I sat and read this book over a couple of days and I loved it. The introduction begins, “This is the book we wish we’d been given when autism first became part of our lives…” the editors have put a lot of time and personal effort into sharing the lessons they have had to learn the hard way. Having said that, I’m not suggesting this book will make the experience of bringing up a child with autism easy, but I believe it will make it easier. What do I know about bringing up an autistic child? I have autism, so I actually understand very little of how it feels for a neurotypical person to have an autistic child. There is obviously a difference between looking out of autistic eyes and looking into the eyes of someone with autism, I think things look better from my side of the lens.
This book is aimed primarily at the parents – most often the mothers – of children with autism and is designed to help them throughout the experience of diagnosis and child rearing, but it also contains a lot of good stuff for people with autism and anyone connected with autism. I was fascinated reading the first hand accounts of parents with autistic children, I tend not to be very aware of other people’s feelings so this book is quite an eye opener, I suspect it will help parents of autistic children to know that they are not alone in their feelings and experiences. What will help them more is the practical advice, the lessons learned by others who generously share them here, yes you will have to undergo similar experiences, IEPs etc., but you don’t have to stumble around blindly because others who have gone before you are giving you a guidebook here.
The book is arranged in chapters each containing several fairly short essays, and is well indexed at the rear which makes it easy to locate information. The format makes the information easy to digest because it is in manageable chunks. It also means that any spare five minutes can provide valuable learning, as far as I can gather information that can be garnered in increments of a few minutes at odd times may well suit many autism parents. I think it is also useful that this is a book that can be read in any order, selecting whatever is wanted at the time, I am going to leave it in my sitting room so it can be dipped into in spare moments.
This is not a book “about” autism by “experts” this is a book by people who are actively involved in autism either as parents, family members, or people on the Spectrum. There are a few articles by autism professionals, but they are professionals for whom autism represents more than just a job, and the articles fit in well with the overall ethos of the book – useful information in manageable chunks. The people contributing are sharing of themselves, they share the mistakes they made, and the valuable lessons they have learned. The autistic contributors share something of the experience of being autistic, this in itself should provide a degree of hope for many parents, and help them to understand that the world we live in may not be as terrible as they suppose – it’s not all great, but it’s not all bad either and sometimes it’s pretty good! There is much that is positive in the experiences of the parents in the book and there is a lot of joy besides the heartaches and anxieties, as well as tears there is laughter.
The book contains a list of resources, remember these resources are things that the editors – parents of children with autism – have found of value. You are not being sold anything just provided with tools that have worked for some, are working for some and many of which will cost you nothing. The resources and therapies referenced in the articles may cost – time and money – but this book will help you make the decisions you must and guide you towards the practical and financial support you need, you don’t have to walk this path alone.
This is a book of HOPE. The underlying message is that however tough things may be, however difficult they may get, don’t give up. Things can – and generally, but not always – will get better and there are resources available and people willing to help you give your child the best possible life. I believe this book may be the turning point in the lives of many parents of autistic children, but what do I know? I am an autistic adult and I contributed.