Thursday, 4 July 2013

We Need to Talk About...?

I had bookmarked David Mitchell's article in The Guardian about his son's autism earlier in the week. Finally got around to checking it out today. It really moved me. I highly recommend reading it. I imagine you'll identify with a lot of it if you know somebody who is dealing with autism. And even if you don't, a little empathy wouldn't hurt ahead of any possible future encounters.

One of my sons (fondly referred to as the mancubs on Twitter) has special needs. He isn't autistic. His diagnosis has been recorded as Global Developmental Delay (GDD) in the absence of a more accurate description. He does display some behaviours consistent with autism and attends a special school with a number of other autistic children, however.

I wrote about my son for a Life Writing assignment during my MA in creative writing. It was a therapeutic experience and I've toyed with the idea of working on a non-fiction book about him. But I'm not sure how fair it would be. He didn't choose to have a father that happens to be a writer. Is it ethical to write about somebody who hasn't given you permission to do so, and if he did, might not understand the consequences of such a book going to publication?

Perhaps I could change names to protect the innocent and try to sell it under a pseudonym. It might not help to have a crime fiction writer attached to the project anyway. Could even be detrimental.

But this is a book that keeps asking to be written.

What to do?

All suggestions/opinions welcome.


Austin said...

What's your objective in writing the book? If it were a desire to sell copies and make money then maybe it wouldn't be right. I doubt that though.
If its to work through it yourself and share the experience with others for whom it may be a great help and benefit, then that sounds good to me. I imagine its the latter.

Gerard Brennan said...

Definitely the latter, Austin.

Thanks for throwing in your two cents.


Anonymous said...

That's a really tough one. But I would say it would be okay to write it. It could help parents in similar situations identify with the things you have experienced with your child. Did you listen to the BBCR4 book of the week last week - The Reason I Jump, by David Mitchell?

Dana King said...

A good friend of mine wrote a coup,e of books about what it was like to have a child who was schizophrenic. One was a fictionalized account; one was not. I do not know of any familiar repercussions. In fact, at her funeral, it was evident her survivors were devastated at her loss, in part because of how eloquently she had summed up the story of her son. (He, unfortunately, had already died.)

The key is likely in how you handle it. Tow other options might be to fictionalize the story, or to wait a few years until you feel the mancub in question in question is old enough to understand what you want to do, and ask him how he feels about it. I'm all for potentially helping as many people as possible, but not at the cost of possible hurting the person who inspired you to do so. He comes first.

Take that for what it's worth. It's a tough decision.

Gerard Brennan said...

Thanks for stopping by, DJ. More food for thought. No, I missed that show. Will try and catch it on Listen Again.

Dana - Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Maybe that's the best plan. Who says I can't write it then hold onto it until we can talk about it...?



Unknown said...

You're a writer, Gerard. Its what you do. You run the risk of being accused of exploitation whenever you write anything based on real life.

But he's your son. Intent is a biggie. Done with love, affection and honesty - just like David Mitchell's article - it has the potential to change attitudes. Which helps us all.

Dana made a good point. If it were me that's what I would be tempted to do.

Gerard Brennan said...

Cheers, Michael! Yeah, I think Dana nailed it with his comment.


seana graham said...

At the very least, continue to get things down on paper while it's still fresh. Even if it's "only therapeutic", that's a big plus.

Gerard Brennan said...

Hi Seana

Yeah, you're right. I think I might work a day into my timetable where I give myself permission to write whatever I feel like, deadlines, etc, be damned.

If I ever get organised enough to create a timetable...