Open Book: Author Kennedy Ryan Shares How Autism Shaped Her Career


“It’s autism.”

Putting a name to the disturbing symptoms my son had shown for the last few months didn’t settle my fears. It didn’t make it less mysterious. The pediatrician’s dispassionate delivery didn’t remove the sting.

I knew little to nothing about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when I sat in that doctor’s office 15 years ago, but those words started my family down a road I never saw coming; one I wasn’t prepared for. Those words would reshape my marriage, my relationship with my son, and steer my life in a completely different direction. Some people shake it right off and get to work without missing a beat. Though I did immediately start seeking resources and services for my son, things got really hard for the next few years, and I was unhappy in a way I’d never believed I could be.

There are things most people don’t realize about autism. Not the strange behaviors or things that shroud autism in a mystery many don’t understand. No, I mean that most don’t know the expense. They don’t know that so many services and treatments aren’t covered by insurance. That those with less money are often at a distinct disadvantage. They don’t know how autism can disrupt friendships or ravage marriages. Not all the time, but for MY time, it did. My husband lost his job the day after my son was diagnosed, and that set so many things in motion that made a tough situation sometimes unbearable. Trying to pay for outrageously expensive therapies out-of-pocket proves difficult when your pockets are empty. Times got leaner. Life got harder. And my son wasn’t getting better.

At one point, both cars had been repossessed. We’d sold most of our furniture to pay for therapies. Our house was almost empty. Our pantry – bare, and our friends even had to buy our food. We were about to lose our home. I remember slipping into the bathroom and closing the door. Seated on a closed toilet seat, I sobbed. I raged. I let myself feel completely helpless and out of control. In the midst of that painful space, I managed a moment of clarity, and one thought kept coming to my mind.

If I ever get out of this, I’ll help someone else.

You learn a lot about yourself when times are hard. You learn you’re much stronger than you ever knew.  Adversity can mature you in ways that few things can…if you let it. It can carve out space in your heart, not just for you and yours, but for others who also suffer. When things improved, I did find a way to help other people. I started an autism foundation, wrote about autism, spoke out on television, radio – anywhere I could. As hard as things were sometimes, I felt a sense of purpose like I never had before.

That same sense of purpose chased me into my career as an author, and I searched for intersections between my life as a writer and my commitment to autism advocacy. I met fellow author, Ginger Scott, who shared my passion for autism. Two heads and one heart. That’s how it felt when I met Ginger, who had been volunteering with ASD families for more than a decade. We brainstormed LIFT 4 Autism, a charitable initiative to rally the romance reading community around ASD families in April, World Autism month, through an online book auction.

This is our third year organizing LIFT, and we’re more encouraged and excited than we’ve ever been. Last year we raised nearly $30,000 for our national charitable partner, Kulture City, who does amazing things for families living with autism.

One of my favorite aspects of the campaign is seeing ASD moms, who are authors, taking part. They are intimately acquainted with the challenges of the families we’re helping.

“The greatest challenge of parenting a child on the autism spectrum is the uncertainty of your child’s future,” says Penelope Ward, New York Times bestselling author. “No one knows what services and situations will be available for them when they are adults. The greatest reward is truly understanding that it doesn’t matter that your child is not typical and as long as he or she is happy, there is no reason to lament over an autism diagnosis. Being able to look at it from that perspective is a gift and one that can only come with experience and time.”

Aleatha Romig, autism mom and New York Times bestselling author, agrees and has participated each year in LIFT.

“I choose to be involved in the LIFT auction every year because I think it’s a GREAT way to bring attention to the Autism struggle as well as help with funding for much needed research,” Roming says. “I understand that at times we all get discouraged, but relish EVERY success…REJOICE in EVERY accomplishment, large or small. There will be times when the ups seem few and far between. NEVER belittle even the smallest UP. Those times help us make it through difficult patches. Know there are always more UPS in the future!”

New York Times Bestselling author and autism mom Syreeta Jennings echoes those hopes.

“Autism does not mean stupid or slow,” Jennings say. “It isn’t a death sentence. In many ways, it has been a blessing for us. It has given us a chance to learn and grow and to never take the small victories for granted. Because those small victories can be monumental for a child on the spectrum.”

With LIFT, we hope to help increase the victories, the successes, the wins for as many families as we can. The book community steps up every April, engages in book bidding warfare, and makes a difference! Here’s how you can join us in doing good for families living with autism.

Ways to Get Involved:

1. Bid in the Auction, featuring many of your favorite romance authors! Browse all the amazing items up for bid here: (Must register to bid)

The auction is LIVE and open for bidding Monday, April 23 – Friday, April 27.

*Find the full Donor list here:

2. Make a financial donation to Kulture City through the LIFT Campaign.


3. Buy LIFT Wear (T-shirts, totes, mugs, etc…) All proceeds to Kulture City.

Just a few examples of items sure to be hot tickets with high bidding:

  • Signed Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy paperbacks – Movie Edition Covers
  • Signed Special Edition Hardcover of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Signed copies of John Green paperbacks: The Fault in Our StarsTurtles All the Way DownPaper Towns and Looking for Alaska.
  • Corinne Michaels’ complete catalogue of signed paperbacks
  • A signed set of Sarah Maclean’s Scandal & Scoundrels series – 3 Books
  • Signed paperback of The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
  • Book Bonanza Tickets! (SOLD OUT!)
  • Holidays With the Belles Tickets/Dallas Signing (SOLD OUT)
  • Signed paperback of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, #1 NYT Bestseller and soon-to-be motion picture
  • Signed trade paperbacks of The GambleSweet Drams and Lady Luck by Kristen Ashley
  • Any SIX Signed Paperbacks from Vi Keeland – Winner’s Choice!
  • Leylah Attar’s complete catalogue of signed paperbacks
  • Signed paperback of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
  • Full signed set of the Landry Family series paperbacks by Adriana Locke
  • Various items from favorites like Penelope Ward, Colleen Hoover, LJ Shen, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Sylvain Reynard, Anna Todd and much more.

Find out more about Kulture City at, and about LIFT 4 Autism at


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