Different but Special: A mother' s story

Different but Special: A mother' s story

How does one use their creative voice? For some, it is in the way they dress, how they style their hair, maybe even their profession or field. It can be a form of expression, leisure or, for many, escapism.

For local author Susan Vanriel-Smith, she uses her creative voice as an outlet, one to tell a story – that of her journey as a mother of children on the autism spectrum.

Different But Special tells the story of Nicholas, who was diagnosed with autism, and his family, and it follows their journey as they learn to listen, talk and grow as a familial unit, “find[ing] ways to work through the moments though their love for one another and end up all the stronger for it.” It is a universal family story, Vanriel-Smith said, one that shows the good times and difficulties, times of celebration and times of reflection.

“The mission of my book is to reach families of all race[s] and culture[s],” Vanriel-Smith wrote. “There aren’t many books that discuss the topic of autism amongst an African American family. I wanted it to reach the Caribbean community, my culture. I wanted it to be authentic, transparent and relatable.”

transparent and revealing can be challenging, not just for authors such as Vanriel-Smith, but also for those who feel represented through the characters put on the page. However difficult, the exploration of these stories is crucial, Vanriel-Smith said, especially for its ability to combat misinformation or a lack of education.

“I was compelled to explore this mission because oftentimes, people are afraid [of an autism diagnosis]. They live in denial and do a complete disservice to their children,” Vanriel-Smith wrote. “The lack of education on the topic can cause individuals to shy away, leaving children undiagnosed, untreated…Parents are sometimes lost and confused, depressed and angry. I want them to know that they are not alone.”

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