Mirrani's Reviews > Rules

Rules by Cynthia Lord
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Apr 22, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: finished-and-reviewed
Read in April, 2011

Rules are an important part of life and through this book we discover just how much more important they are in a family where one member is autistic. With the use of first person storytelling, the reader has a chance to honestly experience what it is like to deal with the day to day challenges of understanding the various habitual needs and sensitivities that change the world for those who are autistic. The explanations are kind and somewhat simple, but that makes them natural to process. In fact, by the end of the book I found myself reading along and thinking “David will say this.” or “David is about to be upset over that.” Most importantly, you find that you are not thinking it out of dread or frustration, you are thinking it out of understanding because you are now more aware of his needs.

The story behind Rules goes much deeper than a family coping with this situation, however. It is just as much about accepting others (and other disabilities). When David’s sister, Catherine, goes with him to occupational therapy, she meets a boy in a wheelchair with a word book. His mother is always pushing him in and has given him only generic words in his book to point to. Catherine realizes that perhaps he would rather have some words that are more interesting and through this gift of words she and Jason become close friends. Through this act of sharing Catherine overcomes her fear of what others will think of her when they see her hanging around with her brother or Jason. I also helps her overcome her sorrow of how regular people look down at them, pity them, or look right through them as if they were invisible. Over time in their friendship, Jason uses his new words from Catherine to communicate with much more feeling. He leaves the sad emotions behind and begins to insist on doing for himself, even having his mother get him his own motorized wheelchair so he can be independent.

One of the most touching things for me as I read the book was the inclusion of Jason. Where many authors would find it difficult to write what Jason was saying because of his unique way of communicating, Cynthia Lord makes his communication a natural part of the book. The font is slightly different and each word or phrase has punctuation after it that breaks up the sentence, just as it would be if Jason were in front of you, pointing to each word. He communicates just as any of the other characters would, only he is pointing and not using his mouth. The font and punctuation remind us of this without overdoing Jason’s disability by constantly pointing it out with concepts such as fumbling for the right pages or saying “then he pointed to day, then he pointed to nice…” The natural flow of conversation isn’t broken and is very comfortable and warm, as you would imagine Jason to be when you get to know him.

Reading this book helps remind us that though you may worry about what others think or find yourself afraid of talking to someone because you don’t know how to relate to them, everyone is just a person of their own, with their own thoughts and feelings and their own way of expressing them. Even when someone gives an unkind remark or strange look to you or someone you are with, we are each living our lives in our own way, as we are able and those lives still go on. Through the rules Catherine is trying to teach her brother, we are reminded that life goes on and it’s better to share that with the strength of a friend, no matter if that is through a postcard from Disneyworld or a dance at the fundraiser in town.
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