On Tuesday, April 5 at 11 a.m., the New Canaan YMCA will host a special presentation and book-signing event with local writer Les de Villiers, author of the recently published "Life with Lauren: An Odyssey into Autism." Sponsored by the Y's Special Needs Initiative, the event is free and open to all in the community.

Copies of "Life with Lauren" will be available for purchase at the book signing and for a limited time at the YMCA. de Villiers has agreed to donate half of all proceeds from this event to the Y's Special Needs Initiative.

de Villiers' book is the story of his daughter, Lauren Elizabeth de Villiers, who is autistic and lives in a world of her own. The book was written in the belief that the growing number of parents who have to deal with autism -- or any other physical or developmental challenge -- might benefit in a practical and spiritual sense from her story.

"Sorrow and self-pity are natural responses when you learn about your child's challenges. But beyond the tears lies a task," de Villiers said. "Parents need to go to work and be informed advocates for their children. This is true for everyone who has a child with special needs, not just autism."

Even though it was written by Lauren's father from the viewpoint of someone who draws strength from his faith as a Christian to cope with the challenges posed by their daughter's condition, it is aimed at everyone who has to deal with a child who has special needs, men and women of all faiths and non-faiths.

de Villiers has written books about politics, business, conservation and travel published in South Africa, Europe and the United States; however, he considers this book as the most important one he has written.

de Villiers expresses the hope that others may benefit from his and his wife's experiences in helping to prepare a secure future for their children. "You are bound to find many a Samaritan for every stumbling block encountered along the road," he said.

The New Canaan YMCA's Special Needs Initiative provides a variety of specialized and mainstream recreational programs to children, teens, and young adults and their families. With more than 200 participants ranging in age from 2 to 21, the New Canaan YMCA is one of the only Y's in the country to have a fully dedicated special needs programming director.

For more information on special needs programming at the Y, contact Marisa McBride at 203-966-4528, ext. 156, or mmcbride@newcanaanymca.org. Visit www.newcanaanymca.org.

Founded in 1954 by a group of community volunteers, the New Canaan YMCA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enrich all people in spirit, mind, and body.

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