Understanding Particular Wants Parenting, From the Inside  – River Journal On-line – Information for Tarrytown, Sleepy Hole, Irvington, Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Croton-on-Hudson, Cortlandt and Peekskill

Alan Winnikoff

When I take my son to special needs programs in Westchester, I often hear that autism parents cite a certain statistic – 70% of special needs couples break up. I’ve never been able to verify that – it might be urban legend rather than reality. On the flip side, I know many couples with special needs who hang out together, find a way to get their relationship working, and keep their connection going despite the pressure.

Still, it’s no secret that raising an autistic child puts a huge strain on a marriage. We are genetically programmed – it is in our DNA – to drive ourselves to exhaustion in the first months and years of our child’s life. We are fully committed to meeting all of our baby’s needs. But we also know that as they age, this little person becomes less dependent.

Alan Winnikoff will conduct a virtual reading from Not Sleeping in the Warner Library on April 22nd from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

A neurotypical child naturally longs for autonomy, from a young age. Of course, that doesn’t make parenting any easier. The way ahead of us is still enormously long and arduous. But it shifts things. Our lives change when we can sleep longer, when we no longer have to take our child to the bathroomm or dress her or bathe. However, this day can never occur in a severely autistic child. Having a neurodiverse child can feel like raising an eternal toddler. The minute, detailed maintenance never ends.

Parents with special needs are pushed to their limits. Carrying on like this year after year is not our agenda. It can be difficult for these couples to find time together. And sometimes the marriage breaks down.

My new novel, Not asleep, largely based in Westchester, explores a special needs marriage that collapses under the weight of this reality. What if one of the spouses simply decides that the pressure is too great, too relentless, the sacrifice too great?

It is easy to characterize that one is moving away from a particular need Marriage – or any marriage – as an act of supreme selfishness. If one parent leaves, the other has to move on. However, the person who exits may see it differently. You can rationalize your decision as nothing less than a matter of survival. We only have one life after all.

I wanted to avoid judging my characters. I tried to show her life from all sides. Sometimes they rise to face the moment. Other times they appear profoundly flawed. I also wanted to show that while a neurodiverse child affects their life in countless ways, it doesn’t define everything it is. This story is not a polemic about autism. These characters have a lot more to offer. Parents with special needs go on with their life. They have careers. You are looking for romance. You have dreams.

I wanted to tell a story that was relatable and recognizable. Special needs parents have moments of incredible strength and determination. We also have doubts and weaknesses and regrets. We are no different from anyone else. We are human.

Not asleep is out this month – Autism Awareness Month – by Crowsnest Books.


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