A Child's Journey Out of Autism: One Family's Story of Living in Hope and Finding a Cure


Told with the intensity of a medical thriller, the extraordinary story of how Clay Whiffen and his family conquered autism.

"Leeann Whiffen's fight for her son is a poignant, intimate story of perseverance and love - a reminder to all of us that a mother is the greatest ally a child with autism will ever have. A Child's Journey out of Autism shines a heartfelt light on a future of healing and hope."
Jenny ...

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A Child's Journey Out of Autism: One Family's Story of Living in Hope and Finding a Cure

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Told with the intensity of a medical thriller, the extraordinary story of how Clay Whiffen and his family conquered autism.

"Leeann Whiffen's fight for her son is a poignant, intimate story of perseverance and love - a reminder to all of us that a mother is the greatest ally a child with autism will ever have. A Child's Journey out of Autism shines a heartfelt light on a future of healing and hope."
Jenny McCarthy, author of Mother Warriors and Louder than Words

The therapy costs $30,000. We'd be mortgaging our lives and our savings on something we're not even sure could help our son. But the clock is ticking: the longer we wait, the harder it will be to pull him out of this shell. How are we going to afford it? How can we not afford it?

When Clay Whiffen was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, his parents didn't know where to turn. They refused to believe that he could not be cured, and began to try every therapy they could afford - and many they couldn't. In this extraordinary story of one family's struggle with autism, Leeann Whiffen gives voice to the fear of losing a child and the fight to reclaim him, exploring what treatments eased her son Clay's symptoms, where the Whiffens found support, and how the family conquered one of the toughest challenges a child can face.

With a foreword by autism specialist Dr. Bryan Jepson, A Child's Journey out of Autism spells out what treatments worked, where the family found help, and how they made it through this crushing crisis. In a time of despair and confusion - when another child is diagnosed with autism every 20 minutes - this is a profound, proven message of hope for anyone whose life is touched by the disorder.


"I have heard so many stories like Clay's that I thought I could no longer be moved by them; I was wrong. This is an important book to read if your family has not been touched by autism, because it's important to understand the disorder that has affected so many all over the world. If someone you love is on the autism spectrum, read it because it will allow you to see that autism is treatable. While not all children make a complete recovery, improvements in their quality of life are possible at any age. I strongly recommend this moving and intelligent book."
Jane Johnson, Executive Director, Defeat Autism Now!

"This uplifting and positive book gives parents of newly-diagnosed children hope for the future. There is no easy fix or magic bullet for recovering a child from autism, but as Leeann so skillfully shows us, with perseverance and determination, the possibilities and rewards are endless. Thank you, Leeann, for sharing your story and empowering parents to make that journey to rediscover their child."
Chantal Sicile-Kira, author of Autism Life Skills, Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

"Leeann Whiffen takes the reader onto the rollercoaster ride that is autism from the first chapter to the last. A Child's Journey Out of Autism is field guide on how an average family can grow in love as they take on autism, refusing to accept the mainstream doom and gloom pronouncement that there is no hope or treatment. This is an important, really powerful book. If you know a child with autism, read this book for them."
Kim Stagliano, Managing Editor, Age of Autism, and mother of three girls with autism

"The journey from diagnosis to recovery is filled with obstacles and setbacks. The financial and emotional burdens families endure are heartbreaking. Yet, like the Whiffen family demonstrates, there is power in hope and determination. Parents like Leeann and Sean demonstrate that autism doesn't have to be a lifelong struggle… With effective treatments, a supportive network, and unwavering parents, recovery is indeed possible… Leeann's determination, drive, and hope are inspirational. Her story is unique, yet it mirrors what so many families encounter, the stress of inadequate funding options, the frustration of misdiagnosis, the confusion associated with learning about the best treatments. Her ability to tell her story with heart mixed with concrete information will no doubt help many families."
Doreen Granpeesheh, PhD, BCBA, founder and executive director, The Center for Autism & Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD)

"The Autism club is not one that we choose to join. Sadly, many of us are welcomed to this club by medical professionals who offer little hope for our children. But as the Whiffen family and thousands of others have discovered, our children can get better and in many cases, even recover from Autism. In A Child's Journey out of Autism, Leeann Whiffen welcomes us to the club with the gift of hope. This book is a must-read for parents with a newly diagnosed child with autism."
Wendy Fournier, president, National Autism Association

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  • A Child's Journey Out of Autism
    A Child's Journey Out of Autism  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A well told and compelling tale of a family trying to understand what has happened and how to treat their son and find the answers needed... The intensity of the story makes this book almost impossible to put down as you read of Leeann's search to heal her son.

" - Autism File

"An inspiring account of love, luck, and dogged determination.

" - Booklist

""More than just one family's story, A Child's Journey is a touchstone for issues that are now controversial flashpoints in the autism community, raising questions in the ongoing debate about autism treatments, from causes to diets to federal funding... an important story for a nation still coming to grips with the ever-growing numbers of children with autism." " - Autism Society of America

"A Child's Journey Out of Autism leads us through Leeann's incredible path of always holding on to hope." - Lily's Reading Extravaganza

Publishers Weekly

The story of Clay Whiffen started out no differently than that of countless others diagnosed with autism: his parents, author Leeann and her husband, Sean, felt they could only watch as their happy baby morphed into a child they did not recognize. At first, the parents, in their 20s, denied their son could be autistic. (In the foreword, Dr. Bryan Jepson writes that in the mid-1980s, autism was a rare condition-1 in 5,000 children; by the mid-1990s, it had become the most common developmental disability with 1 in 150 children diagnosed.) But soon, Leeann writes, "I feel compelled to do whatever it takes to help Clay.... I stay up all hours of the night investigating everything related to autism." As Sean worked hard to cover the cost of Clay's treatment, Leeann became a master networker. The Whiffens decided on an applied behavior analysis program, and "I press forward in sheer faith that what we do will help him." Although the book's dialogue is often stilted, Whiffen has written an inspirational and educational story. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402218385
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks
  • Publication date: 3/1/2009
  • Pages: 318
  • Sales rank: 982,461
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Leeann Whiffen lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, Sean, and her three sons, one of whom used to have autism. Leeann serves on the Autism Council of Utah, collaborating with autism organizations and individuals around the state to help families find solutions. Leading autism specialist Dr. Bryan Jepson, the parent of a son with autism, has treated hundreds of children on the autism spectrum. He established the Children's Biomedical Center of Utah to provide the most-up-to-date care and to raise awareness. He is currently the medical director of Thoughtful House in Austin, Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

I amble out into the balmy June morning with a pregnant swagger. The fog is still heavy in the air at 6:00 a.m. My hospital bag clutched under my arm, I maneuver my awkward body up and into the car. I hear the thumping of Sean's fingers and turn to see him tapping the keys of an imaginary piano on the steering wheel. As we drive to the hospital, I think about Drew, our two-year-old son, who can't wait to meet his brother. I envision the boys growing up together as best friends, sticking up for each other amidst trouble, playing sports together, sharing a room, double dating. It is then I remember why we chose to have our babies so close together.

Just as I'm settling into my room at John Muir Hospital, gentle music begins pouring through the hallways. I look at Sean, puzzled. He points up at the intercom in the ceiling. As it plays longer, I recognize the familiar melody. Brahms' "Lullaby."

"What's this?" I ask, looking upward.

"Another baby was just born," my nurse says, like she has answered the same question over a hundred times this week.

"Oh, how nice," I say.

I think about how lucky I am that I'm even here on this day, June 20, 2000. I'm overdue. Consuming slice after slice of "prego pizza," a specialty pie with every topping in the house that Skipolini's claims will kick-start labor, didn't deliver anything but severe intestinal distress. When my OB/GYN offered to induce, I instantly took him up on it.

I squeeze Sean's hand, noting his boyish hairline and dark chocolate eyes. His masculine, geometric jawline beckons my gaze. I mouth the words, "I love you." Holding up his hand he grins slightly to one side and flashes me the "I love you" sign.

The entire labor process blurs, setting itself apart from my grueling first delivery. I clench Sean's hand again, this time so hard he pretends to grimace dramatically. I shoot him the look that says, you are silly to try and tease me now.

"Push," the doctor says again. "He's almost there."

"One more time!" Sean says excitedly, leaning in closer. I bear down with all the energy I can marshal. I feel the blood rush to my face and the veins pop out of my head and neck as I strain to deliver this new life into our world.

"There he is," I hear the doctor say in a calm low voice.

A tiny, shrill cry penetrates the air. I lift my head off the pillow and smile, seeing his wet, curly hair matted to his head. His scrawny reddish-purple body swims in the hands of the doctor.

A feeling of peace and reverence fills the room.

The doctor hands the scissors to Sean and shows him where to cut the umbilical cord. The nurses take our son to the sink and wash him. They wrap him tightly in a thin blanket and put a beanie on his head. The room is quiet except for his tiny cries. The doctor takes him from the nurse and places him in my arms. I brush my lips against his face and inhale his sweet smell. I kiss his soft, warm head and nestle him close to me. Brahms "Lullaby" softly plays above.

I hold him only for a brief moment before one of the nurses whisks him away to weigh him and check his vitals.

"He scored a 9 on his Apgar test and his measurements were right on target," the nurse says.

She hands him back to me and places him on my chest. His warm body relaxes me. He stretches and squeaks so much he sounds like a dry hinge. I quickly glance at his hands and feet to ensure he has all five fingers and toes. I pull down the front of his diaper. "Everything is there," I whisper, easing my new mom jitters. I exhale a mental sigh of relief as I look at his tiny hand clasped over my first finger.

"So far so good," I say, looking over at Sean.

"Our baby boy is a healthy, normal little newborn. He's beautiful, and so are you," Sean says.

"I'm so happy, sweetie."

"Me too," he says, stroking my face and hair.

At that moment I realize that I love him more than I ever have.

At a few days old, Clay seems to be the perfect baby. I revel in his mild temperament and wonder how I got so lucky—Drew had colic, and I was dreading it again. He only wakes twice in the night to breast-feed, and rarely cries. I'm thrilled with his disposition.

Clay's first week goes by, and we take him into the pediatrician for his first well-child visit. She highly recommends he receive the hepatitis B shot at this visit.

"You'll need to sign this first," she says, handing me a clipboard with a consent form.

I scrawl my signature at the bottom of the paper without looking it over.

"What mother who cares at all about her child would refuse to vaccinate them?" I ask her as I mentally pat myself on the back for being so conscientious.

"Oh," she chuckles, "You'd be surprised."

"We are so fortunate to have two healthy boys. I could never live with myself if they were to get sick with a preventable disease."

She hands me an immunization schedule. "In order to keep Clay healthy, you'll need to make sure to bring him in for all of his well-child visits."

"Of course. We won't forget."

Four weeks pass and Clay seems less happy. He cries a little more, sleeps a little less. By his sixth week, he cries incessantly and hardly sleeps at all. His behavior evolves into days and nights filled with piercing screams, an arching back, and inconsolable crying. Soon Clay rarely sleeps for longer than thirty minutes at a time. He jerks awake, screaming frantically as if someone is pinching him. The area surrounding his eyes looks like a bull's-eye from lack of sleep. I'm frustrated because I don't know how to help him. His shrill screeches arouse every nerve in my body, wearing them raw. I get so attuned to hearing them, even everyday sounds like the running dishwasher mimic his cries.

I call the pediatrician, who says, "Oh, yes, it's probably just gas. Don't worry too much." She recommends some over-thecounter drops to help ease the "supposed pain" in his stomach. I hang up the phone, bolt to the drugstore, and purchase the drops that will hopefully solve all our problems. We begin using them right away, but it doesn't seem to help. As his crying becomes more intense, so too does the constant reminder that I'm failing to meet his needs. I spend entire days rocking him, cuddling him, talking to him. I play soft music, and Drew and I sing to him.

Yet nothing I do seems to comfort him.

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2009

    Such an inspirational/enlightening story...MUST READ for everyone!

    Although I have read many books about autism, this one is by far my favorite. There is no sugar-coating in this book; Leeann Whiffen does not fail to inform on what a difficult and strenuous journey it is getting your child back from the demons of autism, but she also describes just how worth it this journey really is. I am not even a mother to a child with autism, but I do work with kids on the spectrum, and I found this story sooo inspirational. It offers hope to all to never give up; each kid on the spectrum is different, and each kid will come around in there own time. Just believe in them...a miracle may happen, just like it did w/ Clay!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Read "A Child's Journey Out of Autism" simply because it is the right thing to do, for all of us!

    Leeann Whiffen's "A Child's Journey Out Of Autism" is a shining example of one family's triumph over autism. It absolutely explodes with emotion and familiarity. Leeann's easy-to-read, true-life tale of her family's struggle, challenges and search for answers leaves the reader once again encouraged, motivated and inspired. It rekindles hope. I highly recommend this book for anyone touched by autism.

    As the parent of a child with the autism label, I evoke those not yet familiar with the world's now most prevalent, childhood debacle; to please take the time to read Ms. Wiffen's literary accomplishment. For those of us still encompassing this ill sought epic, that which we need most is encouragement, understanding and compassion. "A Child's Journey Out Of Autism" will undoubtedly, easily provide the reader with a fuller, better appreciation and empathy for families living the autism rife.

    Lin Wesssels
    Sam's mom
    Autism Action Network, District Leader
    Piecing It All Together, Treasurer
    Something For Sam, Autism Advocacy

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

    Loved This Story

    This book has a lot of technicality to it, but the Leeann Whiffen does a good job of balancing the reality of dealing with Autism with the emotions of facing it. I loved her personal thoughts and how it impacted her family relationships, she expressed that beautifully. She also goes through the different treatments and the medical side to everything, including how much work it is to get her son and family through the education and therapies. A marvelous story for any mother, and I imagine if you have an autistic child it would bring a lot of comfort and perspective. It's like talking to a best friend, Leeann's voice is real.

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  • Posted August 2, 2009

    A Gift from God!!

    This is the most amazing book for parents, teachers and those curious about autism. It is written from the heart with a wealth of facts and references. It should be required reading for college students in the educational field and all med students!! I cannot say enough about this book!! I thank the Author for sharing the life of her family with the world. I have become a better teacher because of this book and cannot thank her enough. It is my favorite book to share with people! I hope her family continues to be blessed. Most of all, I hope and pray she writes a follow up book on the progress of her son and the help she has given to other families coping with autism.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2009

    Truly Motivating!

    This book is a must-read for anyone with a child in the autism spectrum. Every child in the spectrum is different but the emotions felt by the parents are the same. That is what Leann Whiffen captures so well in this book is the emotion and the struggle. It hits home in so many ways. My husband and I both read it and it filled us with a renewed hope and motivation to do whatever we can to help our child in his own "journey out of autism".

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  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Everyone should read this book!

    As the mother of three boys under 5, I can't remember the last time I read a book in less than a month. I read this one in three days. It is a wonderfull book full of hope and inspiration. If your child has autism you should read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2009

    A book of HOPE for all new families with newly diagnosed children on the spectrum.

    First I would like to thank Leeann for sharing her story and giving mom's like me HOPE and strength to keep fighting. While on this journey we hit bumps in the road and spend many night crying and feeling alone in our battle but this book will help us mom's keep on fighting autism!
    Thanks Leeann! Your victory over autism with Clay will help many of us mothers pushing through it right now gain strength from your's.
    This book is a book of HOPE, love, and courage to face autism head on! We are mother warriors and autism is treatable!!!
    Let this book be the book of hope for us and hopefully more recovery stories to come!

    Traci Bauer-Vowell
    Jack's mommy
    Las Vegas

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2009

    Inspiring and insightful!

    Leeann Whiffen writes a compelling and inspiring story about her family's desire to help their son, Clay, conquer autism. When Clay was diagnosed before the age of two, Whiffen refused to believe there wasn't something she could do. This story is a wonderful resource and is told in such a manner that balances clear medical explanations with a very personal story. As a mother, I admire Whiffen's strength and pledge to "never give up." I highly recommend this read to anyone interested in learning about autism and a variety of therapy treatments. You will finish the book with tears in your eyes and a hopeful heart.

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  • Posted March 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An absolute MUST-READ!

    In an age where autism has become such a worldwide epidemic, Leeann Whiffen delivers a powerful, heartwarming story of one mother's refusal to give up on her son, and to defeat the monster known as Autism.
    Ms. Whiffen is able to put into words the story of thousands of mothers who go through the many stages of the autism diagnosis: denial, sadness and finally an anger and a determination to bring about change, resulting in the battle for "Clay's Law."
    Ms. Whiffen is a prime example of a "Mother Warrior," and her son Clay is living proof that a child CAN recover from Autism. This book offers hope, and is a definite must-have for ANY parent who has a child on the autism spectrum.

    K Dunham
    Mother Warrior to Seth
    Volunteer/Autism Puzzle Piece Campaign
    Illinois Chapter President, Train4Autism

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  • Posted March 1, 2009

    An emotional chronicle of what it takes to recover a child from autism

    This book is the emotional telling of a story I have heard many times and never get tired of reading in print as a testimony to parental fortitude. Recovery is possible, but it takes parents who are willing to never give up, no matter the financial cost, and supporting cast of friends and providers. This book details the steps the Whiffen family, and many others like them, took to bring their child back despite all obstacles the system put in their way. I would recommend it to all parents of newly diagnosed ASD kids, and those without a diagnosis yet, to use as a blueprint to recovery.

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  • Posted February 25, 2009

    A book of hope and direction.......

    A Child's Journey Out of Autism is a bright light in what, for many parents, is a very dark place. Thanks to all the parents who have gone before her with diligent work and all the researchers who refuse to give up, Leeann's unrelenting determination and hard work paid off, not only for Clay, but for those children not yet diagnosed. Parents new to the "world of autism" can open this book for strength and courage as they maneuver the road to recovery.

    I am thrilled that this book is there for the hundreds of parents I talk with every month who are struggling to help their own children with autism. The road ahead looks brighter and easier to navigate having A Child's Journey Out of Autism as a guide.

    May the research continue and may we be better equipped to recover our little one as well as those who have been living with autism many years.

    Thanks Leeann!

    Nancy H Cale
    Vice President, Unlocking Autism
    Manager, ARI Call Center
    Defeat Autism Now! Outreach Coordinator
    Director of Counseling, Nat'l Vaccine Information Center

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    Posted July 2, 2011

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    Posted May 19, 2011

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    Posted May 30, 2011

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    Posted April 6, 2010

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    Posted March 16, 2010

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