Be Strong, Be Tough, Be Smart by Donato Alfredano

Be Strong, Be Tough, Be Smart

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A father’s guide to raising an autistic child.

In this debut—part memoir, part self-help manual—Alfredano chronicles his parenting journey. When his son Denny was first diagnosed with autism in the mid-1980s, there wasn’t very much information available about the disorder, so Alfredano became adept at dealing with his son intuitively. Early on, he found a successful approach: turn Denny’s “defenses” into resources. Like many autistic children, Denny relished routines, so Alfredano tried to make them work to their advantage. For example, Denny loved nature, so one of the author’s first breakthroughs was to regularly take his son for a walk, pointing out the exact same landmarks each time. Learning these individual patterns was crucial to his son’s success, but raising an autistic child wasn’t easy, and the author is honest about the patience and fortitude that was required. Denny went on to do remarkably well academically, even earning a doctorate, but his father is realistic about his son’s limitations: “Denny had triumphed over essentially all of his autistic behaviors and excelled communicatively,” he writes. “And yet at twenty-five years old, he still seemed to have no genuine interest in dating, in nurturing long-term friendships or relationships, or in going out to social gatherings.” A long, final chapter by Denny’s sister, Giada Star, is welcome, as it adds a unique, personal element and provides a very different take on Denny. There are moments when Alfredano’s tone is a bit preachy, as when he repeatedly reminds readers that their children should be their first priority. However, his overall approach is highly engaging and sympathetic. As he shares his story, he’s very open about his own failings, such as focusing too much on Denny’s interests at the expense of other academic topics. His conclusion—that Denny’s success must be taken in stride—gives the book a very human touch.

A thoughtful, helpful memoir about the challenges and pleasures of living with an autistic child.

Pub Date: April 26th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1495404399
Page count: 124pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2014


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