Superior Book Productions

January 17, 2015

Goodbye, Short Bus
Embracing Your Child and Accepting Your Life to Overcome Autism
Jennifer Witten
Aviva Publishing (2015)
ISBN: 9781940984551

Mom Reveals Struggles and Triumphs of Overcoming Son’s Autism

Goodbye, Short Bus: Embracing Your Child and Accepting Your Life to Overcome Autism by Jennifer WittenToday, one in fifty boys is diagnosed with autism, but Jennifer Witten never suspected her own son would be one of them. For Jennifer and her husband, Mike, the diagnosis was both heart-wrenching and one that finally provided some answers to why their son Matthew seemed to be developing slowly. But it also raised more questions about what causes autism and how they could help Matthew.

In Goodbye, Short Bus, Jennifer shares her family’s story with honesty and insight into Matthew’s struggles and the family dynamics that resulted from his autism diagnosis. Jennifer admits her sadness in seeing her child unable to do what other children could at his age, including his difficulties in making friends and knowing how to play with others. She reveals the toll her frustrations over the situation took upon her and the way it affected her marriage. She also shares the moments of hope and triumph when Matthew made big improvements or when she found people able and willing to help her son have a fighting chance at a normal life.

Parents can feel a lot of stigma when their child is diagnosed with autism, as referenced by the book’s title. The “short bus” was the bus for special needs children that came every day to take Matthew to school—and that announced to everyone in the neighborhood that Jennifer had a special needs child. But the title also illustrates the hope and success that Jennifer found in helping Matthew to overcome his autism—through all her efforts to find solutions, the day finally came when her son no longer was defined by autism and could attend school regularly like any other child.

While Jennifer understands that every case of autism is not the same, and that autism cannot always be healed or reversed, she shares her and Matthew’s story to give hope to other parents with autistic children, to validate their own feelings of frustration, despair, and hope, and to present an uncensored portrait of what daily life is with an autistic child—what to expect, what to do and not do, and why you must never give up hope. Here is one example of a typical day for Jennifer and Matthew as described in the book:

“Our day would begin with pushing the same seven or eight cars back and forth to each other down the hallway, and if I allowed it, this activity would last for hours. Then, Matthew would line up twenty cars in the exact same order on the windowsill and proceed to lay on the ground and drive them while watching the wheels spin on the floor. Then, we watched the exact same cartoons, ate the exact same food, i.e., Cheerios, and bounced on my bed, dancing to the exact same song on his radio over and over again. His nightly bedtime routine included nine different rituals that had to be completed before he could lie down—some were so precise that if he missed one step, he would have to start the process all over again! ‘Kill me now!’ I would think to myself. ‘Really, Matthew?’”

In such passages, Jennifer’s attempts to enjoy time with her child, as well as her boredom and frustration, are obvious. Part of the beauty of Goodbye, Short Bus is that Jennifer lets parents know it’s okay to have whatever feelings they have, so long as they then find constructive ways to release those feelings rather than let them lead to depression, a failed marriage, or frustration with your child. She is especially honest about the toll the situation took on her marriage—80 percent of marriages where a special needs child is involved end in divorce, and often, Jennifer feared her marriage would go in that direction, but she offers up how she and her husband learned to work as a team to care for Matthew and then their daughter Kate, and most importantly, how to communicate and be there for one another. One of the most heartwarming moments in the book is when Mike worked with Matthew to get him to say “I love you” to Jennifer on Mother’s Day.

Of course, these pages are also filled with information about autism and all the steps Jennifer took to find answers and help Matthew until today, when he lives life as a normal first-grader whom no one would ever suspect was once diagnosed with autism. Jennifer walks the reader through how this amazing transformation happened for her son, sharing her family’s experiences with therapists, teachers, counselors, and offering an insightful personal interview with Dr. Hatha Gbedawo, a female doctor at Vital Kids Medicine in Seattle, Washington. Jennifer also discusses how her own interest in naturopathic medicine led her to many of the answers she found. She includes a foreword by Jeanette Wake, OTR/L Occupational Therapist, one of the summer camp therapists who worked with Matthew, and she discusses the role that the Rosemary White clinic played in helping Matthew to live a normal life. Her experiences show that answers and solutions do exist when we search for them.

Anyone who is a parent, grandparent, friend or family member, teacher, doctor, or therapist to an autistic child will be able to relate to this book, find helpful information, and feel that there is someone else who understands and can confirm that you should never give up on the dream of a normal life for your child, because in the end, all the efforts are worthwhile.

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and award-winning author of Narrow Lives and Arthur’s Legacy

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