The Strength of Family Warners Persevere Raising Twins with Autism

By Boling, Dave | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), April 7, 2019 | Go to article overview

The Strength of Family Warners Persevere Raising Twins with Autism


Boling, Dave, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


Sometimes strangers at book events approach authors Ana and Curt Warner with an unusual request: Do you mind if I hug you?

It doesn't come off as awkward because the Warners understand completely, and respond to embraces in kind. Sometimes highly personal stories are shared. Often it gets emotional. The New York Times doesn't chart "Most-Hugged" authors, but the Warners probably would be high on that list if it did.

These moments are about far more than getting authors' signatures on the title page of a book. Or of those fans of the Seattle Seahawks hoping to get an autograph from Curt, a former Pro Bowl running back.

This powerful connection to readers is rooted in mutual respect and empathy shared by those who have dedicated much of their lives raising children with special needs. In reviews and comments, readers have offered similar versions of a prevailing sentiment: "The Warner Boys" book has given voice and witness to their own dramatic narratives.

Somebody has told our story. We're not alone.

"It's amazing," Ana Warner said of the quick and deep bonding with readers. "A lot of times it's without even saying anything. We can just look at each other and know what the other has been through."

With the December publication of their memoir, the Warners finally told the story they'd kept to themselves for decades. In raw and honest terms, they wrote of raising twin sons with autism spectrum disorder, and laid out in painful detail their struggles with grief and death and depression amid the destruction of their home by the twins' violent behavior and a life-threatening fire.

Readers relate not only to the story but to the sense of humanity the Warners bring to the telling. Particularly Ana, who seems willing to be everyone's mother.

"I connect, especially to the moms," Ana said. "I want to hug them and hold them tight and say 'It's going to be OK.' I wish I could go home with them and help. I want to say, 'Call me and I'll come over and cry with you.' I wish I could do that with every one of them."

These are sentiments that readers are not likely to receive from Stephen King or James Patterson.

Their book doesn't promise answers; Curt and Ana confess up-front that they're not experts on autism and they're not doctors - they're parents. Parents like so many others trying to make the best of a tough situation. They write about the scars and close calls and fears. And they now stand as evidence of a vital truth: It can be done.

The book is about that process. It's about parenting and relationships. But it's also a love story, and how this couple shares qualities that sometimes seem only fictional - unwavering commitment and unconditional love.

They will talk about these things at the Northwest Passages Book Club on April 14, 3-5 p.m. at Spokane's Bing Crosby Theater. Don't be bashful if you feel like giving them hugs afterward. They understand, and reciprocate.

Out of the spotlight

From the fans' perspective, Curt Warner had disappeared from the public eye. Truth is, he was very busy being a parent.

After his elusive running helped the Seahawks mature from exciting expansion team to playoff contender, Curt started his post-NFL career by buying a car dealership in Bellevue. It had been only a few years after he had married Ana, an aspiring Brazilian model, that they set about starting their family.

In 1991, their first son, Ryan, died as a full-term stillborn. Miscarriages followed before a healthy son, Jonathan, was born. In quick succession, Ana gave birth to twins, Austin and Christian. At roughly 2, the twins started falling dramatically short of developmental benchmarks, and for three more years, their behaviors became more curious and worrisome before a belated diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

By then, the family had moved to Camas, in southwest Washington, where Curt took over a different dealership. Over the years following the diagnosis, the Warners employed an army of therapists and attempted every promising treatment, finding occasional progress often followed by disappointing regression. …

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