Many people struggle on a daily basis with a variety of issues that challenge their lives and during the pandemic we have all had to confront uncertainty and myriad difficulties we may never have even thought of in the BC (Before COVID) era. The hard lessons we have learned in the past year have also inspired many to learn and grow in positive ways and some have written books to help others deal with whatever challenges they may be facing. Leaning on Mom: Letters to Roberta, How a Mom of Three Boys with Autism Found Strength during the Pandemic by Melanie Donus is a powerful book and not only for parents of children with autism, but for anyone looking for inspiration and hope in these times.
Donus, whose husband, Andrew, is of Greek descent, shared the book with The National Herald, calling it her “quarantine labor of love.” She is a proud mother of three school-aged children, Dimitri (17), Michael (17), and Maxx (12), who all have Autism Spectrum Disorder and three very different profiles of abilities and challenges.
The book is her first and she told TNH, “I still can't believe that it made its way to an Amazon Best Seller during pre-sale!”
Donus added that “it didn't start as a book – it started out as journaling as a means of therapy. The book is 26 letters written to my mom from March-June . It was published in August.”
“I suddenly found myself in sink or swim mode and had to find a creative outlet to alleviate stress. Writing letters to my mom helped me cope with our suddenly upside down world and provided a soothing sense of calm, inspiration and motivation,” Donus said.
The book provides a raw and humorous window into Donus’ world as she shares what day-to-day life was like for her and her family during the first four months of the coronavirus pandemic in the collection of letters to her own mother, Roberta.
Donus has “three boys who are quite different, but all who need their routine, structure, education, treatment, school, and therapists. Suddenly, Melanie had to be all those things,” said Ray Cepeda, Founder and Director of ABAskills, who wrote the Foreword for Leaning on Mom.
“Please be extra kind to an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) mom if you see her in the community over the next few months. Getting ‘back to normal’ is not in our vocabulary,” Donus said.
Leaning on Mom captures the essence of the family’s everyday experience and reveals the endless questions, epic meltdowns, musical Zoom calls, behavior challenges, and heart-wrenching moments that show Donus’ boys regressing before her eyes. Her journey through the decision process and arrangements for one of her boys to relocate to an out-of-state residential school is particularly moving.
The book also includes lighthearted moments as well even as Donus details her challenge unfriending “Donna” (code for chardonnay) and includes stories of miracles, heroes, and unexpected acts of kindness.
Donus dedicated the book to herself not to reflect narcissism but as a way to shine a light on the enormous responsibilities of those who give 200 percent to their autistic children, leaving little time for themselves. She recognizes that this can result in isolation, loneliness, and a reliance on alcohol as a best friend; and shares her pandemic journey to sobriety, the second pivotal point in her life when she turned away from alcohol.
A resilient and resourceful mom, Donus educates readers about Autism Spectrum Disorder in this book while also inspiring readers to find their own inner strength.
Donus also shared the news of a book giveaway to support special needs mothers during COVID. Mothers can request a book for themselves or friends and family can nominate Autism moms to receive a free copy of the book on Donus’ website: https://www.melaniedonus.com/.
Leaning on Mom: Letters to Roberta, How a Mom of Three Boys with Autism Found Strength during the Pandemic by Melanie Donus is available online.
The book trailer is available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Ve5cjHzr97s.