A SPECIAL KIND OF NORMAL by Carolyn Betts

A SPECIAL KIND OF NORMAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A black woman tells of her frustrations in dealing with an autistic son. Betts' first marriage was about over when Jeff was born in 1970; after her remarriage and the birth of a daughter, her new husband adopted Jeff. Something was obviously wrong: he hardly responded to sounds or to other people, seemingly lost in a world of his own. Over the years Betts consulted 32 doctors--largely, it appears, at random--and met with rebuffs and misdiagnosis. ""Mentally retarded"" was the most frequent pronouncement, but Jeff didn't entirely fit the classic pattern nor were his symptoms limited to those of retardation. Two near-fatal bouts with pneumonia, complicated by asthma, forced a move from north Texas to Arizona; more time was lost learning the vagaries of a new school system, and fighting for an educational setting compatible with Jeff's needs. At the age of seven he was finally diagnosed as autistic; but about that time he also became almost impossible to handle, given to frequent clawing attacks, wild runs through the night, eerie laughter, smearing feces, etc. (During one three-month period, he slept only six hours.) Near breakdown, Betts finally succumbed to the path she swore she would never take, and placed Jeff in a residential facility--forced to make him a ward of the state in order to obtain funding. This is a somber, meat-and-potatoes account of a mother's inability to cope under the strain of a handicapped child: no miracles (Jeff is making some progress, but there is no real breakthrough in sight), just the grim reality of human limitations.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1982
ISBN: 0984321209
Publisher: Scribners