Six years ago I read the excellent but difficult book, “Far from the Tree,” by Andrew Solomon. Ever since I read this book, I have been interested in stories about parents facing the challenge of raising children who are disabled. Thus I added the book “The Warner Boys: Our Family’s Story of Autism and Hope” by Ana and Curt Warner to my reading list. Both books are excellent, although they are very different.
“The Warner Boys” is the story of the three sons of Curt and Ana Warner. Curt was a running back for the Seattle Seahawks in the 1990’s. But the book isn’t a fairytale story of the rich and famous. Instead, Curt and Ana write honestly and openly about giving birth to a stillborn baby and then a series of miscarriages. After finally having their first son, they are startled to discover Ana is again pregnant with twins.
At first everything seems fine with the Warner boys, but their behavior changes when they are about two years old. The twins are increasingly withdrawn and lose developmental progress. After three years and countless doctor appointments, the twins are finally diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Most of the book is a description of what life is like with twins that are autistic. Even though the Warners secure intense therapeutic help for the boys, their development is slow and painful. As the boys grow, they become increasingly destructive, to themselves and to their home. Curt talks about working with an architect to reinforce walls full of holes. This destructiveness culminates in one of the boys setting their home on fire.
Through faith, love, and perseverance, the Warners work together through the years. They talk about the importance of a supportive community and the ways God has answered some prayers. The Warner boys are now in their 20’s and living in a house at the Trellis Center, a campus for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The book, “Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon is a different kind of book from the Warner memoir. After ten years of intensive research using over 300 families, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of raising a child who is differently abled. The book is moving and difficult. It explores questions such as how do you love a child who rejects you? How do you parent a child who is a sociopath? Do you teach the deaf child to adapt to a hearing world or the hearing world adapt to the deaf child?
Some of the stories in “Far from the Tree” are painful to read, but they raise profound questions about parenting. Even though I read this book six years ago, I still think about it. Having read it I am less likely to rush to judgement when I see a parent struggling with a child.
Both of these books are excellent. Both contain stories of courage, love, and perseverance.