If you picked up this book, someone in your life is on the spectrum. Maybe your eyes were drawn to the cover as you passed the bookshelf or clicked through the site, and the image stayed with you for an hour or a day or a week, so you returned. Maybe there was no hesitation, or maybe this was recommended to you. Whatever the circumstance, you have questions. Several things in your life aren’t adding up, and all the loose ends seem to stem from the knots of strings that is the Autism Spectrum Disorder, and not only how it will affect your child, your sibling, your friend, or yourself, but how it will affect the village that surrounds this person’s spot on the spectrum.
The term “spectrum” is a Latin word meaning “a specter , apparition”. This word was initially derived in the 17th century into the word “spectre” as in an apparition or ghost. Within the same century, Sir Isaac Newton discovered the color spectrum, showcasing the beauty that exists within a span of connected yet decisively independent rays of light. Most texts point to 1976 as the first incidence of the term “spectrum” being applied to autism, but the study of the diagnosis was infantile at best during these times. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, did not mention “Autism Spectrum Disorders” until DSM-5 in 2013. One could wax poetic about the use of spectrum in the terminology; inciting visions of colors and crystal prisms, plus the haunting feeling of the spectre that exists beyond what we can truly see, at least in terms of cause and remedy. However, the reality is less poetic and more pragmatic. At this point, the scientific community started approaching the diagnosis of autism as something beyond a selection of boxes to check off. There were a wide and varied number of symptoms associated with ASD, sometimes connected yet decisively independent.
This isn’t a history book, nor is it a critical take on the explosive yet often painfully slow progress in the psychological community with regards to autism diagnosis, treatment, and care. Raising a typically developing child doesn’t come with a manual, but most people are able to take their parent’s example and apply (or purposefully avoid) those lessons when raising their own child. When your child is atypical, those examples and the wives’ tales and the Pinterest-perfect posts no longer apply.
This is not a manual for you, but a hug. Let’s sit down, have a cup of tea, and know that in this room, we don’t have to explain nuances, we don’t have to hide behind a shield of strength, and we don’t have to have all the answers. We will sit, and we will be exactly as we are. Then we will get up and fight the world for our children, our loved ones, or ourselves yet another day.
While this book is written with a parent of a child with autism or Asperger's Syndrome in mind, anyone can appreciate the story told in these pages. It’s a story of dedication and perseverance and being willing to make mistakes so you can learn from them rather than get bogged down by them. It’s about refusing to accept that you are less capable of success because of your life situation. It’s about reaching out for help from those around you, and it’s about the pain of a misplaced trust fall.
Devin Overman is a screenwriter, author, and freelance writer. Her first screenplay, Immaculate, advanced at the Austin Film Festival in 2015, where she went on to consult in 2016 and 2017. Her newest project, Falling Into the Sound (Korean title: 음에 천천히 떨어지다), has been optioned by Little Studio Films in association with Nite Lite Pictures. She’s been interviewed and quoted by MTV on the cross-over between music and literature.