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About this Book

Daisy Has Autism tells the story of one family’s harrowing experience with public special education, and captures the story universally experienced by millions of special needs families.  In sleepy Davis, California, the Russell family remarkably finds themselves first navigating the complexities of autism with their dog and then with their daughter.  While seeking to enroll their daughter in special education at their local public school, the Russells quickly find themselves at odds with a school district determined to escape its responsibilities. What they experience, and how they prevail, will resonate with every parent who has struggled to have their special needs child appropriately served.



"An essential read for administrators, school board members, teachers, and families." - EdD & Professor of Education

"Much as the Civil Rights Act of 1965 failed to eradicate endemic racial discrimination, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 has not removed an insidious bias against the disabled by many of the nation’s schools.   “Daisy Has Autism” painfully illustrates how aggressive resistance to the spirit of the law by a school system can devastate a young family striving to live a decent and productive life.  It is a heart-rending read if you are into social justice and care about children with special needs." - Retired School Psychologist/Administrator, EdD & Psychology Professor

A beautiful and important story... All children have the right to a public education. School should be a place where children feel supported and accepted for who they are and what they bring to the community. As a developmental psychologist and educator, I believe that some of the most important lessons that children learn in school don’t come from text books; they come from the social interactions and relationships that children develop with their peers and teachers. Educators and school administrators should spend their time and resources creating an inclusive and accepting environment where all children can thrive. - PhD Developmental Psychologist & Researcher

While the subject matter is sobering, the story was engrossing and entirely pleasurable to read.  Told mainly from Arthur’s perspective, the story unfolds with vivid images of Davis and its environs, well-crafted characters and resonating parenting experiences.  Symbolism artfully draws parallels between the characters’ experiences and the cycles of life and nature.  The story isn’t preachy but instead is told with humility, humor and hard won wisdom.  For those who know little about the world of special education, it is an illuminating read.  And for those who have had a similar journey, it resonates and validates their experience. - Special Needs Parent & Advocate


Recent Blogs & Interviews


Caught in the Middle: Whatever Happened to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act? https://nancyebailey.com/2019/09/18/caught-in-the-middle-whatever-happened-to-the-individuals-with-disabilities-act/

The Mighty:  Autistic Girls Should Have Equal Access to Education, Safety and Success https://themighty.com/2019/08/autistic-girls-access-education-safety-success/

Navigating the Limits of Special Education https://www.spdstar.org/node/1434

Aaron J. Wright is the product of a public education and a member of a family deeply entrenched in public education.  He is a Nurse Practitioner and the parent of two children, one with autism.  Professionally he has worked with severely injured adults and children for nearly two decades.  Outside of work he has been a staunch advocate for disabled students in public education and youth sports. He firmly believes in the benefits of a public education and access. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family and three distinctly different dogs.



PO Box 3423
4900 Shattuck Ave.
Oakland, Ca 94609-2031

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Sample Chapter

Regulation and Adaptation

When the turbulent day is over, she is seasick and immobile.

From a listed deck, people move unpredictably. She is constantly bombarded by waves of olfactory assaults and acoustical batteries. She can adapt to the daily changing angle of the sun but cannot accommodate the unpredictability of manmade light’s sixty cycles. When her sleep finally comes, there is no lazy drift off. No simple secure mooring exists. For her, wake begins its end with a collision.

Her balance is loosely berthed at the end of never-ending semicircular canals. In her wheelhouse, a sticky throttle and a soft brake. Navigation is at the mercy of the current, the phases of the moon, and the multitude of the unknown. There is no ebb and flow. She is a demagnetized compass in the Bermuda Triangle.


In a craft resistant to control, she gives few overt impressions of frustration. She bemuses and confuses passersby.

Yet she is persistent. Is she consciously fighting sleep? Or is she finally endorsing the need for rest but incapable of reconciling the day’s journey?

Perhaps it is my fault. I’m too anchored in my own needs, and constantly capable of, and culpable for, failing her routine. An enigmatic arrangement to her bed exists to which I am ignorant, and of course, she cannot tell me, readdressing that which I thought I had already addressed. It is a layered process with arbitrary rules.

Her hull groans as she’s chosen the wrong tack, the wrong tactic.

Awash in insults, she knocks and kicks.

Foundering, she is discordant under the gravity and weight of a starry dark blanket.

With a heaving sigh, she sinks into sleep. Only in that moment I can see that which everybody is overly willing to see: she is normal; she is beautiful.

The involuntary control of voluntary muscles has ceased, and there is peace in her paralysis. Her face has softened, the tension is gone, and only the required tidal respiratory movement remains.

Has she sunk deeper into her autism and dreams only in that language? Can she think the way that I wish for her? Or is it in a way that others think she is capable of? There are constant explanations for her nature, and backhanded questions of our nurture.

But I dare not shift my course. The jerk of her leg lets me know that this state of rest is temporary, and so is my control. No matter her dreams, she swims in shallow water, and I do not want to be yet another who rocks the boat. I know she will wake before it is necessary. It is our unified reality. She did not make today’s trip alone.

Aboard, she carries a manifest of depleted passengers. It is a truth only soothed by the fact that when she does stir, it will be with people who love her.


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