Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Month: Autism Awareness Month

It's April. Time again for Autism Awareness month. It's also time for a new book about autism.

It used to be, when I thought of former USC quarterback, Rodney Peete, I thought of him as he's shown in this clip - getting leveled by Notre Dame's Frank Stams.

(Here's the link if you're reading this in a note on Facebook).

I wonder if Rodney had a Frank Stams Awareness Month after that? Ah, yes. The glory days of Notre Dame Football. So long ago.

Now, Rodney and I - along with many, many fathers both known and unknown - are members of the same team. The team of autism fathers.

This Saturday, Rodney's new memoir Not My Boy! will be released. What a great title. You can imagine a father saying those words in defiance, in a fit of denial, or while pleading to God with tears streaming down his face.

Or all three.

Having read the prologue and the first chapter on Amazon, I can say without hesitation that I'm excited to read this book. It appears he has taken a head-on approach - warts and all - in discussing his experiences with his son RJ's autism.

It's been a while since I've read an autism memoir. I had read too many as I was writing my own and after a while I found it too overwhelming. It was just too much. I needed a break from it. I recently read a chapter from my own and found it to be a bizarre experience. It was as if I was reading someone else's story. I'd written when my wounds were fresh, much fresher than they are now. I was angry, angrier than I am now. And I was still in denial, much more than I am now. Writing that story helped me transcend all of three to get me to where I am now. All of us need something to get us across that chasm of anger, fear and denial. I chose to write a memoir to do it. So did Rodney Peete.

According to Publishers Weekly, Not My Boy! Rodney recollects his "golden memories of a supportive father's role in his successful life, he imagines a similar time with his son, R.J., but everything changes for the worse when R.J. is diagnosed with autism at age three. His marriage almost collapses under the weight of the diagnosis while his valiant wife, Holly Robinson Peete, emerges as the child's advocate amid Rodney's overwhelming anger and denial, ultimately triumphant in getting R.J. the proper attention. This invaluable parental primer on guiding an autistic child through the medical and therapeutic maze along with strengthening a besieged marriage will give renewed hope to all those in the same situation."

In other words, RJ's diagnosis was a lot like Frank Stams. Rodney never saw it coming and then it knocked him flat on his ass. Then it jumped on top of him and pinned him into the ground. But eventually, he got back up. It just took a helluva lot longer and was a helluva a lot harder than it was to get back off the Coliseum turf in 1988.

Go watch that clip again. That's what it was like as a father hearing that diagnosis.

But we got up.

Way to go, Rodney. This time, I'm cheering for you. Except on November 27th. Then, for a day, we'll be rivals again. On November 28th, I'll be back in your corner.

Here's the link to buy the book on Amazon. (click here)

Here's the link to the Autism Society of America's page about Autism Month. (click here)


  1. It is World Autism Awareness Day here in Australia. Am going to link this for others.

  2. I, greatfully, don't have Autism in my family. But I have a dear friend who has 2 sons, and her husband some where on the spectrum.(I hope that's how you express it.) So I have learned a great deal from her and from websites like yours. Thanks so much for all you do! Oh and Happy Easter!

  3. Thanks to you both. Mad, Australia's doing something right. Some of the best books I've read about autism/special needs have come from Australia and I thought the movie, The Black Balloon, was excellent (I did a post about it last year).