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M ay b e l l e v s . t h e M e m o i r I was grief-stricken because I didn’t have the child I expected. But, of course, nobody gets the child she expects.

Alison Piepmeier

Over the last few months,

I’ve been reading memoirs by parents of kids with disabilities. Most of these are fairly recent, written in the last decade, about kids with Down syndrome, autism, and other developmental disabilities. And what keeps surprising me is that the overriding emotion in most of these memoirs is grief: “I was happy, but my life has now been derailed in such a terrible way. Because of my child’s problems, I’m miserable. Let me tell you for the next 150 pages, in great detail, how sad I am.” Generally the memoirs have a turning point around three-quarters of the way through and end on a happier note, but the damage is done. The books leave you as a reader with the feeling, “God, I’m so glad I don’t have a kid with a disability!” The thing is, I do have a kid with a disability. And I don’t appreciate a book arguing, or even just implying, that a child like mine is a rational cause for 150 pages of misery.

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