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An unlikely mother is forced to confront her young son’s autism after an unlikely encounter with one of her johns.


When I first started writing “Six Letter Word,” it was about the day my son was diagnosed with high functioning autism. I couldn’t get the images and sounds from that day out of my head: his doctor nodding after I ask her the verdict; my son’s voice saying, “You okay, Mommy?”; the freeway on our drive home as he chatters behind me while I cry silently. As I wrote, I remembered a couple I’d met in an autism parenting class. At first, they seemed more likely to be perps on “Cops” than class participants. They turned out to be the best parents in the room. They loved their kid to exhaustion and instinctively knew what she needed; they were blunt about their shortcomings and dubious about their ability to handle all that life threw at them. Yet their humor, warmth and love for their child rose above their doubts and challenges. When I wrote my protagonist Zoe to embody this couple, I found my true story. “Six Letter Word” isn’t just about autism, me, or even a mom grappling to accept her child’s challenges, though those elements remain. It’s about self-doubt, the discovery of inner strength through surprising sources and the fact that the people who are best at parenting often come in unlikely and very human packages. Most of all, it’s about the multi-faceted ties that bind parent to child.

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