Saturday, June 6, 2015

New book offers dad's perspective on raising a son on the Autism Spectrum - By Elizabeth Richards

When Derek Volk first sat down to write a book, he had no idea that the result would be “Chasing the Rabbit” his newly released book about life with his son Dylan, who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Volk’s original plan was to write a business book, based on the success he has had running a corrugated box plant in Biddeford. But as he tried to work through what he was going to write, Volk said he clearly heard a voice tell him, “That’s not the book you’re supposed to write. You’re supposed to write a book about Dylan.” He immediately put aside what he had been working on and started writing about Dylan. 

It wasn’t until the first draft was completed that Volk talked to Dylan about the work he was doing. “I was afraid he was going to say no way,” he said. If that had been Dylan’s reaction, the book would have been put aside. But Dylan supported the project fully, and was interested in collaborating. Volk sent Dylan a section at a time, and asked him to add his own perspective. These thoughts became sections called “Dylan’s Take” throughout the finished book. Hearing about what Dylan experienced in his own words is very powerful, Volk said.   

The book is titled “Chasing the Rabbit,” because Volk says he’s always compared Dylan to a greyhound, with the rabbit representing ‘normal.’  “He can see it, and he runs really hard all day long, every day but it’s always just outside of his grasp. He can never catch it, but he tries. He tries all the time. He’s constantly chasing the rabbit,” said Volk. 

There are examples throughout the book of how clearly Dylan could see his own experience said Volk. A large part of the struggle is Dylan’s awareness of how different things are for him. “Life would be a lot easier if he wasn’t aware, if he was happy in his own world and didn’t care whether he fit in and had friends,” said Volk, “But he’s running, running, running after that rabbit.”  

The response from parents who have read the book has been incredible, said Volk, particularly the response from fathers. There is no other book on this subject written from a dad’s perspective, he added. “I really believe that this book was part of the big plan. I think we went through what we went through so we could help other people,” he said. 

One of the biggest reactions he has had to the book is appreciation for how raw and honest it is. “I don’t pretty it up at all. I don’t make me or my situation sound better than it was,” said Volk. His honesty about the difficult emotions he experienced, including his anger at Dylan, strikes a chord for many, he said.  

Volk hopes that parents going through similar situations can gain hope from reading his book. “Dylan is doing really well now, but it was a long road to get where we are, so don’t give up,” he said.

For those who aren’t experiencing similar situations, he hopes his story will bring awareness to the fact that what looks like bad parenting might be more complicated than what they can see. “I’m sure there were many people who looked at Amy and me with Dylan in public places and thought what terrible parents, how could they let him act that way?” he said. 

Volk continues to run his business, while also making time to travel for speaking engagements and book promotion. Derek and Dylan will be speaking around the country for the next few months, including Cleveland in June, Denver in July, Tucson in August, and Boston and Spokane, WA in October. Volk is also conducting book signings locally, including one at noon on Sunday, June 7th at the Dairy Queen in Windham, which is owned by his brother-in-law.

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