Lars Perner, Ph.D., Chair, Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism Advisors for the Autism Society of America, and Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing, USC, had this to say about A Full Life with Autism:
Each individual on the spectrum is unique and will need personally tailored supports. At the same time, because of autism’s complexities and seemingly contradictory characteristics, it is often difficult to get a view of the “big picture” of a life on the spectrum and the challenges that it presents. In their very comprehensive—yet highly readable—book, Chantal and Jeremy succeed in addressing both of these concerns.
Although ample resources for addressing the diverse needs of individuals on the spectrum are presented, the case Jeremy illustrates the types of challenges, surprises, and opportunities that may come up as an individual develops. Chantal talks about initially not expecting Jeremy even to finish high school and subsequently being able to help him not just graduate but go on to college. An especially intriguing issue discussed involved helping Jeremy understand that a girlfriend is not something that can just be “hired” in the way that one can secure aides and support workers—an issue that only the most clairvoyant parent might have anticipated. Although optimistic and filled with humor, the book clearly acknowledges challenges that this family faced and those that will likely be faced by others—including obstacles to finding long term housing opportunities and healing from traumatic events.
Although much of the writing is done by Chantal, Jeremy is a consistent, creative, and innovative contributor, talking candidly about his own experiences that have led to the lists of tips that he presents. I especially love his observation that rights of disabled individuals “are founded on the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.” The book’s extensive list of issues that may come up will unquestionable leave many families much better prepared for handling the challenges that will come up over the years.
Elaine Hall, creator of the Miracle Project, author of Now I See the Moon, co-author of Seven Keys to Unlock Autism and subject of the movie “AUTISM: The Musical” has this to say about A Full Life with Autism:
A Full Life with Autism provides parents of teens on the autistic spectrum understanding, guidance, hope, and resources to navigate the uncharted territory of adult living. Thank you, Chantal and Jeremy Sicile-Kira for responding to questions that so many of us parents are aching to know. Thank you for brilliantly weaving the parent perspective with Jeremy’s internal dialogue. Thank you, Jeremy for bravely articulating what is really going on inside the mind/body of someone with autism. I will use your words as starting points in my discussions with my own son, Neal.
A Full Life with Autism reminds us that the true “experts” on autism are our children; and that we, the adults, must listen to their wants and desires, then find the resources to help them realize their dreams. I will be recommending this book to everyone I know.
Unfortunately, many adults on the autism experience high rates of unemployment or underemployment. Some of our most gifted live in poverty and have few options in life. Chantal and Jeremy have creatively worked to create an engaged life for Jeremy and his family. This book provides very practical ideas for transition planning and provides a template that others can use as they support adults moving into adulthood. I highly recommend this for any family or individual as they prepare for transition planning.
Dr. Cathy Pratt, BCBA-D, Director- Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community; Former President of the Autism Society of America
This marvelous book lays out in plain and readable language the challenges of transition to adulthood for persons with autism and offers practical advice from the inside perspective of a mom and her adult son teamed as partners in the enterprise of helping him achieve a meaningful life.
It is inspirational, almost a parable, in its effect of drawing you into their story and teaching important principles, and yet it is also comprehensive in the executive task of helping us think about our values, goals and objectives in our mission to give a real life to our adults with autism and related challenges.
Perhaps one of the most important messages: behavior is a form of communication, and it is incumbent on the people around the person with autism to work to understand what that behavior is communicating without merely consigning it to a category of something to be gotten rid of. Jeremy states: “I have oftentimes been the victim of ignorance.” We must not be party to what Jeremy has suffered. We need to be humble and helpful, persistently curious and ever respectful. We cannot presume to know what we do not. We must take the time to get to know the hopes and dreams of people whom we do not yet understand.
I was also intrigued by the undercurrent discussion of relationships that runs through the book in sections on friendship, sex, love, and support staff, as they all revolve around the quality and character of relationships. How can we support, for the person and people around him, the development of more meaningful communication, relating, and problem-solving. To the many thoughts already included I would add that it is often very helpful to support the person and caregivers by carving out regular reflective time to think through how things are going - what is working, what isn’t, and what to do to try next to understand the situation better and try something different.
In all, this is a compelling, thoughtful, comprehensive and inspiring bible that belongs on the shelf of everyone who strives to help people with autism build a life in a complex world.
Joshua Feder MD, Director of Research of the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders
By Chantal Sicile-Kira |
April 17th, 2012 |
A Full Life with Autism: From Learning to Forming Relationships to Achieving Independence is my latest book co-authored with my son Jeremy (foreword by Temple Grandin) that was published on March 27 by Macmillan. The book has received many excellent reviews. Here is one by Kirkus Book Reviews, whose reviewers are known as the world’s toughest book critics:
For readers already knowledgeable about autism and Asperger’s syndrome, a hands-on approach to transitioning into adulthood.
Sicile-Kira (41 Things to Know about Autism, 2010, etc.) and her autistic son, Jeremy, join forces in this guidebook to help parents and their autistic offspring move beyond childhood and evolve into an adult life. Although special-education services exist for children with autism spectrum disorder, once a child reaches adulthood the lack of adult services becomes apparent. As the mother of a severely autistic child, the author understands the needs of caregivers and children on the spectrum alike to shift to a quality of life that provides independence for all parties. “To create the future that you and your adult child envision will take perseverance and work,” she writes. “But good quality of life and peace of mind is worth it.” Based on her research, Sicile-Kira has compiled the majority of available resources into an accessible handbook that provides information on topics such as romantic and sexual relationships, finding appropriate living arrangements for true self-sufficiency and acquiring and keeping a job. The author breaks each large, seemingly overwhelming undertaking into small, doable tasks. Bulleted lists sum up each chapter and help readers remain focused and on-track. Equally as effective are the short essays and “top ten tips for parents,” written by Jeremy. His voice gives a personal, honest perspective on the daily life, expectations and hopes of someone with special needs who wants to become as integrated into adult society as possible. Additional resources include reading material and websites for care providers and people on the spectrum.
A proactive method for raising an adult child with special needs.
By Chantal Sicile-Kira |
December 6th, 2010 |
It’s been one of those days - support person can’t come in because her puppy is sick and I’ve got tons to do. Meanwhile, I find suspicious stains and matter on the floor and rug, and I’m not sure who is responsible for them (we do have a cat and a dog….). It takes a good hour to clean it up, because the matter somehow ended up on Jeremy shoes, which of course he then tracked all over the house. I’m still finding stains hours later. Jeremy edits his homework assignment, but I can’t seem to upload it on his college blackboard assignment page. I get an extremely rude email from a person (who could use some tips from Miss Manners) demanding immediate information about a Taskforce I am co-chairing and a California insurance bill (Just FYI – I’m not in charge of updating the Senate Autism Committee’s website where the Taskforce information is supposed to be posted, in case anyone was wondering… ).
In the middle of all this, Jeremy walks by where I am sitting as I try to resolve a problem on his computer. He gently drops the above postcard (which is usually taped up on our refrigerator) near me. Yup, Jeremy, it’s one of those days. Thanks for acknowledging it.
By Chantal Sicile-Kira |
September 3rd, 2010 |
This summer Jeremy and I went to New York and presented to the local chapters of the National Autism Association in July 2010. Many wanted copies of the presentations we gave. The presentations are embedded below, after the break. You may download each by clicking on the download option in the viewer. Please do not reprint without permission. Read More »
By Chantal Sicile-Kira |
July 18th, 2010 |
This morning Jeremy said he wanted to go to church. I checked a couple of time to make sure that that is what he really wanted to do as he had been up a good part of the night in a hyper happy state. This was following a period of three weeks where he was happy, but calm and relaxed.
We got to the church, but he didn’t want to get out of the car. I convinced him to get out and we head up to the service (Unitarian Universalist) which is held outdoors in a beautiful setting under pine trees. Jeremy really likes this place. But today, Jeremy could not or would not sit still; looking at a book did not help. Finally he started foraging in his backpack for a ‘toy’ – any kind of string, ribbon or piece of rope. And he sat there and stimmed. Then he got up and stated to prance away as if to leave. I convinced him to go back to sit down. Then, an elderly woman sat down next to him and pulled out a cookie and started to eat it. Of course I didn’t know this till I heard a commotion next to me and realized that Jeremy had grabbed the cookie out of her hands (but really – why was she eating a cookie during church service? I wasn’t looking out for that). Then he left running towards the parking lot. I had no alternative but to follow him.
Many times Jeremy has problems controlling his body or organizing himself and he needs his “rules” or help from us. His spirit is willing but his flesh is weak is how I describe it. This time I think perhaps he just wanted to go for the ride in the car to church and hear Dave Matthews in the car. It doesn’t matter that he has a high school diploma or that he can communicate by typing or that his mom is supposed to be knowledgeable when it comes to autism stuff – sometimes he is just not himself and he seems unable to communicate about it. We used to blame behavior changes on the full moon because it would happen once a month for a couple of days, but it appears to be a different cycle now. Maybe he is sick? I just had the flu, maybe he is coming down with it. Maybe he is nervous because we have been interviewing new support staff, and even though he helps interview and loves the people we have found, it is still a change. At any rate, these moments are frustrating. As a professional, my brain is taking notes and comparing data, trying to find the ABC’s of the behavior, looking at possible causes for the behavior. Meanwhile, the parent in me is tired and worried and hope he will go back to his usual pattern of sleeping through the night and wake up his usual sunny self tomorrow.