Monday, September 21, 2009

Stephanie Hemenway's "The Autism Mom's Survival Guide"

I'm walking a few feet off the ground since the mail arrived Monday! I got a package from an Autism Mom, Stephanie Hemenway. Inside were two books to review. I was expecting the cookbook, but the survival guide was a surprise!


Being told that your child has an autism spectrum disorder is quite an experience, and more often than not, becoming an Autism Mom or Autism Dad is not a positive experience for parents.

A trip to the book store or to the University of Google for information about autism is overwhelming beyond description. Autism Moms and Autism Dads have to instantly wear a bunch of new hats, take on a bunch of new roles. Diet, education, remediation, biomedical, meds, sensory integration issues are just a few of the broad categories. The information is unending, and sorting through it all can be the catalyst to send some parents into shut-down mode and simply avoid all of it.

We parents rely on one another as mentors and coaches as we begin to sort through the mazes of options. I'm happy to mentor another parent. I am deeply indebted to my mentor, Missy. I want to pay that forward. I've been looking for a single resource that I can recommend to a "newbie" to say, "Here, read this FIRST, and then talk to me," a resource that would serve us as a common framework. Something that does not promote one "camp" over another. One that isn't "holier than thou" or "preachy". One that is practical. Oh, yeah, and I want something that fits in my purse.

Here is that resource:

Stephanie Hemenway's, The Autism Mom's Survival Guide ($14.99) is excellent. She's a wonderful mentor. Hemenway provides the right amount of information: "just enough" to be encouraging and hopeful while at the same time, not being overwhelming, while providing quality resources as Autism Moms take next steps in different areas of intervention. Her experience is so much like my own that I felt my head nodding in agreement all the way through the book.

Hemenway offers practical suggestions for all of the basics, and that includes some hints on organizing files, feeding sensory systems, saving money where possible, shopping with your asd child, cooking GFCF (which she does without being preachy, and yes, she includes some recipes!), taking care of yourself, keeping marriage a priority, and managing your time. (Note to self: Penny, you need to take her advice on internet time.)

When I was pregnant, one of my favorite pregnancy books was the one written for "girlfriends". Hemenway's "Survival Guide..." reminds me a little bit of that book. She writes in a non-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase, bottom-line style, in short sections that are packed with information and little steps to take "right now" that are easy to accomplish. I really appreciate the way Hemenway offers reference information, shortcuts, to take parents to next steps. (Stephanie, if you happen to read this, my daughter and I stopped for lunch at your top rated restaurant, yesterday, on the way to our appointment. Thumbs up! Thank you!)

My favorite, I-wish-I'd-had-this-book-when-my-daughter-was-little section is the one on shopping with the child. I like how it fits in my purse, too.

The Autism Mom's Survival Guide is not just for new Autism Moms. I've been a card carrying Autism Mom for almost nine years, an "old timer" at this point, and I appreciated the refresher on familiar topics and I got some new perspective and ideas, too. I enjoyed reading it and got some good tips for organizing paperwork and toys. It's a great book to give to dads who miss out on a lot of workshops and conferences because they're at home with the kids while Mom is learning. It's also a great book for grandparents and other extended family. Clinics who are in the business of diagnosing children with autism spectrum disorders should give every family a copy of this book with any new diagnosis. (Yes, I recommended it to my RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant yesterday at our appointment.)

Your purchase helps Autism Moms and their families. Check this out from Amazon dot com: "The National Autism Association’s FOUND Program provides county sheriff’s departments with Project Lifesaver equipment and tracking watches for children with ASD. A portion of the proceeds from each copy of this book sold on Amazon are being donated to NAA's FOUND Program."

The Autism Mom's Survival Guide is a fabulous new resource!

ps: stay tuned for information about the new cookbook

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