Laughter and Tears: A Family's Journey to Understanding the Autism Spectrum

Laughter and Tears: A Family's Journey to Understanding the Autism Spectrum

Laughter and Tears: A Family's Journey to Understanding the Autism Spectrum

Laughter and Tears: A Family's Journey to Understanding the Autism Spectrum


'Had we had just one wish to be granted in the past in coping with Mark's autism, what would we have asked for? We would have asked for the gift of wisdom. The wisdom that comes with knowledge.'

- Ann Hewetson, Chapter 19

Laughter and Tears is a first-hand account of parenting Mark, a young man with autism, and also of a mother's struggle to understand and appreciate her son's condition. Ann Hewetson's moving and thoughtful account describes Mark's communication problems, sensory integration and food allergies, shared by many people with autism, but also tells of Mark's associated problems like rheumatoid arthritis and bipolar mood swings.

The author recounts how she dedicated her life to finding out more about autism. Aided by her background in research and biology, she delves into the available literature and interweaves the narrative of Mark's life with illuminating pointers drawn from the work of Leo Kanner, Hans Asperger and Carl Delacato among others. Cutting-edge developments in the field, for instance co-existing psychiatric disorders, cognitive behaviour therapy and brain research, are also explained in a way that will be easily understood by any parent. Ann's journey from initial incomprehension and a desire to find a 'solution' to her son's autism concludes with a resolution for both Mark and Ann as they arrive at a deeper understanding of autism and an appreciation of its strengths.

This book will be indispensable to both parents and professionals in offering a unique, reflective account of Mark's exceptional life and also a wide-ranging exploration of useful and innovative approaches to autism.


I’m woken up again. As I struggle through the mists of sleep, rising, slipping back, clawing my way upwards to the noise – to the now familiar rhythm of the metal wheels of the cot grinding on the bare linoleum of the floor, I focus instantly. Slipping noiselessly out of bed, I move silently down the corridor to peer in at the door. Little Mark, just ten months old, up on all fours with palms and knees firmly pushed down on the cot blanket, rocks rhythmically back and forth, moving to some internal clock, responding involuntarily to the commands of some innate brain waves. I watch, holding my breath, as he works out this cycle and flops motionless on his tummy – silent again.

This is the second time tonight that I have come to keep this silent vigil. Will he rock again before dawn? I stand a moment longer – watching – waiting. No sound – he sleeps peacefully. It is eerie – this silent rocking, eyes closed. Afraid to approach lest I awaken or frighten him, I slip away. Fear gnaws at me.

Cold, I make my way back to bed. No, I tell myself firmly there is nothing wrong. Babies can have different sleeping patterns – that’s all. Things always seem worse in the night.

A month later I am back again in the same spot still keeping my strange nightly vigil. Stronger now, and more in command of his muscles, Mark rocks more vigorously but still in the same pattern – moved it would seem by . . .

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