So almost a decade ago, the brilliant and dedicated Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel asked me to write a book with her for parents whose kids had recently been diagnosed with autism. (Turns out teachers and therapists found the book pretty useful too, but we were thinking mostly about parents when we wrote it.) In the book, Lynn explained all the family-friendly, research-based interventions that she and her husband Dr. Robert Koegel have pinpointed as the most successful ways to help a child learn and grow. And I wrote about my own experiences as a mother of a kid with autism–the highs, the lows, the joys, the difficulties, the breakthroughs, the frustrations, the celebrations . . . We kept it real, we kept it helpful, and we kept it scientific in the best sense of the word (i.e. not dry and boring, just based on actual data and years of tracking results).
Those who read the book loved it. Yes, I’m bragging, but I’m also telling the truth–and I’ve got the hundreds of emails from grateful parents and therapists to prove it. Sales have been steady enough for us to do a new edition all these years later.
We’re not revising the book because the original information is outdated–actually, the additional research done since then has confirmed that our behavioral, family-friendly, incorporate-this-into-your-daily-life approach to supporting kids with autism is the right path to take. But we did want to expand some sections and add in new information based on recent research that the Koegels and others have done. And I wanted people to know that my son will be graduating soon from a four-year college across the country from us.
We also wanted to talk more about community acceptance and support–our society has to stop expecting everyone to conform to an unrealistic (and nonexistent) idea of “normalcy” and start embracing the differences that make it stronger. We don’t want our kids to be like everyone else in the world; we just want them to be the best THEM they can be.
So here’s the problem: While time and research have proven that this book is right in every way a book can be right, it’s just not . . . sexy. No one wants to read about effective behavioral interventions when they could be reading about crusades against government conspiracies or Mongolian ponies or chelation therapies or whatever news-grabbing headline is out there today–and we’ve seen a lot of news-grabbing headlines about autism since we published the first edition of this book. Most of them have fallen deservedly by the wayside since their fifteen minutes of fame, but they still got a lot more attention for those fifteen minutes than our book ever got.
Fun fact: when Overcoming Autism first came out, it was not on the NY Times bestseller list. You know what was? A book by a former porn star, a book by a sort-of celebrity who had recently made a sex tape, and a book by a former Playboy Playmate who claimed her kid had autism and that made her an expert on the subject (he didn’t and she wasn’t).
My co-author has an amazing figure, and if she hadn’t chosen to dedicate her life to helping children, I don’t doubt for a second that she could have made a living in a more sizzling way. But Dr Koegel’s got her professional dignity to think of, so I just don’t think I can entice her to strip in front of a camera. As for me . . well, I’ve never been considered hot, but if the lights are really low . . . really really low . . .
Yeah, no. Let’s just leave it at “I’ve never been considered hot.”
But, man, I would strip down to my scanties in Grand Central Station if I thought it would help make people discover this book. Because this book is so ridiculously useful. The day you start reading it, you’re going to be a better parent to your child–to all your children. It’s about thoughtful parenting, about realizing that nothing’s random, about how we often reinforce the wrong behaviors but can learn to reinforce the right ones, and about how every child has strengths and those strengths can be used to form a bridge between him and the world.
This book will be out in time for April’s autism awareness month. Please help us spread the word. We need people to see that a supportive, loving, thoughtful approach to teaching your child with autism is the way to go. It may not be the “overnight miracle” so many fly-by-night headline grabbers have claimed to find–it’s just effective over the longterm in ways that last.
Oh, and if you think a sex tape will help us get some media attention, I’m game. It won’t be pretty, but if it will lead to more families knowing what to do to help their kids, then put me in a leather bustier and point me in the right direction. You might want to close your eyes though. I know I will.