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Maura Weis details family’s struggle

Sarah Mayer | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

To introduce of his wife’s book during a discussion and book signing in McKenna Hall, Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis said Monday was the first occasion in coaching career that he has ever left a practice early.

“I told the guys this morning this is something important enough for me to leave practice for,” Charlie said.

Maura Weis’ book, “Miles From the Sidelines: A Mother’s Journey With Her Special Needs Daughter,” focuses on the tribulations Maura and her husband have encountered raising their autistic daughter, Hannah. All proceeds of the book go to the Weis’ charity, Hannah & Friends, which helps children with special needs.

Charlie called the book “a heartfelt, sincere story of living the life of a parent with a special needs child” during his introduction.

He said any parent with a child that has special needs could have written the book but his wife was a good candidate because she has truly experienced what it is like.

After the introduction, WNDU’s Maureen McFadden interviewed Maura on both the book and her background as a parent of a special needs child.

Maura said she knew something was wrong with Hannah around the time she turned two.

“She used to want to be around people but suddenly she just wanted to be by herself,” Maura said.

Hannah was diagnosed with autism and at age 10, she began to have seizures. Doctors were unable to find a diagnosis for the seizures but she began receiving treatment. The family learned Friday the treatments Hannah recevied were successful and she should never have a seizure again.

Maura said the family has adapted to Hannah’s wheat-free diet and she has had a positive impact on those she comes in contact with.

“Charlie Jr. has learned patience and tolerance and to love someone unconditionally [through Hannah],” Maura said.

Maura said Hannah has also impacted Charlie’s life.

“Coach loves her, she is his little angel,” Maura said. “My husband is a wonderful human being. He does not play golf or go out with his friends; being with his family is his hobby.”

Maura admitted having a daughter with special needs has been a struggle.

“No one looked at us like; hey can I give you a hand,” she said.

In spite of this, Maura said the South Bend community has been very supportive.

“OK, the weather’s not great,” she said. “But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”