Today, I'm going to do something a little different. I want to tell you about a great book I just read, called "The Anti-Romantic Child," by Priscilla Gilman.
"The Anti-Romantic Child," by Priscilla Gilman, is a joy to read. There are an awful lot of autism memoirs in the field these days, and I have read dozens of them. Gilman's book stands out in that her language and choice of words, as well as her choice of ancedotes to share with us, really bring her son Benj to life. When I read most autism memoirs, I can relate (despite not being a parent myself, but having heard the story many times) to the parent's struggle to understand what autism is and to cope with the autism diagnosis. I enjoy reading about each unique child, and their specific strengths and weaknesses, often comparing them to my own.
But very rarely does a child jump off the pages of a book and have me laughing and smiling and pulling for him as much as I did for Benj in Gilman's book. I was proud of him when he did something right, cheering for him when he was struggling, and awed by his disposition and personality. By the end of the book, I wanted to meet him and witness his joy, passion and exuberance for life personally.
Priscilla Gilman had always envisioned a perfect life with her husband and child, a romantic life of the sort she read about in her childhood fairy tales. And at first, it seemed as if she was going to get it. But when the traits that Gilman and her husband thought were so cute and charming turn out to actually be symptoms of a disorder, a lot of things have to change. Benj is diagnosed with hyperlexia, which carries many of the same symptoms and challenges as an autism spectrum diagnosis (hence the comparison in this review).
Gilman and her family jump into finding ways to help him, and ultimately succeed. But the book is not so much a how to book about "saving" a child from the pathos of a disorder as it is a love song to her child. And a beautiful one at that. Could it be that the story of the anti-romantic child is a romantic one after all?
I enjoyed reading about how the family came together to help Benj, and thought that Gilman did a great job focusing on the positive traits that made Benj unique, while still us giving us a good portrait of how challenging his difficulties are. "The Anti-Romantic Child" shows us how wonderful, quirky and delightful our special needs kids really can be, and shows to the non special needs acquainted world that different doesn't always mean bad. Well worth a read.
If you like this, please be sure to visit my other website, Accepting Asperger's. A lot of my older writing is stored here, including an editorial I once wrote for the Baltimore Sun. Click here to see it: Accepting Asperger's.
What's it really like to be a 20 something with Asperger's? On this blog, I hope to explore that question. But this blog is not just limited to an audience of people in their 20s - this is for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about autism. I plan to delve into the nature and experience of autism, and examine it from as many angles as possible. I would like to start a conversation between people with Asperger's or autism, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who just wants to know more. Let's explore what autism means, together.
My goal is to start a discussion on and build a community of people affected by autism - parents and adults with ASD - so feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section of any post. If you're too shy for that, however, or want to speak to me personally, you may feel free to email me at KGoldfie@gmail.com.
Asperger's Book for Sale
Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
Common Scents is the story of the last three years of my life. It gives a gripping view of what it is like to experience the world as someone on the autistic spectrum, and some would say, is an entertaining travel story as well. Because of chemical sensitivities, I engaged on a three year journey for a place I could call home.
Comments from readers:
"The Asperger's element is remarkable. I feel that I understand my son better, so much better. I laughed at this part.... because I've stared at my son in the same way for the same thing." - mother of an Asperger's kid
"Your writing style is SO engaging and interesting. It brings me right into the subject and I always experience a little emotional punch towards the end. In other words, this is the third time I've teared-up reading your work. Kate, you've highlighted ALL the problems with how social skills are usually taught." - mother of ASD kid
"I stayed up entirely too late reading the first 14 pages. I can relate to so much of what you write. I really think you are expressing the true experience with MCS and autism in words that convey the experience." person with chemical sensitivity (MCS)
"Absolutely interesting, insightful and witty. You've blended together your three themes beautifully (Asperger's, MCS and travelling). It seems seamless."