Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Came across 2 non-fictional books on the bringing up an autistic child.  Both the writers are female (mothers).  In both story, the autistic child is a boy and the setting is in England. They are born around the same time as both are in their mid to late twenties now.

The 2 books are :
- Living with Jonathan by Sheila Barton, who teaches and also works in other jobs.
-A friend like Henry"  by Nuala Gardner, who is a nurse by profession.

Jonathan was like any other babies but by the age of 7, he was locked in an inner world which seemed impossible to penetrate. This makes accepting his autism harder for his mother, Sheila. Though Jonathan is able to function with some form of independence, however one can still identify him as a handicap person. Sheila has 2 others normal children besides Jonathan.

Henry is a dog which helped to Nuala entered the world of her autistic child, Dale. She and her husband used the 'voice' of Henry to converse with their son. Besides their wonderful dog, they are lucky to have the right professional help. Dale functions pretty normal and one would not have guess he has autism. In fact, he is working with autistic organisation to teach and help autistic children now.

Nuala and her husband made use of Dale's obsession to teach him.  So when her son is obsessed with trains, they got him train set after train set and used them to teach him to recognize emotion -sad, happy, angry... faces.  Nuala has another girl who is also autistic. Dale is able to help his mum with his sister education as he has insight into his own conditions.

Both mothers had a tough time with diagnosis and getting their sons autism acknowledge medically so that they can get support and professional help. Both boys can turn violent and hit out at their mothers when they tried to help them. Their tantrum can last for hours. Their obsessions are often similar - with trains, cars - things they can line them up. They are fascinated with water. Repetition is the norm for these boys.

Early diagnosis cum intervention, right professional and family support can do wonders.  With Sheila, she was unfortunate to have met with 'damaging' professional help which might have accounted for the different outcome of the 2 boys in their adulthood in terms of functioning independently and socializing skills.

Dale has 4 grand parents who loved him and shared the burden with his parents. He is educated in normal schools and mingle with kids who did not even know of his condition. However, he struggled with Maths and English. Since English is a teaching medium, it means he had a tough time. This is because if a sentence contains just one unfamiliar word, it will throw him into confusion. For us, we can still guess the meaning of the sentence inspite of an unfamiliar word.

These 2 books are interesting read. In terms of style and narative skill, Nuala Gardner is a better writer.

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