Children with developmental disabilities can thrive if their parents reject perfectionism and embrace “different dreams” for them, according to this guide for parents.
DeGenova (Intimate Relationships, Marriages, and Families, 2016), a former associate professor of family studies at Central Michigan University and the University of New Hampshire, advises parents on the struggles and unexpected joys of raising children who aren’t neurotypical. They may be on the autism spectrum, have Down or Mosaicism syndrome, or have a brain injury, as was the case with DeGenova’s son, Louis, who suffered a stroke while being born. In an introduction, she describes her young child’s first neurology visit and her fear, anger, and confusion at his repeated seizures. (Overall, the text is quite short, and readers may wish that there were more about Louis as an individual.) Feeling robbed of her ambitions for Louis, she was surprised by the attitudes of other mothers of non-neurotypical kids, who appeared serene and smiling. Their strength inspired her to write a book for parents facing similar circumstances. Twelve chapters, such as “Rest When You Can,” “Give Up Some Control,” and “Forgive Other People,” offer personal anecdotes—often uncomfortable confessions from DeGenova’s own experience—and instruction, which is repeated in bullet-pointed summaries at the end. Effectively cutting through taboos, she encourages parents to negotiate costs, refuse treatments or specialists that aren’t a good fit, disregard peer pressure or accusations of selfishness, and correct age-inappropriate behavior from a manipulative child. Each section includes a black-and-white photograph, sometimes of the author’s family members, illustrating its theme, and the book concludes with a list of organizations and online resources. This guide is sometimes a devastating read, but it will nevertheless soothe and empower parents who feel isolated and always “wrong” in their feelings. DeGenova counsels with compassion and humor about how to avoid very painful mistakes, such as sacrificing one’s marriage and/or health, unconsciously neglecting a neurotypical sibling, feeling guilt for grieving now-impossible milestones, and raging at well-meaning comments: “And if one more person told me, ‘God chooses only special moms for special children,’ I was going to scream!”
An intelligent self-help book that will give stressed parents practical knowledge and a sense of relief.