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Learning to Dance in the Rain: A Year of Weathering the Storm with an Autistic Child Kindle Edition
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As someone who has worked with autistic kids, I appreciated the incredible patience of caregiver Melanie exhibited in this year-long account of her life with 7-year-old Reagan. It’s no cake walk. In fascinating detail, the author shows us how molding the life of an autistic child requires all of one’s energy and focus, yet there are rewards when we see the incrementally small changes in behavior. In addition to the gratification of contributing to a child having a fuller and more satisfying life.
What complicates matters is that Reagan has autism, which leads to communication problems and unsociable behaviour. Strong medications are prescribed to settle her, but aside from wondering if they're appropriate for a young child, we see that they are expensive and can have side effects.
Reading about the situation is at first challenging to those of us with more normal lives. Imagine how it must be to live through the situation. Melanie has been coping with Reagan - and her family - for two years at the start of this diary. Gradually matters have been improving as Reagan learns and her adult companions learn to interpret her words or behaviours. Melanie doesn't claim to be a saint, and she's brave enough to show us her perfectly natural reactions. Like not wanting to be bitten, or feeling frustrated or exhausted.
Every morning Reagan has turned her home into a disaster zone, and Melanie spends precious teaching time just picking up after her and putting on a wash. I was instantly unhappy at all the junk food and refined sugars Reagan was eating, thinking that they would be adding to her behavioural issues. Of course, Melanie is aware of this and tries to reduce the fries, chips and syrupy pancakes, in favour of strawberries and grapes. I was actually so relieved when Reagan helps to make, and enjoys a fruit salad bowl. Turns out the medication has the side effect of causing hunger, and there are teaching feedbacks which Reagan has associated with being able to ask for food. Clearly this is a complex issue.
Gradually over the year we see Reagan's life improve. The causes are various - she's on new medication more suited to her age, she's maturing and learning, her widowed mother makes some positive changes. Just dealing with the constant stress and chaos, never knowing how early to be ready to leave for an appointment or how well or otherwise a seven-year-old will behave, must be extremely hard for her carers on a continual basis. The internet turns out to provide ideas shared by other caring families.
Every child with special behavioural needs is different, and seeing how other people in the neighbourhood react can be interesting. People who have a special needs child in the family are relaxed and helpful while people with no familiarity tend to stare and feel uncomfortable if Reagan is eating near them in the fast food café. One of the lessons I would take away from this short book is that we all need to be more familiar with such families, to gain a better understanding and to improve the experience of daily life for the child and their carers. I recommend reading LEARNING TO DANCE IN THE RAIN - to show you a different side of today's society, or to reassure you that you are not alone.
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