Ollibean Mama Ariane Zurcher

AZ and E

Our Ollibean Mama Spotlight features some of our favorite mothers who exemplify the Ollibean Creed.  Ariane Zurcher does this and much more.

Ollibean Creed

Ollibean is here for families who appreciate the beauty and strength in diversity and accept and adore their children for being exactly who they are. We are here for families like ours who need and want reliable information to help them be the parent their children need them to be. Connecting and learning from self-advocates, activists, families and professionals with these attitudes has had a profound impact on our entire family.

Ariane Zurcher is kind, compassionate, intelligent, fiercely honest, and extraordinarily creative. Her commitment  to making the world a better place is evident in all she does.

She does a lot, too. She is a mother, wife, designer, writer, autism activist and friend. Ariane and I met through my son, Henry when she interviewed him for her column in  the Huffington Post . It was one of his first interviews, and really one of my favorites.

In addition to writing for the Huffington Post, Ariane  has two blogs, Emma’s Hope Book and Where Art and Life Meet. She’s a brilliant writer and artist whose appreciation and wonder for life are evident in all that she does; every post she writes, each piece of jewelry she designs. Ariane writes about very complex issues and brings you along with her in her journey. She does so with such depth and honesty, you feel as if you are growing alongside a very dear friend.

Her post Rethinking Unhappiness beautifully captures the personal responsibility we have for our own happiness.

“My happiness or unhappiness has nothing to do with either of my children or my husband or my marriage.  My ability to feel joy is an inside job.  “

We met in person this April when she and her wonderful daughter Emma and husband, writer Richard Long stayed with our family for a magical weekend. Ariane wrote about it here  and describes the power of connection and acceptance in exquisite detail.

She is a very special person, who I am very, very proud to call friend.

Happy Mother’s Day Ariane!


What’s your favorite thing about being a mother?


Ariane Zurcher: Love. The love I feel for my children is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  It is a different kind of love than one feels for a spouse, sibling or other family member.  It is more visceral and protective.  It is truly unconditional.  It is an opening embrace of all that is, in this moment.


Is there anything you wish you’d known about when your child was younger?


Ariane Zurcher: I wish I’d known and understood the concept of “Presume Competence”.  I wish I’d understood that for my child, verbal language was not the only way for her to communicate with us.  I wish I’d known that once she learned to spell, point to letters on a letter board, type and write a whole world of understanding would follow.


Any advice for other families with a newly diagnosed child ?


Ariane Zurcher:I am sorry to answer with a link, but this is the best answer I have – What I Wish I’d Been Made Aware of When my Daughter Was Diagnosed With Autism.


Is there anything about your family that would surprise people to know?


Ariane Zurcher:I am actually incredibly private and there are many things I do not discuss in public.  I know this may seem impossible for those who follow Emma’s Hope Book… to believe, but it’s true!


Share a favorite memory about someone in your life.


Ariane Zurcher:Two of my favorite memories are 1) the four days and three nights Richard, Emma and I spent with all of you, Lauri and 2) the three days and two nights Ibby came to spend with us in New York City.

Arian & Lauri smiling at the camera

N and Ib

What’s one misconception you want to change?


Ariane Zurcher:That Autism is a tragedy and our non-speaking or unreliably speaking children have little to say.


What would you like to see more of on Ollibean?


Ariane Zurcher: I love Ollibean just the way it is.  The ONLY thing I would like is an easier way to navigate the site.  So if I enter in the search box on the home page – “Henry” everything Henry’s written would pop up. * We are working on our search and author pages, among other things, stay tuned:)In the meantime, all of the posts should be there if you scroll down.*


Who inspires you?


AZ: Jane Goodall, Buddhist teachers:  Ezra Bayda & Elizabeth Hamilton


What’s the best vacation spot you’ve visited?

AZ:Thailand & the eastern parts of Turkey, from Cappadocia east.


If you could change one thing about your or your child’s school, what would it be?


Ariane Zurcher: I would add non autistic children to her classroom, while keeping the classroom size no larger than 12.  (This is a NYC public school, so it’s quite the “wish”!)


What’s something you’ve done you didn’t think was possible?


Ariane Zurcher: This is less me “doing” and more my daughter, but watching her type, “how happy i think is my ideas when its my things i reach for in my heart and head.“


And, because Ariane is most definitely a Change Leader, we asked her to answer our Ollibean Questionairre as well.

What you do and why?

Ariane Zurcher: Designer & Writer

There are beautiful descriptions of ‘the why’ on ‘Where Art and Life Meet’  here and  Emma’s Hope Book here .

Emma's Hope Book

Ariane Zurcher Designs



What does inclusion mean to you?


Ariane Zurcher: It means living in a society that embraces the diversity of human beings.  It means inclusion is a way of life and manifests itself in every aspect of our culture, from the schools and education, to the work place and everything in between…  It means paradise!



What is your idea of perfect happiness?


Ariane Zurcher: Inclusion! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.  Happiness is being with those I love.


Which living person do you most admire?


Ariane Zurcher: My two children, Nic and Emma.



What do you consider your greatest achievement?


Ariane Zurcher:Giving birth to my two children.



What do you value most in your friends?


Ariane Zurcher:Honesty, directness, kindness and a sense of humor.


What change would you like to see in your lifetime?


Ariane Zurcher: A truly inclusive society, one that actually embraces differences rather than divides and attempts to conquer.



What’s your most marked characteristic?

Ariane Zurcher: I asked my husband, who laughed and said, “Huge pain in the ass.”  Then he said, “Determined to improve the world, tenacious and stubborn.”


I can only add that I hope, while being all of the above, I am also kind.


Do you have a favorite quote?


Ariane Zurcher:“Breathe”.  (I don’t know who said that, but I figure someone must have!)



Ariane Zurcher