A desire to share his experience of raising a child with Down syndrome prompted University of Texas of the Permian Basin lecturer of English Clark Moreland to write a book about his son, Will.
It’s called “Will: Parenting at the Crossroads of Disability and Joy.” It was published through Amazon in February.
Being a writer and academic, Moreland said when things happen, he tries to understand and study them.
“I started writing some … personal essays at first really for my own understanding. I’m a writing teacher, so the way I understand is to write about it. I don’t wait until I understand and then write. I write in order to understand. That’s what I tell my students, so I wrote a couple of personal essays and I shared a few of them on Facebook with friends, but I never had any intention to write a book,” Moreland said.
But after making a 2016 summer trip to Wheaton College in Illinois to do some research on author C.S. Lewis, the family — Moreland, his wife, Carrie, Will and his brother, Sam — went to a restaurant for Chicago-style pizza. The waiter who served them had Down syndrome and was interested in talking to Will, who is 11.
Moreland said the waiter told Will they shared Down syndrome.
Moreland said it got him thinking that he couldn’t keep his stories to himself because just as the waiter and Will share a disability, Moreland said he could share Down syndrome with parents and family members of people with the disability.
“So I thought it’s time for me to start opening this up. That’s really where I got the first inclination to actually put these stories together into a book. It was written over about a two or three year period. Most of them I wrote before I knew I was going to write a book,” Moreland said.
Moreland said everyone thinks of people with Down syndrome, especially children, as being angelic, sweet, docile and passive.
“And Will does not fit that mold at all. If he’s an angel, he’s like Michael from the Bible. He’s like a warrior angel. He’s a fighter and he’s so tough and strong and strong-willed. We didn’t expect that at all,” he said.
From the beginning, Moreland said he knew the title would have Will in it, not only because of his name.
“I’m exploring his willfulness, his will and then also God’s will and looking at how those intersect. Understanding what His will is and understanding how to deal with Will’s willfulness,” Moreland said.
“I think I have a line in the book: It was God’s will to make Will willful and we should rejoice in that,” he added.
Keri St. John, head of school for student programs at Bynum School, said Will has grown a lot since he enrolled at Bynum in 2011. He loves his teachers, he’s able to communicate more and shows more independence with classroom tasks.
St. John added that Will enjoys going to PE once a week at Trinity School where small groups of fifth and sixth graders join the class and assist during that time.
St. John said Moreland’s book is helpful to other parents of children with special needs.
“Because it gives real-life examples. It doesn’t sugar coat the situation,” and it’s beneficial to hear about a family’s struggles and celebrations, she said.
“His parents are awesome,” St. John said.