Autistic child takes mother on journey of discovery
By Lucy Rowed, times reporter
High River Times, June 18, 2002
Kris Jones recently wrote Allison’s Suncatchers and Chains, A Journey with Autism, an insightful and candid account of her experiences raising her autistic daughter, Allison. When Jones from the Okotoks area delivered her baby girl almost 30 years ago, she expected her to be bright, intelligent and athletic. But early on Jones and her husband Gord discovered their beloved daughter was autistic. “It was absolutely heartbreaking,” Jones said of the discovery, “At first I felt terrible grief.” Now 30 years later Jones has written an honest and insightful book about her remarkable journey with Allison.
It is a book about her fears and anxieties, about the daily realities of coping with an autistic child and ultimately of finding meaning, peace and joy in her relationship with her child and herself.
Jones, who has had 30 years of experience teaching nursing blends matter-of-fact observations with heart- warming insight.
Jones said she chose the title, Allison’s Suncatchers and Chains because it both captures the reality of Allison’s life and is a metaphor for autism.
Allison, she explained, constantly carries suncatchers and a chain for security. The suncatchers were introduced in early childhood as part of a sensory stimulation program and Allison has carried them ever since, she said. The chain Allison discovered when she had a companion dog.
Jones explains in the book’s introduction that the title is also symbolic. “The chains represent the bondage or tribulations of autism, holding them hostage…the suncatchers represent the bright side of autism. For me the suncatchers also represent some of the unique and wonderful experiences I have had with my daughter.”
Jones said she went through a number of stages in getting to know her daughter. Initially she wanted to do everything possible to cure Allison of autism. “I searched for the key to unlock her, to release her from the bondage of autism.” Then when Allison was about 12 years old Jones said she began to accept that her daughter would always be autistic. “I no longer had any need to change her. That was very freeing.” Jones said she began to realize Allison’s autism might have a purpose, that it was meant to teach her about life. “Allison lives totally in the present. She has no worries. She can just “be.”
Five years ago Allison began living with the Bill and Cheryl Holmes family of High River during the week. The change was another important step in Allison’s development, she said, and in letting go for Jones.
Though Jones considered writing this book for some time, it has only been since she retired that she has had the time. She began the book last October and after writing 10-14 hours per day completed the first four chapters by December. The book was finished in March and in June 1,000 copies were printed by Temeron Books in Calgary.
Jones said she hopes to use the book to teach others about people with disabilities. “My goal is to help people understand that those people who are different still can contribute to our society,” she said. At the end of the book Jones writes,”â€¦ at times aren’t we all a little handicapped; a little retarded, a little autistic, a little blind, a little deaf, a little less than ‘normal’?” If we can learn to accept one another, appreciate each person’s uniqueness and learn from one another, perhaps we can make this world a better place.”