This is my daughter Meaghan, doing what she loves most. At the time this picture was taken she was twelve years old. She is now seventeen.



Raising and teaching a child with autism is an exhausting business, but it can also be exhilarating. In some ways it is analogous to climbing a mountain. There is a lot of hard work, struggle, frustration and fatigue as you make your way up the steep, slippery slope. Sometimes the ascent is smooth, but most of the time the terrain is rough and the pitfalls are many.

When you reach plateaus along the way -- where progress levels off despite your most determined effort -- you sometimes feel you want to throw in the towel. But you keep going because you know that you canít turn back without sacrificing all the ground youíve already covered. And you think that, if only you can get a little higher, the view will be that much better. So you keep trudging up the trail, one small step at a time, and at some point along the way you discover that the higher you go, the easier it becomes.

It becomes easier because you learn to accept what you cannot change. It becomes easier because the sensory sensitivities that made your childís early years such hell generally diminish with time and become less of an impediment to their learning. It becomes easier because you come to terms with what is possible and what isnít... and learn to focus on the positive.

Every year the prognosis for children with autism improves as knowledge about the syndrome increases. I donít yet know what the summit will hold for my daughter, because I refuse to place any limitations on her potential.

Where she goes from this point on depends in large part upon the educational, medical, social and vocational services I am able to attain for her. How high she climbs also depends on whether the dual obstacles of societyís (and our government's) indifference and the medical establishment's lack of serious research into autism can be overcome in time to make a difference for her.

Even if a cure for autism is never found, education and treatment should be more accessible and affordable, so that those of us who love and care for individuals with autism are not left to make our way alone. Above all, the basic facts about this disorder must be disseminated, the myths and stereotypes dispelled. My hope is that a day will come, in the not too distant future, when children and adults with autism will be better understood and welcomed into the mainstream.

If this book helps in any way to broaden the understanding and acceptance of this fascinating, devastating yet far from hopeless affliction, than I will know that there is indeed a reason that I was entrusted with the burden and responsibility of raising such an extraordinary child.

Gail Buckley

December, 2003

I dedicate this book to my beautiful, out of the ordinary daughter Meaghan, to my witty, bright, extraordinary son, Michael, and to my wonderful, devoted husband Brian, who makes me laugh when I need it most, and without whose love and support I would not have had the opportunity to write this book in the first place.

Now, let's get started...

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