British journalist Moore brings a reporter’s eye and a mother’s love to this exploration of autism.
The author’s two elder sons have autism, which afflicts roughly 1 in 100 children. Their diagnoses came as a shock. George and Sam had seemed perfectly normal as babies, but autism is rarely diagnosed before 24 months. Moore tells parents what to watch out for. Healthy kids play games that move through richly imagined worlds: The toy truck becomes an airplane, and the child becomes a pilot who’s going to rescue his mommy from a bad guy. Autistic children’s play gets stuck; they can push the truck backward and forward, but they never put a story line in motion. Autistic people, the author explains, have a different sense of self than everyone else. They can’t conceive that other people don’t know the things they know. So when George loses a ball, he might come running to his mother in tears, but it doesn’t occur to him to explain why he’s upset. Moore matter-of-factly presents the challenges of her life: the expensive tutoring that autistic kids require, the strange eating habits they develop, the simple fact that she may well be caring for George and Sam until she dies. She offers only an opaque window onto the presumably tumultuous shock of receiving the diagnoses and, most frustratingly, refuses to delve into the collapse of her marriage. At one point, she had a husband, Min. He eventually had a breakdown and they split up. While the author could hardly be expected to tell her erstwhile husband’s story, a discussion of the strain autism puts on a marriage would have been helpful. Parents struggling to stay together could use details as sensitive and evocative as those Moore provides to illuminate the interior roots of her sons’ often strange behavior.
Altogether brave and informative.