle format and available locally at Lyon Books in Chico) by Joan Goodreau (autismwritehere.wordpress.com). It's an account of the year following Ian's diagnosis by a single mom trying to raise Ian, Monica (seven) and Jennifer (ten). It's a poignant, laugh-out-loud tragi-comedy that begins with an expletive from mom (the first word Ian learns to repeat, of course) and ends with a birthday candle (and Ian putting on his pajamas, all by himself).
In between those events Goodreau charts her own journey. She is living in Canada, and few people understand Ian's outbursts on shopping trips (which are few) or his penchant for pouring things on the floor (like wine or flour) when the family is invited to visit friends (and the friends become fewer). She tries to fend for herself, and yet is amazed at what Ian's Special Education preschool teacher is able to do. Attending a parents' meeting, watching a video of the children, she wonders: "Who is this kid? I didn't know my son could sign and follow directions."
In fact, "he looks like a different boy than the Ian we live with at home. We are strangers who live together. We look at each other, but he doesn't see our family. ... Silence and screams are his language, and we can't understand."
Much later, a compassionate presenter tells another assembly of parents "about the secret child we dream about when we're expecting a baby. We fasten our dreams and hopes on this baby. When our child has disabilities, we have to accept our child is different from the one we dreamed about. We need to grieve in our own ways for the child we thought we had, and for the death of our dream." And Goodreau learns that others can help.
She will be signing her book at the Rowell Family Empowerment Center, 3075 Cohasset Road in Chico, Friday, December 13, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Call (530) 899-8801 for details. All proceeds from the book sale will go to the organization, which offers "support, education and advocacy to parents."