FINDING BEN by Barbara LaSalle


A Mother’s Journey Through the Maze of Asperger’s
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Psychologist and documentary filmmaker LaSalle frankly reveals her embarrassment and disappointment with her son and the guilt those feelings caused her.

“What is wrong with my child?” The question haunted the author for 25 years despite her training in early-childhood education and family therapy. Born in 1969, Ben could read before he could walk, but grew into a child who spoke in a dull monotone, feared loud noises and changes in his daily routine, had extremely poor physical coordination, and utterly lacked social skills. In addition, he suffered from asthma, Crohn’s disease, crossed eyes, and obesity. As his mother describes him, Ben was smelly and messy, and she does not conceal her revulsion or her resentment. LaSalle chronicles her struggles to find playmates for him, schools that would accept him, doctors who could tell her what was wrong with him, and therapies for his shortcomings. At one point, exhausted and desperate, she turned him over to her former husband for a year. Ben’s story is a bleak one; he spent time in mental institutions, group houses, and even briefly in jail. In 1994, his mother finally came across a medical article on Asperger’s syndrome and discovered that his condition had a name and was neither his fault nor hers. Her relief was enormous, and at the end of her account, LaSalle professes that she now sees Ben in a new light, accepting and loving her son. The author spares neither herself nor her child in telling their story, which includes a preface written by Ben, his brief chapter introductions, and several paragraphs in his own words commenting on his behavior. The bibliography includes both printed and online sources of information and support groups for Asperger’s.

An introspective, honest account that may offer solace, if not hope, to other families coping with challenging children.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-07-140225-X
Page count: 296pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2003