As I have told to whoever cares to listen, I want to keep intellectually active – notwithstanding the massive amount of mops that life throws at me at times. I do most of my training on-line, as I wait for my home-schedule to settle. Before leaving on holiday, I was in the middle of a MOOC called “Ancient Philosophy: Plato & His Predecessors” by Susan Sauvé Meyer (Coursera, University of Pennsylvania). I went as far as enrolling in two more courses – you know, in case I got bored. I took my computer, earphones, notebook, highlighters, etc. all the way to Mexico. The plan was to study in the early mornings, when the kids where still asleep. Yeah right. I didn’t open Coursera ONCE in eight weeks. I did so today, and could marginally understand what was going on. By experience, I know that the only way of getting back in shape is taking a deep breath, sit down, and endure the few (and painful) weeks where the neurons are awakening from their hibernation. It is not that I didn’t read this summer – I read eight books, some of them as thick as bricks – but in no point I felt out of depth. It’s the heavy lifting, the long stretch, what I missed. So – Ancient Ethics, here I come again.
All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism by Kim Stagliano
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
There is a Chinese Proverb that reads “A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket”. In the case of Kim Stagliano’s book, I felt I was carrying a deadly jungle in my pocket, full with venemous snakes and quick sand. Very seldom have I felt so uncomfortable reading a book. Mostly due the lack of respect for the views of proponents of neurodiversity (such as myself), but also due to the presentation of controversial views and strategies which lack of solid scientific foundation, and which are prone to confuse and alarm not only parents of newly-diagnosed children, but also the public in general. I did finish the journey, though, and read until the very last page. I feel very well equipped for these readings these days, being vested which knowledge which I have obtained over the years from people living with Autism, experts, professionals, parents and advocates (in no particular order: Temple Grandin, Tony Attwood, Ole Sylvester, Kirsten Callesen, Christina Sommer, Susanne Holst Ravn, Heidi Thamestrup, Bettina Bové, Anne Skov Jensen, Louise Egelund Jensen, Kathrine Felland Gunnløgsson, and many more!). But most importantly, I am equipped with the experience of being an Autism Mom for 9 years (and counting), which allows me to be more discerning with respect to strategies, treatments and the like. It has to be said – I am truly happy that I didn’t read this book in my early days. And even more happy to see how far my family has come in terms of forming a serious, trusted and reliable network. I leave this particular jungle behind now by sending warm thoughts towards the author. I can’t help but think about what book she could have written if she had had the network, help and support I have. Perhaps not an account of an Italian garden in April, but it is my guess that at least there would have been a jungle with more bridges. (Post-edit: and with this I mean, it would perhaps be a book where we – the author and I – could engage in common enquiry, instead of having a feeling of “knowing” – and “my knowledge is better than yours”, which is what feeds the autism wars. May this be the lesson for me – to never become so sure of what I know as to deny to consider and respect other views).
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Making Peace with Autism: One Family’s Story of Struggle, Discovery, and Unexpected Gifts by Susan Senator
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Making peace with autism was an important read for me. As an Autism mom I felt a strong connection with the author, and her journey. From denial to acceptance. The uncompromising, fierce wish for making our family work and giving our children the best possible foundation for a happy adulthood. It helps that her writing is passionate, strong, yet sober – considering what is at stake. What a good pen! I am thoroughly impressed, and can see that her blog has the same intensity – highly recommended. With regards to content, I found myself disagreeing with some of the strategies the author employed. But as the author reveals what she learnt from the different approaches, and how she had changed her mind and developed a deeper understanding of her son, herself, her husband…of life itself – I discovered that we shared much more than I thought. We are muddling thru. We are trying. And as long as we are trying, we are moving. We are keeping our spirits from stagnating. We are empowering ourselves, and giving our life meaning. If I should mention a thing I missed, is how her fight affected the author not as a mother, but as professional, as a friend, as a sister, as a neighbour. Perhaps its the correct strategy to focus on family life – however in my current circumstances I could have enjoyed some reflections on identity issues. Not that the author doesn’t touch upon them – but perhaps its a case of more wanting more. All in all, a book that I could relate to, which moved me, which I learnt to respect, and one that I will be reading again.
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