The story of a mother’s transformation in learning to care for her special needs daughter.
At age 3, Hjalmarsson’s (co-editor: The Quotable Book Lover, 1999) daughter, Lina, experienced seizures, became unresponsive and lost her speech. As Lina got increasingly difficult and destructive—screaming, biting, throwing tantrums and running from the house—Hjalmarsson tried a variety of techniques to help her daughter. She moved from the city to the suburbs and back again, tried out numerous schools and caregivers, and put Lina on special diets and medications, both traditional and alternative. While many of these attempts seemed to help Lina for a time, she invariably regressed. As a psychoanalyst, Hjalmarsson was perhaps more aware than many parents of the theories surrounding autism treatments, and she brings this knowledge to the book, offering detailed descriptions of each therapy and the ensuing results. But the book is more about the author herself and how she managed the difficulties of raising such a challenging child. Her marriage fell apart (although she and her husband remain close friends), and she was, fortunately, able to work part-time in order to dedicate her life almost exclusively to caring for Lina. One of the more interesting passages is a description of Hjalmarsson hiding from her daughter in the basement and then dashing into the yard in a desperate attempt to escape her. It’s a powerful sequence, showing the extreme challenges of living with an autistic child, and more such scenes would add depth to the memoir.
At times, the level of detail, including descriptions of playtimes and the names of just about everyone Lina has encountered in her eight years, becomes tedious. But the author’s positive, optimistic attitude and her thorough descriptions of therapies will be helpful to the parents and caretakers of autistic children.