Autism College to present free live Q&A with author Tom Fields-Meyer

Autism College will present a free live Q & A on Monday, September 19, from 6:00 to 7:00pm PST with Tom Fields-Meyer, moderated by Chantal Sicile-Kira. Tom is the author of the recently published book: FOLLOWING EZRA: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from His Extraordinary Son, moderated by Chantal Sicile-Kira. Sign up for this webinar at the bottom of this post. The publisher has generously agreed to send a free copy of the book to one of the Q & A participants, so send in a question and you may get more than just an answer!   

About the book, from the Following Ezra website:

When Tom Fields-Meyer’s son Ezra was a toddler and showing early signs of autism, a therapist suggested that the father allow himself time to mourn.

“For what?” he asked.

The answer: “For the child he didn’t turn out to be.”

That moment helped strengthen Tom’s resolve to do just the opposite: to celebrate the child Ezra was becoming, a singular boy with a fascinating and complex mind. Full of unexpected laughs, poignant moments and remarkable insights, Following Ezra is the riveting story of a father and son on a ten-year adventure, from Ezra’s diagnosis to the dawn of his adolescence. An engaging account of a father gradually uncovering layers of a puzzle, it rejoices in each new discovery and exults in the boy’s evolution from a remote toddler to an extraordinary young man, connected to the world in his own astounding ways.

Unlike other parenting memoirs, Following Ezra isn’t about a battle against a disease, nor is it a clinical account of searching for doctors, therapies or miracle diets. Instead, Fields-Meyer describes—with humor and tenderness—the wondrous, textured, and often surprising life one experiences in raising a unique child.

“This story will illuminate the experience of parenting a child with autism for those who don’t know it, and will resonate with those of us who know it all too well,” says novelist Cammie McGovern. “There are blessings along the way, and Tom Fields-Meyer depicts them beautifully.”

About the author, from  the  Following Ezra website:

Tom Fields-Meyer has been writing stories for popular audiences for nearly three decades, specializing in telling meaningful and worthwhile narratives with humanity, humor and grace. In twelve years as senior writer at People, he produced scores human-interest pieces and profiles of newsmakers. He penned articles on some of the biggest crime stories of the day (from the O.J. Simpson trial to the murder of Matthew Shepherd), profiled prominent politicians and world leaders (Nancy Pelosi, Pope John  Paul II, Sen. Ted Kennedy), and demonstrated a pitch-perfect touch writing tales of ordinary people overcoming life’s challenges in inspiring and compelling ways.

Tom also lends his skills to help others to put their compelling personal narratives into words. He teamed up with the late Eva Brown, a popular speaker at The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, to write Brown’s memoir, If You Save One Life: A Survivor’s Memoir (2007). Wiesenthal executive director Rabbi Marvin Hier called the book “very significant and meaningful…an everlasting and important legacy…and a reminder to future generations that championing tolerance, justice and social change are everyone’s obligation.”

Tom collaborated with Noah Alper, founder Noah’s Bagels, the successful West Coast chain, on Alper’s memoir: Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur (2009). Publisher’s Weekly said: “This earnest book shines with Alper’s conviction, business savvy and decency.”

In September 2011, NAL/Penguin Books will publish Tom’s memoir, Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from His Extraordinary Son. Full of tender moments and unexpected humor, the book tells the story of a father and son on a ten-year journey from Ezra’s diagnosis to the dawn of his adolescence. It celebrates Ezra’s evolution from a remote toddler to an extraordinary young man, connected in his own remarkable ways to the world around him.

Tom previously worked as a news reporter and feature writer for the Dallas Morning News, where he covered the kinds of stories that happen only in Texas (shootouts in Country-Western dance halls, culture pieces on the State Fair) and once was dispatched to Nevada to investigate a road designated by AAA as “America’s loneliest highway.” As a senior editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education, he traveled the nation’s campuses and once convinced his editor to send him on a 10-day junket aboard a schooner in the Bahamas (an assignment he came to regret, not just because of seasickness). Tom’s writing has appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and Esquire.

A graduate of Harvard University, Tom lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer, and their three sons.

To sign up for the webinar, please signup for our newsletter here. Already signed up for the newsletter? Click here


New to Autism? How to Cope

Parents new to the world of autism usually have a tough time after getting the diagnosis. Parents  learning to cope with the diagnosis of  autism may  find the following tips helpful:

  • First,  acknowledge your feelings, and allow yourself to feel the emotions that are there. These emotions, may come back time and again, but you will learn to cope.
  • Know that the emotions you feel  as a parent of a child with autism, has been compared to the stages of grief that a dying person goes through.
  • Recognize what you are feeling and try to use those emotions to your benefit. If you are angry, use that energy to find out all you can and advocate for your child (just be careful not to take out your anger on those that are there to help you). If you are feeling isolated, join a support group. If you are feeling powerless, go on the internet and do some research to learn about what options you have for your child, or which advocacy group exists in your state (every state has one) for the developmentally disabled community.
  • Keep in mind you are not mourning the death of your child, you are morning the loss of your expectations. The child you have may not be the child you were expecting, but he still needs you and loves you.
  • Reach out and find an autism support group in your area that can help you feel less isolated and can help you with information.
  • Find out all you can that can help your child so you can make the right choices. Empower yourself with the knowledge you need to help your child the best way that you can.
  • Take care of your self. Just like in an airplane where the flight attendant instructs you in case of an accident, to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help your child; you come first.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help your child.

At Autism College, we can help you as we help other parents coping with autism. Our Parent Empowerment Course can help you with some information such as how to know what will help your child, and the affects of autism on siblings and grandparents. Our free Library will have information you can use (coming soon!).  Two of my books would be really helpful to you at this time:  Autism Spectrum Disorders, and 41 Things to Know About Autism.

My child has just been diagnosed with autism, how do I cope with this?

Recently I received an email from a mother whose child had just been diagnosed with autism. She was in pain, and she wanted to know how she was supposed to carry on; she felt all alone.

What I told her was that there are moments in time that are forever etched in your memory-  for example –  I will never forget the moment I heard President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.  Most Americans will never forget what they  were doing on September 11, 2001 when they heard that the Twin Towers in NYC were hit by planes and were going down.

For a parent, the day you receive your child’s diagnosis of autism is the same – you will never forget where you were, how you were told and what feelings overcame you.  The difference is, that you feel all alone in your pain – it is not a national catastrophe, but a personal one that impacts you just as deeply.  When you leave the doctor’s office, you are all alone in your pain. Unlike a national catastrophe, everyone else’s life continues on just the same – only you, your spouse’s and your family’s life has changed. Even if you expected the results because you felt something was wrong with your child, nothing prepares you for hearing the official diagnosis, and for the slew of emotions that follow. It is awful.

However, it is important  to remember at this time, that you are not alone. There are many parents out there who went through what you are going through, or are going through it now, and connecting to them can be your lifeline.  They will understand what those close to you may not.  You will get autism parenting tips from them. At first you may be reluctant to contact the autism  organizations or  attend support group meetings – it is kind of like joining a club you never wanted to be a member of.  However, getting to know other parents you can talk to who understand what you are going through is very helpful.

Of course, you would rather have heard that nothing was wrong with your child.  A parent goes through many emotions at this time.  It is important to focus on the positive aspect that  now that you know what is wrong, you can move forward, when you are ready, to find the treatments, therapies and strategies that will help your child.

Once you are ready, you will need to get educated about autism. We can help you do that at Autism College.  Our free Library will have information you can use.  You may find our Parent Empowerment Course useful.  Or, how about my books, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and 41 Things to Know About Autism.

In my next post, I’ll provide some useful tips for parents new to autism wanting to know how to cope.