Recently I had the privilege of meeting Maria Shriver at a
conference. I told Shriver that her book, Ten Things I Wish I'd
Known Before I Went Out into the Real World, served as
inspiration for my upcoming book and consulting business,
Why Chasing Hope? Because as any parent of a child
living with a challenge knows too well, effort, energy, time and
money spent seeking treatment can feel as though you are chasing
My own unexpected journey began when my oldest child, Schuyler,
was 18 months old. Since first-time parents learn as they go, I
didn't realize anything was off until the rages started.
In the span of four months we were asked to leave two preschool
programs. It took more than two and a half years to get a
diagnosis. For some reason, not one professional wanted to break
the news to me. Instead of being straight with me, I would be
referred to yet another practitioner.
Finally, two days before Christmas, our child psychiatrist
delivered the answer we suspected was coming: our son had
Aspergerís, ADHD and a pediatric mood disorder. While it was tough
to hear, it was such a relief to know what we were dealing
That was eight years ago. In the past decade as a parent of a
child with special needs, I have experienced microscopic victories,
moments of despair, redefined success, found joy where I could,
advocated for legislation, educated law enforcement, reached out to
other parents and found blessings in the most unexpected
In my pre-mom life I had a career in government and politics,
including working in Washington, D.C., in the Congressional Affairs
Office of the Secretary of Labor. Public policy has always been my
passion and working to create laws to enhance the quality of life
for families throughout Illinois and the U.S. fuels my efforts
The poem ìWelcome to Hollandî really resonates with me. Each
time I find myself upset with something related to my sonís
challenges, Iím reminded that while I might have planned for a trip
elsewhere, Iím in Holland and I better just get my big girl pants
on and charge ahead.
Ultimately I know that Iím not alone in this journey. By slowing
down and meeting the need of the moment, Iím better able to be
present for my son, my other children, my husband, friends and
community all while still taking good care of myself.
Perhaps the biggest lessons I have learned is that living in
denial is no way to live. Yes, there are days when I feel
overwhelmed, discouraged and lose faith. Then I remember that Iím
surrounded by a tremendous circle of love and support that sees me
through the brutal times.
No longer do I wish that my son's situation would change.
Rather, I now ask that he is happy, has a friend and finds a way to
use his unique talent for building models to support himself as he
Anything above and beyond that is gravy.
Christine Walker is the mom of three living in Winnetka. She founded her consulting firm, Chasing Hope, to help other families raising a child with autism or mental illness. For information, visit chasinghope.com or call (847) 338-1505.
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