By Anne Dachel
Jenny Lexhed plans for a wonderful marriage and perfect children. The future is boundless and she is in control of it all. What she isn’t bargaining for is a son with autism and years of struggle and pain. Love Is Not Enough: A Mother’s Memoir of Autism, Madness, and Hope is a step back into what so many of us have experienced: Autism happens, we’re left on our own to make a life for our children and the obstacles can’t even be imagined.
This wonderfully written book is as much about Jenny herself as about her son Lucas, who’s severely autistic. Events unfold in present tense and we experience everything as she describes it. Jenny Lexhed is a mother with a mission to make her child well and she exhausts herself pursuing her goal. The cost to herself, her husband and her family is enormous. In the midst of her ordeal, Jenny writes, “I exist in a vacuum. I put all my energy into finding a method that can help my child to develop. . . . What will we do now, when I no longer believe in this method? When I realized that Lucas was autistic and understood his difficulties, the ground disappeared from beneath my feet and I fell into a deep hole. . . .but now I’ve lost my foothold once again and fallen into the abyss. I’m groping in the dark. There’s no light anywhere. How will we find a new path?”
Still Jenny can’t quit.
There are no easy answers for Jenny and she has to figure out what will work for her son over and over. Failure isn’t an option for her. She’s determined that Lucas will speak and he will learn how to get along in this world. Progress is often by tiny increments, and there are many tears, but Lucas makes great gains. And whether it’s finding the right program, learning to ski or riding a bike--they all happen with his mother devotedly at his side.
At the end of the book, Lucas is sixteen and as Jenny says, “He has matured and developed amazingly, and if everyone were like him, the world would be a more peaceful place.
“. . . He rides his bike or takes the commuter train to school. He goes swimming, shopping, dines, and goes to the movies with friends.
“. . .His vocabulary is expanding, and it’s incredible to see how he’s able to cope in this new environment.”
This is a book for parents who have autistic children. Jenny shows us that the road is not easy, but there are ways to make progress and lots of options to be considered. This book is also for teachers and therapists who work with these kids, so they can better understand what parents go through.
Thank you, Jenny Lexhed. You are one courageous, dedicated mother. I’m sure your book will inspire many parents to keep up the fight.
I had the opportunity to talk with Jenny about her book and her life and I recorded her on Skype.
Jenny described her son Lucas and the progress he's made. Fortunately, he's learned a number of skills and developed friendships.
"Considering he has severe autism, he's come a very long way."
"It's very important for everyone to feel they can contribute and they have a place."
Jenny told me how she came to write her book. It started out as an assignment for a therapeutic writing course and as something for her daughters so that they would understand what their mother's life had been like when they were older. Her teacher thought that other parents could benefit from reading about what she'd been through, so Jenny decided to write a book about her very personal experiences. Reading about other parents was something that has helped Jenny and she hopes her book will do the same for others.
I asked Jenny what it has meant to her to have a child with autism. She explained that it had taught her tolerance, patience and forced her to be more creative. She learned she had to have the courage to stand up for her son. Jenny found that there are special people out there who were willing to go out of their way to help her. Jenney added that finding her "life balance" is something that really made things better for her.
For a parent with an autistic child, there's a very personal connection to Jenny. There's an automatic bond that comes from reading about someone who's shared the same experiences you have. As Jenny put it, "You are not alone."