Book’s nifty format includes Bible verses throughout

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 30, 2014

It was a huge honor to edit Susan King’s book, “Optimism for Autism.” For months, I’d been encouraging her to write her story — along with her husband and many other friends. Suddenly, one summer day, she called and said, “Can you edit my manuscript?”
I was thrilled. I loved what I read from the start.
Susan turns in what we editors call “clean copy.” She had few typos. I looked back on the notes I sent her, and I encouraged her to use the exclamation mark more sparingly, as well as the use of the word “precious.” It is her favorite word, I have to say!
From the beginning, I was drawn in. The book starts with Patrick having a meltdown and banging his head on the hardwood floor. Susan has no idea what’s going on, but she is determined to find out what it is.
Thus begins her journey into autism with Patrick — the years of frustration, tears and therapy slowly evolve into understanding and triumph.
At the heart of the story, of course, are Susan and Patrick. But Susan is married to husband David, and they also have three older daughters. When I finished reading the draft, I suggested she write two more chapters, one on David and one on the girls. The result is a much richer text that also tells the story from their perspectives.
Susan came up with a nifty format for the book. A devout Christian, she starts each chapter with a Bible verse, and includes Bible verses throughout. This is just the type of person Susan is. It’s not forced or fake, but shows the unshakable foundation of faith upon which she and David built their family.
“I really cherish God’s word,” Susan says. “It’s such an integral part of my life, and helped me so much in raising Patrick.”
She intentionally wanted to write a Christian-based book, she says. “God is a part of what’s been happening. He’s the main character.”
A friend suggested that Patrick have a say in the book as well. So at the end of every chapter, you’ll find “Patrick’s Perspective.”
“I would sit down and interview him about what was going on in his brain during the times I wrote about,” Susan says. “He’s just so positive. He perseveres. He doesn’t give up.”
She also ends each chapter with a handful of questions, “Something to Think About.”
I suppose selecting favorite chapters would be a little like picking a favorite child. But, in addition to the first chapter, there are some especially outstanding chapters. “Finding God in the Dark Times” is powerful because Susan is bold enough to share her struggle with depression and even thoughts of suicide. The climb to Mount Whitney by Patrick, David, and David’s father and two brothers is a ton of fun. Susan pulled excerpts from journals all the men kept. I don’t know if Susan wheedled them into doing that or if they came up with it on their own, but this particular chapter makes for fascinating reading. The chapter in which Patrick learns to drive — finally — is a total hoot.
I asked Susan whether she kept journals over the years. She wishes she would have.
On the other hand, she notes, “Some of the stories I have told over and over, so the memories are ingrained through repetition. Others are seared into my memory because of what was happening. Intense life moments have a way of sticking with you!”
None of the scenes about which she writes seem contrived. It all rings true. Of course, Susan was there. She remembers. She knows.
I can only imagine this book as an invaluable tool for parents of special-needs children.
Yet it’s also worth reading for all of us, because it shows that any goal can be achieved, any challenge overcome.
Susan and Patrick King will be signing copies of their book on April 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Literary Bookpost and April 13 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Historic Roller Mill in downtown China Grove. At both events, the Kings will read excerpts from the book and answer questions about it and about their experiences with autism. “Optimism for Autism” is also available at King Eye Center, 312 E. Centerview St. in China Grove.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.