While I read this book all the way through, and I found some elements of it interesting, Liane's books have a heavy emphasis on 'passing' and an air oWhile I read this book all the way through, and I found some elements of it interesting, Liane's books have a heavy emphasis on 'passing' and an air of neurological elitism that I don't really like. She seems determined to distance Asperger Syndrome from autism, and therefore herself from autists that are unwilling or unable to pass, and that really isn't the way I feel about it. So while her books may be interesting or useful for other Aspies/auties, they're not really my cup of tea, and there are other personal and parental accounts that I enjoyed much more and found much more value in....more
This is a memoir that is as much about growing up Australian as it is about living autistic and raising an autistic son. I connected a lot with Jo's eThis is a memoir that is as much about growing up Australian as it is about living autistic and raising an autistic son. I connected a lot with Jo's experience of the world. Often when I read a personal account, I relate to some elements and not to others, like, that's me, but that's really not me. With Jo's memoir, I found myself relating with most of her experiences, her social interactions, her anxiety and constant fretting and revisiting casual conversations, her dress sense, her house, her family of spectrum and non-spectrum and broader autism phenotype people. For those wanting a linear, standard story about diagnosis and therapy, this isn't that at all. But for those who want a picture of a real life where autism isn't everything, but it is a thing that colours a person's everyday experiences of the world, work, family life, motherhood and society, this story is a very good one, and something rather special in the world of autism biography/autobiography. ...more
This biography is aimed at the pre-teen and up bracket, but I, as an adult, found it a comprehensive read. It was full of genuinely interesting informThis biography is aimed at the pre-teen and up bracket, but I, as an adult, found it a comprehensive read. It was full of genuinely interesting information about Temple as a child and as an adult, in the present day. There was a wealth of photographs, diagrams, and concise lists of information on autism and on animal handling. From a purely autistic aesthetic point of view, I was highly impressed that the pages, while still shiny (necessary, because of the photo content) they were tinted a series of pastel colours - yellow, green, blue, etc. - rather than being stark white. Many autists find reading white pages, particularly shiny pages, uncomfortable due to visual sensitivity. I don't know if this was just a stylistic choice on the part of the publishing house, or if it was deliberately done this way, but I wish more books by or aimed at autistic people would be coloured this way....more
An enjoyable account of a modern-day child with complex challenges and incredible talent. I found it an easy, pleasant read. Cathleen Lewis has authorAn enjoyable account of a modern-day child with complex challenges and incredible talent. I found it an easy, pleasant read. Cathleen Lewis has authored a well-written and honest account that feels real but is devoid of relentless tragedy. A little light talk of faith/religion, but it's not pervasive or the focus of the book; that, rightly, is Rex, and the bond between him and his mother. ...more
While this is very much a coffee table book, I really enjoyed being able to read more about Keli (post-The Sunshine Boy) and about the founding of theWhile this is very much a coffee table book, I really enjoyed being able to read more about Keli (post-The Sunshine Boy) and about the founding of the Golden Hat Foundation. The thing I liked best, though, was the gallery of pics of autistic kids and young adults with their first words, which range from profound statements like "I am real" and "Stop the war. It is killing too many soldiers" to practical statements of physical discomfort like "There is a big rock in my shoe" and "Teeth - hurt - help." I would strongly recommend that anyone in the USA buying this book buy it directly from the Golden Hat Foundation so that the proceeds go towards helping non-verbal autistic kids and adults get a proper education....more
I can say, in all honesty, that this is one of the best parental accounts of autism that I have ever read. In a month where autistics the world over aI can say, in all honesty, that this is one of the best parental accounts of autism that I have ever read. In a month where autistics the world over are asking for Acceptance, not Awareness, this book is nothing less than the story of a mother who chooses to embrace and love her child for who he is, autism and all, despite the medical professional and the world at large trying to draw lines between them labelling different, individual things about him 'normal' and 'abnormal'. If I could afford to by a box of copies, I would, and I would hand it out to all and sundry, saying, "This. This is someone doing it right."...more
Wonderful, poetic work about raising a profoundly autistic daughter on three different continents. Lisa found the most progress working with her daughWonderful, poetic work about raising a profoundly autistic daughter on three different continents. Lisa found the most progress working with her daughter with the Son-Rise (Options program), but she openly admits that this was mainly because the positive attitude of acceptance that Options advocates made therapy fun for her and her daughter, and made the bond between them closer. This is a book with no magic cures, but it is an uplifting read. Highly recommended....more
**spoiler alert** Both a view into the past but also still incredibly relevant, Louise Wilson writes very adeptly about life with a son with schizophr**spoiler alert** Both a view into the past but also still incredibly relevant, Louise Wilson writes very adeptly about life with a son with schizophrenia. Tony's schizophrenia developed early, possibly he was symptomatic as early as infancy, but his parents didn't realise just how ill he was until Tony was about twelve. Incredibly gifted, intellectual and artistic, Tony's parents were told again and again that Tony's issues stemmed from being coddled by his mother, that he should be made to do 'manly things' with his father to fix them. It wasn't until years later, after Tony had been to at least three psychotherapists and spent years in a boarding school for disturbed boys that Louise found a specialist who tells her the truth: that Tony is a paranoid schizophrenic, and that nothing she or her husband 'did wrong' made Tony that way. The story ends with Tony living in a group home, run by a psychotherapist and his wife for young people like Tony. Tony is going to college, learning his fifth language, and thinking of finding a job. Louise ends with the hope that chemical developments will create a drug to help Tony and others like him, and allow them to live in the world. Decades later, readers will know that medication does help certain people with schizophrenia to live in the community, but that it's far from the magic bullet that doctors and scientists still hope to find. ...more
**spoiler alert** If you can put casual historical racism, sexism and ableism aside, this book is an easy, quick read. It is light on details, sometim**spoiler alert** If you can put casual historical racism, sexism and ableism aside, this book is an easy, quick read. It is light on details, sometimes frustratingly vague, skipping over whole years in a moment. When you get down to it, though, the real interesting feature of this book is the question of Sandy's problems.
Born to an obviously bipolar mother, Sandy spent his first three years being occasionally loved and very often completely neglected, his mother vacillating between devotion and believing that Sandy was either the reincarnation of her twin brother (likely also bipolar, who committed suicide on the day of Sandy's birth) and believing that Sandy somehow 'killed' him.
Many of Sandy's problems are classic symptoms of neglect in a very young child, but others are somewhat more ambiguous. His extremely fastidious habits when eating, his reversion to crawling, his stiff gait and toe-walking, his uncanny laugh, unusual vocalisations, talking of himself in the third person (when his regressed speech began to return), his mania for routine and repetition, his violent, nauseous reaction to activities involving slimy textures (eg. finger painting) all speak of a child on the autistic spectrum.
So which was it, autism or trauma? My personal opinion is, yes. As in, both. Even if his mother had not been neglectful, I think Sandy would have regressed to a degree, and would have ended up with the label of 'emotionally disturbed', a catch-all term at the time given to children with autism and other developmental disorders, trauma, and mental illness, with very little distinction. And had his mother been thought neurotypical, she probably would have been vilified more. As it is, though there's acknowledgement that she's the cause of some of Sandy's problems, she's never blamed, simply talked of as being extremely ill in an empathetic way.
At the time of the ending of the book, Sandy is enrolled in a small school with a group of students with a range of abilities and disabilities. From the account, he's happy there and achieving at a level, if not of his neurotypical peers, then at higher level than a variety of experts initially thought possible....more
This is, by a pretty long margin, one of the worst books that is supposedly about autism that I have ever read. I'm pretty relaxed about people choosiThis is, by a pretty long margin, one of the worst books that is supposedly about autism that I have ever read. I'm pretty relaxed about people choosing to use alternate therapies and medicine, but by the end of this book I had gone past 'disgust at poor parenting choices' and into 'this woman is truly, seriously, batshit insane'. I think any person who makes serious - and potentially dangerous - medical choices by testing energies and swinging pendulums is worrying. The fact that this woman was using these methods to dictate medical choices for her seriously ill toddler is horrendous. I think the miracle by the end isn't that Tenna and her son are magically faith healed, it's that she somehow didn't poison herself and her son with all the potions and pills and tinctures they were both imbibing, and neither of them wound up dead from neglect. Don't just avoid this book, run far far away from it....more
Wow. Where to start with this train wreck of a book?
I am trying to convince myself that the real issues with this book are the fault of the writer, MiWow. Where to start with this train wreck of a book?
I am trying to convince myself that the real issues with this book are the fault of the writer, Michelle Sherman, and that the Polikoff family aren't a bunch of completely unpleasant people, parents and children alike.
I have a feeling that Sherman was aiming to tap in to the success of Josh Greenfeld's Noah Trilogy, which was very much 'warts and all' storytelling of life with a severely disabled child. Unfortunately, rather than simply going with a retelling of events, Sherman has heavy-handedly twisted the Polikoff's home life into a angsty melodrama, with the mother, Judy, as the front-and-centre diva. When she's not despising her brain-damaged son, she's secretly hating on the hundreds of volunteers trooping through her house to 'pattern' her son (then feeling all hurt when she eavesdrops and hears that they hate on her in return). When she's not resenting her husband, and randomly haranguing the specialist in charge of her son's case on the phone, she's ignoring her two older sons and then being surprised when they wind up bitter and angry at their younger brother.
Another beef I have is with the blatantly manufactured scenes between the two older boys, conversations that the mother (who apparently related this story to the author) wouldn't have been privy to. The dialogue is laughably adult and the idea of two kids sitting down and saying some of the things they say to each other is ludicrous. Sure, I know that kids with a special-needs sibling mature quicker, but there's a vast difference between emotional maturity/self-reliance and the ability to have a multisyllabic, deeply layered conversation. Especially when one of the kids is pre-pubescent, and the other is four years old.
I sourced this book hoping to read about patterning. It's debunked therapy now, but I did wonder if the intensive, gross motor movements would help a kid with cerebral palsy symptoms like Andy, purely from a physical therapy point of view. In Andy's case, they probably did, since from the book it's obvious that as a baby he had very poor muscle tone and classic 'floppiness', and yet he was crawling, walking etc by the age of four, and 'graduated' from patterning two and a half years after starting it. But the book itself contains very little about patterning itself, and virtually nothing about Andy. While the patterning is going on, the focus is almost always on Judy, wringing her hands in the kitchen upstairs, 'why me?'ing turned up to eleven, and Andy himself has all the presence in the book of an occasional table until he's verbal and about five and starts complaining kids are deliberately excluding him at school.
It's far from impossible to write a moving book about a child with severe physical disabilities. Blue Sky July comes to mind - a stunningly beautiful love poem of a book written by a mother about the first six years of her son with cerebral palsy. It's also possible to write a book about the negative elements of parenting a special needs child. Josh Greenfeld does that very well, even going so far as to talk candidly about euthanasia and infanticide of disabled people. It's very possible to write books about patterning - Mixed Blessings by William Christopher (of M*A*S*H fame) details their experiences patterning their autistic younger son. But Michelle Sherman somehow aimed at all of these topics and missed by a mile, turning the Polikoff family's story into one of people in a situation that should be able to be empathised with, but in the end it just isn't, because they're all hateful caricatures of real people that you end up loathing rather than pitying....more
**spoiler alert** This book was really not what I was expecting from the cover blurb. In fact, I'm really rather pleased at what it turned out to be,**spoiler alert** This book was really not what I was expecting from the cover blurb. In fact, I'm really rather pleased at what it turned out to be, since I think it's a fairly unique book in my collection. There are similarities to Torey Hayden's books about working in special needs classrooms and clinical practice in the 1970s, but Mira's stories are a lot darker, a lot grittier, and filled with far fewer stories of recovery. Also pivotal to the tone of Mira's stories are the facts that she was a newly educated professional in the very immediate aftermath of World War Two, and most of her stories are from the later forties through to the sixties. She is Jewish, and that often coloured her interactions with her patients, most notably, a group of over thirty Displaced children who spoke a Babel of languages who had been accepted into the United States as refugees, and secondly, in her work with a young boy who idolised Hitler, because he saw him as an all-powerful ideal, a solution to the powerlessness in his own life.
Mira's interactions with autistic kids was of particular interest to me; Danny, a child who she ultimately could not help, who was not only autistic but had had severe trauma and was violent to himself and others, and Peter, an "idiot savant", probably a prodigious one, who was a calender and mathematical lightning calculator, who could solve the Times crossword by the age of seven, and had a incredible, perfect memory (as savants tend to). He also had a life controlled by magical thinking, obsessive compulsive rituals, repetitions, relentless questioning, counting, an overwhelming obsession with cats (because he saw them as the solution to immortality), and needing to know a wealth of information about every single person he so much as passed on the street, as a means of keeping track of "parts of himself". Apart from some that were based on trauma, to a modern reader, Danny seemed to have developed a lot of his rituals because of sensory integration problems that modern clinicians now know about because of autistic people's personal accounts, which weren't available back in the '50s and '60s when Mira was working with him. Both Donna Williams and Tito Mukhopadhyay have described the complex processes they have to work through to recognise items as simple as a door by means of deductions (Donna was helped by Irlen lenses, she describes her newly cohesive world on getting them in Like Colour To The Blind), and also, how their bodies often feel fragmented, and not connected to them. (Tito in particular describes his need to physically stim as a result of this disconnection.) Peter's case in particular makes me wonder if in a modern treatment setting, his progress would have been faster, purely because of this knowledge and the abundant techniques used now as a matter of course to help people with sensory integration problems (many of which can be done in the home with easily available, cheap resources).
As a whole, reading a book about methods used to work with emotionally disturbed and mentally ill children fifty to sixty years ago was remarkably insightful and refreshing. Though Mira's conclusions are obviously influenced by Freudian theory (something I don't always like or agree with), she worked in what then was a very unconventional, child-led way that until now I didn't think existed until much later. She seemed to work with children (and by extension, their families) in a way that was judgement free. Even when it was parental abuse, or parental mental illness, affecting the child's health directly, she never seemed to 'blame' them, just made the connection and tried to work with the child and family as best she could. In these days, I think many of the children who were being abused would be removed from their homes by the state, Chaim and Anthony in particular, but I don't know whether their outcomes would have been different in a modern world, with modern methods. I think sometimes, it's a combination of the right circumstance and the right guide to help someone out of a dark place, and modern psychiatry doesn't guarantee a happy ending any more than 1950's psychiatry did. ...more
This is a good contemporary view of a Sydney family struggling for the best way to help their son with middle class wages and virtually no governmentThis is a good contemporary view of a Sydney family struggling for the best way to help their son with middle class wages and virtually no government help whatsoever. The services out there for people with autism and their families are virtually non-existent in Australia. Anthony remarks at the end of the book that there's more funding now for families than there was when Alex was first diagnosed, but it's still a bleak and lonely place out there with huge waiting lists and little constructive advice for anyone thrown headlong into navigating disability services for a young child. Even more worrying is that Alex and his family live in the largest city in Australia. It makes one think about all those families stuck out in smaller cities or rural areas, where finding a dentist or a GP is hard enough, let alone a speech pathologist or play therapist with experience dealing with autistic symptoms in children....more