Monday, June 25, 2012

'Australian Autism Handbook' - and the heading that changed my life

Benison O'Reilly is the co-author of the 'Australian Autism Handbook' - it's one of the first books I bought when I received my son's autism diagnosis. In fact, I vividly recall flicking through the book at my local Dymock's bookstore. There I was, during Thursday late night shopping, twenty minutes before closing time. I'd put the kids to bed and told my husband I had to go "TONIGHT!" to get some books on autism. I had to understand what was going, what I could do to help my precious boy. And internet research just wasn't going to cut it. I needed: a book. Several of them.

And so, after asking the bookstore assistant I'd called prior to make sure she had "lots of books on autism" I turned up and she showed me to the right section. I picked the book which begged to be picked up -  'Australian Autism Handbook' - and scoured it. My eyes came to the part on page 31 where it says under a heading in caps: "ASDs [Autism Spectrum Disorders] ARE NOT CAUSED BY BAD PARENTING". It continued: "We've already discussed this. The myth of the 'refrigerator mother' has well and truly been debunked."

I burst into tears, right there in the bookstore. The bookstore assistant soon came by to ask if I needed assistance and noticed tears streaming down my face. I explained. She nodded, and told me some words of reassurance I now can't remember. I was just relieved. Autism wasn't about something I'd done. It wasn't my fault. I felt understood, and ready for the journey ahead.

I bought the book.

That's co-author Benison. I asked her to write a series of pieces on autism. I will be posting them in the coming weeks. What she's got to say is powerful and important. And she should know: her son Joe was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder just after his third birthday.


  1. Wow, I am so glad Seana and I were able to help so quickly, Josie. Makes me all teary.

    As Seana and I are both mothers of children on the autism spectrum we knew what parents, especially parents of children who'd been recently diagnosed, needed to hear. Even the most knowledgeable health professionals don't always grasp the emotional aspects, like wanting to hear upfront that it wasn't your fault.

    That said, we called on all those wonderful professionals for their expertise. That's a great strength of the book.

    I am a bit intimidated at that big picture of me, but at least it's a nice I suppose!

  2. Hello Benison,

    The impact that line had is... overwhelming. Even as I wrote it, it brought me right back to 'that place'. Up until that point it, it was like I'd been holding my breath. I exhaled after that.

    Ah yes, I have discovered the how-to-make-photos-extra-large button on Blogger and I am using it like mad now! You look gorgeous, Benison!

    Many thanks again - I am thrilled to be posting your pieces shortly...