Carmel Valley woman’s experiences and books help other families deal
with the disorder
San Diego Union Tribune – April 2, 2006
By Ozzie Roberts
When talking about her 17-year-old son, Jeremy, who copes with severe autism, Chantal
Sicile-Kira, the author of two books on the developmental disorder, often says: “Things
happen for a reason. We all serve a purpose in some way.”
Her husband, Daniel, a quiet, soft-spoken
guy, will give you a bit of a different take.
“Why was my son born with autism? Why
did this happen to our family? I don’t know,”
he’ll say. “It’s just random selection. But
(we’ve) got to play with the cards (we’re)
dealt. That’s life.”
Clearly, Chantal, 49, and Daniel, 53, have
gone ’round and ’round about their son’s
The Carmel Valley couple have been
married for more than 27 years and lived
together all over the United States, France
and Great Britain. And together, they’ve searched the two continents in often daunting
efforts to find effective help for their son through the years.
The Sicile-Kiras get past their differences and stay united on one major consideration:
They both want the best for Jeremy and his little sister, Rebecca, 13.
So while Daniel supports the family as an architect, Chantal, who worked awhile in
recreation therapy for kids with disabilities at a state hospital, stays at home to be a buoy
for her own young.
In the course, she’s joined the executive board of the San Diego Chapter of the Autism
Society of America; she’s a national speaker for the cause; and she hosts a weekly 30-
minute Internet radio program on Autism One Radio (www.autismone.com) at 10:30
a.m. Tuesdays. Every second Tuesday of the month, she hosts a program in French at 11
Chantal also works as a volunteer for the Autism Society, helping coordinate such events
as the organization’s sixth annual gala fundraiser – “All Out for Autism” – set for 6 p.m.
April 15 at Sea World.
Chantal wrote “Autism Spectrum Disorders” and “Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum.”
They’re two books intended to help families of autistic children guide them into living as
independently as possible and making their own informed decisions.
The books teach people about autism and about where to go to get assistance for children
– keys, she says, to coping with the disorder.
“Adolescents,” published by Perigee, a division of Penguin Group, was released last
month. Chantal celebrated with a book signing that was part of a fundraiser for the
Autism Society. It was held at the Poseidon Restaurant in Del Mar.
“Autism Spectrum,” also published in the U.S. by Perigee, and in the United Kingdom by
Random House, in 2004, won the Autism Society’s Outstanding Literary Work of the
Year Award in 2005.
She tells you that she put together the two books primarily on the strength of the
education she and her family gained through their experiences with Jeremy. “I figured if I
had all this information amassed,” she says, “why not share it? (Most) people don’t know
how to (relate to) autistic kids.”
And if the books help others, she adds, it reassures her that her family’s trials are actually
parts of the greater plan.
Jeremy is breathing testament to the positives, Chantal vows.
A junior at Torrey Pines High, he speaks very little and has even less regard for
boundaries. He’ll walk right into your personal space – much the way he did last month
when I visited his family’s home for the first time.
Gangly, with deep-set eyes, Jeremy came nose to nose with me, snatched my hat from my
head and stood, twirling it around, smiling all the while. He likes twirling things.
He’s a major pain with that, says his sister, Rebecca, only because she’s had to put up
with him twirling things out of her room for so many years.
All of that behavior is characteristic of his disorder.
But uncharacteristically, he reads and comprehends at a high school level. He types,
appreciates artistic things and displays a keen sense of the way of things.
“I remain diligent about getting what he needs,” Chantal says, “and I never let him give
up on himself. And he learns.”
With help last February, Jeremy, who goes to school every day with an aide, wrote a 21-
line autobiographical poem for a sociology class that he calls his “I Am Poem.” It’s
insightful and concludes: “Pay more attention to me and less to the label of autism. I am
He also likes to have fun, family members agree.
“I love when he and I play games together,” Rebecca says. “I love my brother. He’s really
Says Daniel, his dad: “I guess I’m still making peace with his condition. But I feel a lot
better about where he’s at in his development and in the systems available for him. He’s a
kid, and it’s just been positive seeing him develop over the years.”
Chantal says she sees her son someday living away from home in a supported-living
“And I’m OK with that,” she says. “It would signal that he’s ready for as independent and
self-determined life as possible – that’s my goal for him, for all kids” with autism.
SignOnSanDiego.com News Metro — Adapting to autism