Title: Dance of Joy
Author: Melissa Campbell Rowe
Genre: Adult - Contemporary
Publication: June 19, 2015
Meltdowns. Rejection. Bullying. All of these words are associated with autism. As the story opens, Jeff Howard races to the emergency room to find his wife battered by their autistic son. Jeff’s plans for his success and family start falling apart and the reality is that life is hard. But It’s harder when you have a child with autism. And you can’t run from it. Jeff’s journey from denial to acceptance is poignant and honest. Jeff must let go of his ambitions and embrace a different way to live. To find peace the family must be able to pull together and work as a team to make a better life for them all. Through the process, the family learns some new words to associate with autism: courage, acceptance, and joy.
Find It On:AMAZON // BARNES AND NOBLE // GOODREADS
About The Author:Melissa has seen the story of special needs from several angles. She has been a public school special education teacher, a private school educator, a cousin, and a parent. In her first book, Dance of Joy, readers get a glimpse into a family's life and concerns as they deal with autism through the characters of Jeff and Meredith. She hopes this book brings understanding to families with a child with autism and enlightenment to the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends.
Originally from Indiana, Melissa moved to Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. After spending 14 years in Texas attending graduate school and teaching, she moved to Fort Smith in 1997. Melissa has published articles in national magazines, was an editor and writer for a local magazine, and was an English teacher for 10 years.
She has two grown sons who were both home educated. She now divides her time between her sons and working at Grace Academy, an academy serving homeschooled students. She is a board member for a new nonprofit focused on bringing community and social opportunities to adults with disabilities. You can connect with this organization and their outreach at - http://www.theartswithgrace.org or https://www.facebook.com/The-Arts-With-Grace-445306178984966/
What inspired you to write Dance of Joy?
I had several reasons I wanted to write this story. First, I wanted to tell families to embrace their life with joy. It’s hard to be different. We all want to fit in, but it’s okay if we don’t and there is a freedom and a joy in being different. Second, I wanted to "educate" people who maybe had a friend or family member dealing with autism and give them an insider's glimpse into real life with autism. And finally, I wanted to have a story for new families with newly identified children. When my son was identified in 1990, I read every book out that I could find. Most dealt with the clinical side but there were a couple of books that were about day to day life. Those were my favorite and were the most helpful in shaping my understanding of autism and learning to embrace it.
If you met someone who had never heard of autism, how would you explain it? What would you want them to know?
Autism is a social-sensory disability. Just like someone with dyslexia has difficulty with reading, someone with autism has difficulty with social situation and sensory input. The saying, If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism, is so true because each person has unique challenges so it is difficult to make any generalizations. But the majority of people with autism have sensory impairments and social difficulties.
What stories would you like to see told about living with autism? To clarify, I have seen media about the children and about the parents, but rarely from another point of view (teachers, siblings, etc.). What story would YOU like to see told?
I would like to see the story told about the impact of the family living with an adult with autism. That is actually the subject of the book I’m currently writing. Kids with autism grow up to be adults with autism and the impact on the family is still very real. The demands don’t lessen; the challenges just change.What would you like to say to new parents facing of a diagnosis of their child?
I would like to say, “Put your armor on and do what you need to do to help your child be the best they can be.” Someone told me this when my son was identified as having autistic traits and looking back it was great advice. And it seemed the days I went out without my armor were the days some casual person would wound me. So the armor… it’s important.What would you like to say to parents who have raised or are raising a child with autism?
I would like to say to parents that are raising a child with autism to do what works for them. If their child would have been typical they would have embrace their child’s interest and personality. Do the same. It may not be what your neighbors are doing but go with it. It can still be rewarding and fun.How do you feel about the idea of "curing autism?"
“Curing” implies disease to me and I don’t view autism as a disease. I do see it as a disability. And disabilities can be overcome.Who do you consider the protagonist of "Dance of Joy?"
The dad, Jeff, is the protagonist. When I started the story, I thought Meredith, the mom, would be the protagonist, but as the story unfolded, I realized Meredith was simply helping Jeff along in his transformation.Is there an antagonist? Or at least someone who plays the role at a time?
The antagonist is lack of understanding. The administrators at the schools-- both the private and public -- played the role of antagonist at different times in the story. The neighbor was also an antagonist. And even the parents' lack of understanding, worked against them at times.Which character was the most fun to write?
Isabelle was the most fun to write. I wanted to make her dramatic and it was fun to think of drama that she could be a part of in her family and school life. I only have sons so it was fun dreaming up girl thoughts.Can you recommend some resources or charities for your readers?
I am on the board of The Arts with Grace. We are working to bring the arts to adults with disabilities.www.theartswithgrace.orgWhat changes would you like to see in public schools for children with special needs?Instead of trying to make students with autism fit into the typical classroom, make the classrooms fit the students with autism. Students with autism are so capable of learning but the environment must facilitate the learning. A learning environment for typical learners and autistic learners are different.
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