When Victoria Ferrante sat down to write her novel, ''Hope,'' she wasn't looking to tell yet another story about a severely autistic child. She wanted to tell the story from a mother's point of view.
''Everything about autism is always about the child, but never about the caretaker,'' Ferrante said. ''I thought this was a story that needed to be told.''
Ferrante and her husband, Tim, are the parents of two autistic children, 18-year old Adrianna and 16-year old Matthew. While Matthew, diagnosed with high-functioning Asberger's syndrome, is a student at Trumbull County Career and Technical Center, Adrianna is at the lower end of the spectrum.
Kathleen Evanoff / Howland Community News
Victoria Ferrante, of Howland, recently published her first novel, ‘‘Hope,’’ based on her experiences as a mother of a severely autistic daughter. During the writing of her book, Ferrante was given support and shared stories with McDonald resident Lisa Robinson, also the mother of an autistic child.
''She doesn't communicate and has violent melt-downs,'' Ferrante said. ''She will never be independent.''
Ferrante's novel is about a woman, Christine Borysowki, and her severely autistic daughter, Hope. Although the book is a novel, Ferrante said parts of the story are taken from her own experiences and the experiences of other parents of autistic children.
But Ferrante is quick to point out that the book is not an autobiography.
''Many mothers of autistic children are diagnosed with clinical depression,'' she said.
Living with an autistic child is often a life of isolation, she said.
''She wants people to understand how difficult this life really is,'' said Lisa Robinson, of McDonald.
Robinson, a close friend of Ferrante's, has a severely autistic son, 11-year-old James. The two were introduced by the owner of a local health food store, who put the two mothers in touch with each other after they came into the store to shop for vitamins and supplements for their children.
''One of the stories in the book is mine,'' Robinson said. ''Most people don't understand what we go through on a daily basis.
''It hurts when you see your neighbor's children reaching milestones while yours stays the same,'' Robinson said. ''You have to accept your child for what they are.''
Ferrante, who moved to Howland with her family in 1996, was a former high school French teacher in Pennsylvania until her daughter was diagnosed. She left her career as a teacher to stay home and care for her daughter.
''It was a long time ago,'' Ferrante said. ''It seems like a different life now, almost a dream really.''
Although she gave up her teaching, Ferrante never gave up writing, which she said she has been doing for as long as she can remember. Her first play was written while she was in the second grade and was performed by her classmates. She also has written several poems and short stories but never had the desire to publish anything until she decided the story of Hope was one that needed to be told.
''I wanted to write the book after my sister-in-law asked me a specific question,'' Ferrante said. While she wouldn't reveal the question because it would give away the ending of the book, Ferrante said, ''it is a sad story.''
The novel took about six years to write, she said.
According to the Autism Society, a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the prevalence of autism has risen to one in every 10 births in the United States.
While boys are more likely to be diagnosed with autism, it is girls who often are affected with the most severe cases of the disorder that has no known cure, according to the society.
''There are two different worlds for people with autistic children,'' Ferrante said. ''There is the world of autism, which we're constantly exposed to, and there is the neuro-typical world; people who don't have or are not directly caring for a child with autism,'' she said.
Ferrante said her husband, Tim, has been very supportive of her while she was writing the book, but he is not alone.
''She's one tough chick,'' Robinson said. ''She made her own dream come true.''
Ferrante is busy working on her next book, which she says has a much happier tone. A memoir of her son, the book is based on Matthew's humorous words of wisdom, she said. The book will be titled, ''The Book of Matthew.''
''Hope'' was published by iUniverse, Inc. and is available through the publisher's website, iUniverse.com, barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com.