Pre-Warning: I’ve been struggling with keeping up with names in this novel so I apologize in advance for my very generic labeling of characters.
With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child was probably the most heart-wrenching piece I’ve encountered this semester. I think that we’ve read a lot of really interesting pieces this semester that painted autistic children as savant or incredibly gifted but skimmed over a lot of the hardships of actually raising a child with this disability. I think this series of stories shows the raw hardships of how the stress of raising a child who is deemed different at an early age can completely change somebody’s life. The hardest part about this novel for me was seeing how hard the mother worked and worked to build a relationship with her son, only to be struck down by her husband, her mother-in-law, her friends, and ultimately society. The use of the word “depression” didn’t shock me when reading this novel. I actually did some research to find out exactly how many mothers raising children with autism suffer from disease. According to the Illinois News Bureau:
“More than 30 percent of the mothers raising children with ASD reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms when their children were 9 months old. That rate compared to 21 percent of mothers raising children with other disabilities and slightly more than 16 percent of mothers with typically developing children.”
As an avid mental health awareness supporter, I found a lot of comfort when the mother in our novel began going to the classes designed to help mother’s raising children with autism. In fact, according to Autism Speaks, these classes are very real and show extremely positive rates of success in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression in mother’s raising children with ASD. The research mentioned in this article found that by reducing such factors, the mothers were able to strengthen their interactions with their children, which I think we also see in this novel.
Raising a child with autism is a selfless act and as a parent, I imagine it’s really difficult to see the payoff at times. Like in the novel when all the mother wants is to hear her son refer to her as “mommy”. She struggles and struggles to communicate and work with him and right when she all but forgets that that’s the goal she has, he looks at her and says her name. The fact that the artist took two whole pages for the picture of joy the mother has says everything about that moment. What can be seen as something small for a normal parent, has the possibility to mean the world to a parent raising a child with ASD.
In conclusion, I think that this book does a remarkable job with describing the hardships of being a parent in this situation. The author leaves nothing out and attacks the hard and raw issues that I haven’t seen as much of from the other novels we’ve covered this semester (not to say that they aren’t there as well). I think that telling this story as a graphic novel enhances the story because we physically and metaphorically see so many different things at play. Between the physical reactions of some of the sub-characters and their actual remarks, this book encompasses so many different aspects of raising children with autism and I personally think that it’s incredible.