End of your ASD rope and looking for a gripping read? Chasing the Rabbit is the book for you! Derek Volk emotionally details the journey of his young adult son, Dylan, as they move from marriage to pregnancy to the “diagnosis of the month club” to adulthood. Dylan has had a rough go of it, and Derek has carefully described his role as a father as his son progresses through the various states of development. Fathers don’t seem equally represented in the popular literature of ASD, so this is a unique opportunity to learn about what some fathers may feel, how they think, and how they cope.
Derek is rather forthright about his experiences as a father. He openly acknowledges that Dylan has confused him, angered him, and made him proud. He is very clear about the impact of raising Dylan on his marriage, his home life, and his business life. He is also clear about Dylan’s strengths and personal shortcomings. Best of all, Derek solicited Dylan’s input for this book, and hearing Dylan’s unvarnished opinions about his life, how others perceive him, and where he is headed is eye opening.
A few highlights emerge for me: First, securing a diagnosis and appropriate treatment was mighty challenging for this family; second, the emotional journey clearly took a toll.
The Volks live in Maine (which was awesome for me to read about, as I am from Maine, and all the places they reference sound sooo familiar!), and finding resources can be a challenge in Maine. In addition, the Volks were seeking diagnostic clarity just as a diagnosis of Asperger’s became available. During this important time for Dylan, few professionals were adequately trained to recognize Dylan’s experiences as consistent with Asperger’s. In addition, Dylan presents with some challenges that appear to be beyond the scope of ASD, but these challenges are clearly influenced by his social understanding. As such, finding professionals and programs that could address all of Dylan’s complex needs was a challenge, living in Maine or not!
The second aspect of this book that stood out was Derek’s willingness to be honest about his emotional experiences in raising Dylan. If you are raising a child or young adult on the spectrum, you will absolutely understand Derek’s perspective. Dylan presents with great strengths (unbelievable memory, fondness for cats, incredible ability to land a job) coupled with some unique challenges (that I won’t spoil by mentioning here). The strengths present unique opportunities to bond as a family, let talents shine, and smooth out the bumpy parts. The challenges, well, Dylan raised the bar on what it means to struggle on the spectrum!
Final words: if you are new the spectrum, don’t read this quite yet. The honesty might scare you, and I want you to stay optimistic. If you are “well seasoned” on the spectrum (as a parent or a professional), clear your calendar and read this book. I found the book to be gripping; I couldn’t put it down (and I was on vacation!). This book is also stunningly honest and doesn’t sugarcoat life, which is refreshing. After you finish Chasing the Rabbit, go to their website and see what else they are up to! http://chasingtherabbit.org/