Bedford author’s book a look at autism
Friday, August 30, 2013
Carrie Cariello is still smiling at the publication of her first book, “What Color is Monday? How Autism Changed One Family for the Better.” It is a paperback of 228 pages published April 22 by Riddle Brook Publishing, a Bedford firm dedicated to encouraging novice New England writers of non-fiction books.
Today, reader reviews are spangled with stars. Cariello’s book is a reflection on her family, a family with four boys and a girl. Her second born, Jack, now age 9, was diagnosed at age 2 with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She and her husband, Joe, a dentist, have lived in Bedford for six years. She has a Masters in Public Administration from Rockefeller College and an MBA from Canisus College in New York.
The chapters in “What Color is Monday” reveal joy, heartbreak, hope, despair and wonder at the way her autistic son looks at life through a lens shared by nobody else in the family. It is a book that evolved from Cariello’s discovery that Jack saw the days of the week as colors. He said Saturday was purple. Thursday was sometime green. He asked her, “What Color is Monday?”
Cariello, who writes from home, is all too aware that The Centers for Disease Control states that 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Also shared are details that far more boys (1 in 54) than girls (1 in 252) are affected. A genetic link is suspected but the cause is unknown. What is known is that there are wide variations in behaviors.
Cariello shares here some of the challenges she met in writing the book. She describes her struggle to balance a desire to reveal her experiences with the desire to remain a family whose privacy is precious. She chose to share it all – the ups and downs and the daily discoveries that have enabled her and her family to better understand Jack and themselves.
Q: Would you tell us for how long the book was in the making?
A: I had some pieces written already, so overall it took me about five months to write new material linking it all together.
Q: Did you write spontaneously, or at night, or with any kind of routine?
A: I was working on it during the summer, so I had a baby sitter come in the morning so I could retreat to the library to write quietly. Then, throughout the day and night, I might make notes, jot things down, spend a few minutes editing.
Q: How would you describe Jack?
A: Great question. I would describe him as funny, smart, rigid, inflexible, and loving. He’s also very cute, with deep-set blue eyes and a sandy-brown crew cut.
Q: How long ago did Jack receive a diagnosis?
A: Jack was diagnosed in 2006, when he was two years old.
Q: What are the names and ages of all of your children?
A: There is Joey, 10, and Jack, 9, and Charlie, 7, and Rose, 5, and Henry, who is age 4.
Q: How important is taking time for yourself and your husband?
A: It is essential. Since our oldest was first born we’ve gone out just about every Saturday night. It is so important for Joe and me to be able to connect and regroup away from our kids. It makes us better parents and a stronger couple. We have a regular baby sitter scheduled for every Saturday night.
Q: How do you find together time that does not include the kids?
A: We have activities we do together. Mostly, they include eating in restaurants and watching movies. There also are some things we enjoy separately with friends. For instance, book clubs and running.
Q: Do you have a support system of other family members or caregivers?
A: We have a loving family nearby and wonderful baby sitters who make sure we get time away when we need it.
Q: What do you and Joe keep in mind when times are tough?
A: I think we try to remind each other that we will get through this, whether it’s a phase of behavior or something like a tough period with Jack’s anxiety or just a busy week.
Q: Have you heard from many parents with autistic youngsters in their families?
A: I have heard from so many people who have related to our story in one way or another, and I am honored to learn about each and every one of them.
Q: Can you describe the extremes of Jack’s behavior?
A: Jack struggles quite a bit with anxiety on a regular basis, and one of his biggest challenges related to Autism Spectrum Disorder is regulation; keeping his body calm and regulated. Once he’s deregulated and agitated, it’s very difficult to keep him focused and attentive. Flexibility is another challenge. He tends to be quite rigid, and has a tendency to obsess about objects or events. For example, right now he’s obsessed with tornadoes and black widow spiders.
Q: What are some of Jack’s personality traits?
A: He’s very funny and enjoys irony quite a bit. He is very loving, and will soothe or comfort his siblings. Although he is affectionate, it is usually on his terms and when he’s ready for a quick hug or snuggle.
Q: Is one sibling more than another Jack’s protector or confidante?
A: They’re all very protective in their own way. At this point, Joey, our 10-year-old son, is more likely to position himself between Jack and the world. Joey will explain to the bus driver that Jack doesn’t understand him. Joey will help negotiate with another kid on the playground. But Charlie will point out of a dog is coming our way. Rose, the only girl, is the one who soothes and comforts Jack. Four-year-old Henry draws Jack out and into the group. It is Henry who convinces Jack to join the game or the conversation. He’ll say, “Jack! We talkin’ to you! It your turn!”
Q: Is there much you decided against writing in your book?
A: No, nothing. I was just telling Joe the other day that when I was writing the book, I never really considered that anyone would actually read it, so I just wrote whatever felt right.
Q: Does Jack write and has he produced any stories of his own?
A: At this point, he has not written anything beside what’s required for school. He doesn’t really understand or know he has autism, so he isn’t ready to write his own story yet. Hopefully, someday he will, because I would love to know more about what goes on inside that head of his. My oldest son, Joey, did write a chapter in the book, a chapter called, “Autistic Brothering,” about his own experience with his unusual brother.
Q: Are you writing for any magazines or periodicals?
A: I write for “Autism Spectrum News” and various parenting magazines.
Q: Have you ever figured out how many dishes you’ve washed or diapers you’ve changed?
A: Joe and I figured we’ve changed about 16,425 diapers. Dishes washed are harder to guess. Some days it feels like a million.
Q: What would you say to another mother wishing to write about autism?
A: I would tell her to write for herself, write for her family and child. The world will respond and relate.
Q: Is writing cathartic for you?
A: Absolutely. I think writing allows me to view my kids through a different set of eyes, to enjoy them on another level.
Q: Will you write a book about teenage Jack, or older Jack?
A: I would be honored to continue writing about both Jack’s progress and challenges, as well as our family life.
Q: Do you have a blog?
A: Yes. I post a new piece every Monday at www.WhatColorIsMonday.com. It’s a very current look at our family’s ups and downs, funny situations and challenges.
Q: How can one purchase your book?
A: What Color Is Monday? is available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobles.com, and in local Toadstool Book stores.