I was told to wait for the assessment
before we exposed our fears,
exposed the nightmares
unfolding in our minds.” excerpt from “All I Have To Be” by Jennie Linthorst
When I was asked to review the book of poetry Autism disrupted: A Mother’s Journey of Hope from Jennie Linthorst, I was honored to say the least. But I was also nervous. The last time I read a book of poetry was my sophomore year in college, which was longer ago than I care to admit. So when the book came in the mail, I figured I’d read a few poems and let them sink in.
I read the book cover to cover in one sitting.
I know it’s cliché to say that Jennie’s words moved me. And I know it’s even more cliché to say that these poems changed my life. But if you know me, you know I don’t speak cliché.
The book wasn’t just a collection of Jennie’s poems. They told a story. Her story. One that was just like mine.
I was familiar with the Linthorst family by way of Jennie’s contributions at the Hopeful Parents website and through her husband Erik’s amazing documentary Autistic-Like: Graham’s Story. But I connected with every single one of Jennie’s poems here. I had to talk to Jennie to find out more.
be gentle with yourself-
mothers of this special world.
You too, are special-
chosen to make peace
with this uncharted path.” – excerpt from “Put Your Hands to Rest” by Jennie Linthorst
My conversation with Jennie flowed easily, like old friends connecting after years apart. Our stories are so similar. Both of us have boys with SPD/ASD. We both lost a parent after watching them battle illness for too long. And we both use our writings as a way to “get it out.” I told Jennie I called blogging “my free therapy.”
She agreed. In fact, Jennie is a Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator, and through her LifeSPEAKS poetry therapy program, she helps people work through their issues using expressive writing and poetry therapy. “Everyone is a writer,” Jennie told me. “There’s a therapeutic value about writing. You take the voice in your head, open it up and let it out. That voice spoken starts the healing.”
Jennie received her certification when she was pregnant with her son Graham, and worked with an editor/writer following her certification. It was then that she started to see the value in writing out her story, and with this editor she started to work through her life story and the death of her mother. She continued to write poetry during the period of time in which Graham got his autism diagnosis.
This collection, Autism disrupted: A Mother’s Journey of Hope, is those poems. I asked Jennie if it was unusual for someone to sit down and read a book of poems cover to cover, front to back.
“It is.” she said. “Most people read a poem here and there in a collection of poems. But I ordered this as a timeline. It tells the story through what is called ‘narrative poetry’. It’s very unique.”
“I hold my responsibility
heavy in my hand tonight,
resolute to own my part
in our marriage’s rusty performance.
I have been the starring role-
an overwhelmed heroine
who cries out to my hero
to fix small dramas in my days.” – excerpt from “Patterns Paused” by Jennie Linthorst
Jennie’s poems are honest and raw, but simple and accessible. She writes about her marriage and her son in the most candid way. She admits that her poetry is not for Graham to read for a long time. But she wrote this way on purpose. “I felt like I was in such a secret world, and I felt so alone. I had to talk about the effects of a special needs child on a marriage and a family.” She wants other special needs parents to know that they are not alone.
With every word, I felt that. Like I had someone who understood me again.
“I know this woman
who has seen death,
who has seen life,
who has seen a miracle in her boy.
This woman whose heart breaks at every phone call
from a mom in fear,
grieving a new diagnosis,
can finally say
she has seen the other side,
champions early intervention,
and can rise up in hope.” – excerpt from “I Wasn’t Surprised” by Jennie Linthorst
I know that woman too. That woman is me.
I can’t recommend this book enough. I am so grateful to Jennie for taking the time to talk with me, not only about her work but about her life. And I’m so thankful that I’m able to share it all with you.
Jennie is graciously giving away a copy of her book to one of our lucky readers here at the SPD Blogger Network. Our giveaway will run between now and midnight PST on September 5, 2011. Enter to win this book below!
And check back this afternoon for a special post from me. My conversation with Jennie inspired me to write my own poem, and I look forward to sharing it here.