A debut memoir chronicles one family’s experiences with an autistic child.
The author makes her goals clear at the outset. Rasmussen wants to help her sons understand how their childhoods may have been shaped by their brother Steven’s autism. She aims to provide comfort to parents of autistic children, assuring them that they are not alone. The author also promotes an overall understanding and acceptance surrounding autism. The book moves chronologically through Steven’s early, middle, and adult years. His early tantrums and other challenging and often dangerous behaviors, such as scaling high fences, made for a sometimes-excruciating experience that tried his parents’ marriage and took attention away from his older brother. His diagnosis of autism at age 3 led to a treatment center that fostered some improvements and allowed for a saner family life, but the author describes ongoing obstacles that required tremendous vigilance and persistence as Steven grew. These included periodic disappearances—Steven would depart to seek swimming pools or elevators, two fascinations that continued in his adulthood. Transitions from routine, whether big or small, could wreak havoc on his ability to function. Teenage years brought sexual urges, but Steven was unable to manage them appropriately without repeated instruction. As an adult, he has lived in several group homes and held many jobs—the system is such that frequent adjustments have been required. The organization and tone of this highly personal book facilitate insight into what autism is like, its deep effect on families, and the countless practical hurdles that must be addressed when advocating for the affected child (and later, the adult with this condition). While the never-ending challenges are discussed candidly, Rasmussen nevertheless succeeds in providing practical observations and transmitting a genuine message of hope. She deftly describes the joy of Steven’s hard-won successes and the evolution of many positive qualities within her circle. The book’s family photographs and a section in which Steven’s father and brothers contribute their perspectives add an intimate feel to the memoir.
A frank and engaging read that explores autism and its long-ranging effects on a family.