THE ROADMAP

Stories about anticipating, planning for and navigating life’s twists, turns, tragedies, and triumphs.

On a Three-Legged Walk

On a Three-Legged Walk

As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press April 28, 2008 I was walking with an old friend recently when the conversation turned to the challenges we both faced in our households. I had angst about what the future holds for my teen-age son with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She was worried about the future…

An Epidemic, a Vacuum and an Opportunity

An Epidemic, a Vacuum and an Opportunity

March 26, 2008 The federal compensation court settlement of Hannah Poling’s autism/vaccine claim has shined a spotlight on an emotionally charged controversy within the autism world. Since our son’s autism diagnosis, I’ve sat on the sidelines of this rabid dispute, deliberately focusing on the fix, not the culprit. In the wake of the Poling settlement,…

The Silver Lining in a Cloud of Contrast

The Silver Lining in a Cloud of Contrast

February 28, 2008 Over Sunday morning coffee I read about Bridget Tierney, the Stillwater physician’s assistant who, late in 2006, told friends and co-workers that she had first breast, then brain cancer. For about a year she convincingly lived the lie. Since cancer took both my parents and threatened my life, this story hit me…

Such Progress, So Quickly, Makes a Parent Wonder

Such Progress, So Quickly, Makes a Parent Wonder

November 20, 2007 Last spring, I had a troubling conversation with my adolescent son who is on the autism spectrum. He had taken a mainstream class for the first time in years, having been in mostly small special education classes since third grade. I asked him which classroom felt right for him. “The kids in…

Time to Visit the Void

Time to Visit the Void

October 22, 2007 All around me, parents fight the October blues that set in after their high school grad officially becomes a college freshman, leaving an empty spot in their hearts and their homes. Phone calls, e-mails, and visits help families make the transition so by the time the autumn leaves have stopped swirling and…

The Latest Leap of Faith

The Latest Leap of Faith

September 24, 2007 I remember the conversation with my brother as if it was yesterday. We were grousing about the fact that obstetricians deliver babies without a parenting manual. As new parents, we felt ill-equipped for this momentous journey with our spouses. Since then, I’ve made thousands of decisions, ridiculously unimportant and overwhelmingly significant ones,…

Family Planning for the Worst Case Scenario

Family Planning for the Worst Case Scenario

August 10, 2007 I had been ruminating about death for days before I saw the images of the I-35W bridge jutting out of the mighty Mississippi at grotesque angles. Just two weeks earlier, I had experienced my own close encounter, having T-boned a vehicle whose driver was also chatting on her cell, then striking a…

Words Matter

Words Matter

July 30, 2007 In the school of hard knocks, I’ve learned that words that describe people can have lasting and unintended consequences. In years past, I happily embraced several designations: wife, stepmother, and lawyer. All was well until late 1993, when I was pummeled with a most unwelcome label: “refrigerator mother.” This new term attributed…

Autism and the Promise of Less Isolation

Autism and the Promise of Less Isolation

July 7, 2012 I can’t pinpoint the person who first spoke the word “autism.” I do recall with great certainty that I could not repeat the word for months after I first heard it. I didn’t really know what it meant; I just knew that it was not good. I now know that it is…

Autism and Vigilance

Autism and Vigilance

June 24, 2007 Driving through central Wisconsin this past week, I battled the melancholy that crawls into my heart each year at this time, around the birth date of my first-born — my son, whose needs have driven me to near exhaustion and stretched my limits of patience; my son, who is clever and sweet…