I was a senior VP of Investments and Certified Financial Planner with Smith Barney (now Morgan Stanley) for more than 20 years in Houston, Texas. I got married at 35 to my 42-year-old husband and cranked out two adorable boys – time was a wasting after all. When you have a full time stressful job (is there one that isn’t?) it truly takes a village. We relied heavily on the kindness of not only strangers but also family and hired help.
Our second child, Elliot, was all of 4 weeks old when I felt that something wasn’t right. He didn’t make eye contact (when he nursed!) and seemed to be in perpetual motion. I knew in my gut he had autism. This was 1997, and autism was just starting to be on the radar, as opposed to the full blown epidemic it has since become. Being the kind of person who believes “everything worth doing is worth overdoing,” I jumped into overdrive and surfed the internet until 2 am every morning researching every possible intervention known to man. We did gluten- and casein-free diets, sound therapy, supplements, skin brushing, as well as the traditional speech, occupational, and “floor play” interventions. By this point, my son was living in the back seat of my car and therapists’ offices. Needless to say, it was a crazy ride. Not so great for the marriage either, which is another story.
Then along came 9/11 and after some serious soul searching, I realized I wanted to spend whatever time there was while my kids were still young raising my own children (at this point, we had two full-time nannies) and living in a place where they could play outside without being covered by mosquito bites from head to toe in minutes. We researched various cities that met our criteria (should be safe and have clean air and water, an educated community, and four seasons) around the country. We assessed our financial picture and where we could cut back, and took a leap of faith. We relocated the family to Boulder, Colorado, which had good public schools and more than its fair share of quirky kids. I figured mine would fit right in. Plus we loved to ski. Elliot was then in 1st grade.
Elliot is an amazing kid. It pissed me off when others whispered about him, or didn’t invite him to the birthday parties. Or the worst – was when kids came up to me (I was in the classroom a lot) and said “What’s wrong with Elliot?”
For many years I had talked with my mom about creating a children’s book (she’s a writer, of sorts) that would be geared towards kids NOT on the spectrum to better understand the goofy kid in the classroom that was always humming, or putting things in their mouth (that shouldn’t be in there) or saying super funny but sometimes inappropriate things.
The goal of the book was to have young kids better understand, and ultimately embrace, other children who may not act exactly like they do.
A few years back, I ran into a friend of mine who introduced me to his wife – Sue Baer, who, it turns out, is an award winning children’s book author! Clearly the universe provides when you put it out there – she agreed to write my book for a partnership interest. We worked on the book collaboratively for a couple of years. Then one day while having lunch, I ran into a friend (casual acquaintance really) and mentioned the book and she said that her husband was a publisher who had published children’s books! I called him, pitched it – and he TOO agreed to publish and distribute for his cost plus an equity position in the book!
I should mention that Elliot ALSO helped consult on the book and in the electronic “enhanced” version (soon to follow the print) is featured in a cute video!
Elliot is now successfully navigating college in Sarasota Florida – frankly, something we couldn’t have imagined even 5 years ago. Miracles happen.
While my son was the inspiration for this book, he had only a few of the characteristics we’ve portrayed on these pages. This story is a representation of the behaviors of many children on the spectrum, combined in the person of one child. We hope that children reading it can better understand the different types of behaviors they are likely to see when they look around the classroom. And will celebrate the different kids – because different isn’t scary, once you know the person.
Here’s how Elliot put it on his own FB post about the launch of the book:
I would like to thank my mother for not only getting this (book) together with me, but for never giving up on me, and for raising me to become the man I am today. I hope that the book is successful, and that people take the time to accept that different is good, and that no matter who we are as people, we all have our traits that make us who we are.
I couldn’t be prouder – of Elliot or this labor of love.
To purchase a copy of “Just Elliot”, you can find it on Amazon here: