I wrote this review a while ago......just loved this book so sharing again on my blog!
A voice for parents seeking support and validation
During the 1950's parents were blamed for the apparently aloof behaviors manifested by children with autism. There was even a term for this- "refrigerator moms" who were viewed as so cold- they made their children antisocial. Shonda Schilling's story of how she was viewed resounds this familiar theme. Her son has the form of autism called "Asperger's syndrome" where the child typically has average or above average intelligence accompanied by struggles to communicate, process sensory information, focus and control impulses. Schilling's descriptions of how other's have viewed her as a failing parent, who can't set limits or control her child reflect the misguided concept that a child on the spectrum- a child with a neurological disorder whose behaviors make others uncomfortable is the fault of the parent. Many readers will relate to these experiences and appreciate Schilling's voice for parents experiencing the frustrations, guilt, shame and anger of raising a disabled child.
Packed full of Information
Readers will find it fascinating and shocking that with the increasing awareness and prevalence of autism- medical and educational professionals did not make a diagnosis or referral for services until their son Grant was ten years old. Schilling not only shares with her readers the emotional roller coaster she went through upon learning that Grant's behaviors were not his fault. She inspires them to advocate and find the resources they need to help their children and themselves. This involved explaining to coaches that winning isn't everything and children with learning differences deserve the opportunity to play and be part of a team even if they are not an asset to winning. Schilling discovers that parents should not be embarrassed by a disabled child's behavior- it is not a reflection of one's parenting style or foibles. Finding the right summer camp-one designed for children exactly like Grant enabled him to engage in the childhood rite of summer camp and with supports make friends. Schilling also learned that no parent should go through the special education process alone. If the spouse is away -find a friend who can not only provide emotional support but help advocate.
A Book Occupational Therapists Can Appreciate
Occupational therapists and other readers will love learning about how a sensory diet packed with vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation helped Grant control his behaviors and optimize learning. A weighted bean bag on his lap helped him to remain calm and the Alert Program for self regulation helped him know what energy level was appropriate for different situations. Schilling learned that her son slammed his body against others because he sought out deep pressure stimulation. Understanding his sensory needs helped her to understand and address his behaviors.
The Role of Animals
Schilling confirmed something that many parents, therapists, teachers and individuals with Asperger's syndrome have long known-animals often play an important role by providing an unconditional love, sensory stimulation and opportunities for communication void of misinterpretation and idioms. Author and lecturer Temple Grandin has long written about the importance of animals during her childhood leading up to her successful career as animal scientist. The schilling household has included numerous dogs, fish, lizards, turtles and hamsters. Like many other individuals on the autism spectrum, Grant gravitates towards pets and experiences a sensory based connection.
A Highly Recommended Book
I highly recommend this book not only for its quality writing and entertainment value- but because reading it gives insight into the inner resources a parent must discover in order to survive. Being married to a famous ball player probably played a pivotal role in finding a publisher for this memoir. But readers will be delighted with her brutal honesty, openness and optimism. This is a book that offers support, inspiration and basic information for all readers affected by autism.