A mother’s bittersweet account of raising a son to whom experts had given the ungainly label “pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified,” a disorder akin to autism.
When Kephart, a freelance writer, gave birth to her son, Jeremy, in 1989, he seemed like a perfectly normal baby. By the time he was a toddler, however, it was clear he had problems. Jeremy was terrified of strangers, beset with obsessions, had poor motor skills, and did not use words normally. The diagnosis of PDD that Kephart was given after extensive testing did not come with a set of helpful instructions for dealing with it. Her efforts to find the right therapists and programs for Jeremy are a story of determination, frustration, ingenuity, partial successes, tireless efforts, and most of all, a mother’s love. Working with no guidelines, no knowledge of what milestones to look for, Kephart learned to trust her own instincts. A work-at-home mother, she devoted hours every day to working with her son, involving him in activities other than pacing or running in circles or playing with the toy cars that always remained his strongest obsession. She endlessly spoke her own thoughts aloud to Jeremy to keep him connected to the world of words, and she continually read and told him stories to help him develop an empathy for others, a quality Jeremy lacked. She searched for and found a therapist to help him overcome echolalia (repeating the words spoken by others), children to play with him, and schools and camps with teachers and counselors willing to accept and work with a child with his differences. By the end of Kephart’s story, Jeremy was adjusting well to school, expressing himself in words, and inviting friends home to play.
While Kephart does not claim to have cured her son’s PPD, parents who have received a similar diagnosis will find her revealing story immensely encouraging.