It’s been 20 years now since my son was a seemingly normal, happy toddler. It’s been eighteen years since I first heard the word “autism” used to describe my baby. It was a grief from which I thought I would never recover–never feel good again–unless he recovered and had a typical life. It took me two years before I could get the word “autism” out of my mouth. Like the other 62 writers in You Will Dream New Dreams: Inspiring Personal Stories by Parents of Children With Disabilities, my life was suspended in time. Hope was in short supply. When my life resumed, I had a new and uncertain calendar before me which unfolded with my son’s condition.
I can recall the first time I saw a copy of Exceptional Parent magazine in a doctor’s office. I was afraid to open it. I was terrified to consider that I might become a regular reader. Months later, I did open that magazine and closed it nervously after glancing at its table of contents, mortified that I could possibly belong to the club of its subscribers. Eventually, I did read it a little at a time and I found guidance and comfort there. What really helped was the first person accounts by other parents who had survived the crisis.
I noticed that these were people who had rejoined time, found hope and even joy again, and discovered who they had become. That magazine has given voice to so many parents over the years. In fact, it helped me years later to develop my own voice as a father, in the Fathers’ Voices Column edited by James May of the National Fathers’ Network. Eventually, I met the founder and former editor-in-chief of Exceptional Parent, Stanley D. Klein, Ph.D., who together with Kim Schive has brought us a new and I believe a lasting contribution. Stan has been a colleague and a friend who has helped me to develop my work further as he has done with numerous parents and people with disabilities. I am an admittedly biased reviewer, and so be it.
In You Will Dream New Dreams, readers will find real-life stories by mothers and fathers of kids with cerebral palsy, juvenile diabetes, autism, mental retardation, and a host of other life-altering chronic conditions and injuries. Their messages resound with courage, encouragement, and hope. Like the other essay writers, I am proud to have my words included in this volume–proud to be part of something bigger and more important. Pick it up, if you are a parent, and in each essay you are drawn to, you will revisit and discover a part of your story. Stay with this process and you can put together your story and develop it further as life goes on with your family. Find a piece here and a piece there that resonates deep within.
There is a Native American proverb that advises that you cannot understand another person unless you walk a mile in his or her moccasins. So listen to life inside these moccasins, if you are a professional, and you can learn how to listen better to parents. They will tell you their stories, and in doing so will be able to eventually dream new dreams. This is a valuable book for relatives and friends to help hem understand the treacherous emotional landscape for a parent whose child has special needs.
Now 62 other parents have a voice. When you have a voice, you have dignity. When you have a voice, you can make yourself understood. When you have a voice, you can connect with others; you can speak and listen patiently with your spouse. With a voice, you are no longer alone. With a voice, you can command respect. You know when you have power, and you can accept when you are powerless. And maybe most of all, when you have a voice, you can begin to soothe and heal the ache in your heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “The only true gift is a portion of thyself.” In You Will Dream New Dreams, Stan Klein and Kim Schive have brought us a gift from 62 mothers and fathers. Take a look, open it up, you won’t be sorry.