on 16 June 2008
A very moving and interesting account of living with autism. I liked the way the vulnerability and the fragility of David's life was shown with such love and poignancy. Often (unintentionally) autistic children are protrayed as frightening destructive creatures because they don't understand the rules of life. This book showed us, as far as is possible, how the world looks from the point of view of the child.
on 3 May 2010
I don't often take the time to write reviews but really wanted to write this as a thank you to the authors, David's parents. I work with families affected by autism and as such have read plenty of 'textbook' accounts. However, these don't capture the harsh realities that face many families. David's parents have taken the time to write about the difficulties they have faced but also about the joy and love they have for their child. This isn't a book with a cure or a happy ending but it still managed to make me smile as well as feel the despair of the David's parents when continuously faced with challenges and barriers. It is an account that will stay with me and I hope help me to work with a greater understanding. Thanks to Christopher and Nicky for sharing your story.
on 10 February 2009
The extended title of this book suggests a depressing tale - not so! Certainly the reality of living with an autist is described but in the most upbeat way.
I absolutely loved this account. Since the diagnosis of our son in September, I have kept notes of his progress and it was absolutely fascinating to see how much of our experience mirrors this Chris and Nicky's.
My catch phrase is that autism is not an intuitive condition, so to read such vivid accounts of off the wall situations which we have lived through too was really uplifting.
I loved the style of this writing; I laughed out loud at the experience with the woman's skirt and slapping the bald man's head; incredibly we've experienced very similar. As parents of autists, we need to be able to laugh and get back into the (figurative) driving seat; this book helped me gain some perspective and put me back in control ... who wants to feel a victim?
I loved how A Real Boy brought to the fore thoughts I hadn't even realised; how I miss not hearing anything about school, how I too, hold my son by the wrist, how very powerful the words from the sibling about the condition are and the importance of participation in the school nativity, to list just a few.
One big difference between our experience with our son and the Steven's experience with David is that of DVDs. To use the Steven's metaphor; DVDs to our son are as heroin to an addict such is his obsession. So, whilst the introduction of DVDs worked well for the Nichols, in our case, I'm sure they have shaved years off my life! I can cope with hours, days ..weeks even ... of fast forwarding and rewinding Rosie and Jim and other favourites on video... but watching £14.99 DVDs shooting in and out of the DVD player for hours on end and then being used to sandpaper our walls or in place of ice skates is a direct route into orbit for me.
I loved being able to compare David's echolalia with my own son's and I appreciated the accompanying explanation - fascinating.
I thought it was extremely clever and very poignant how the parents' dreams for the future were touched upon.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in living with autism.
on 23 February 2009
This is the most true to life, well written book form a parents perspective that I have read. I am a mother of 2 autistic children and i can relate so well. This book has helped me & I have recommended it to countless others. If you have a child or are a carer a relative or even someone with just an interest, this is the book you should be reading.
on 10 February 2016
I never, as a rule stray from fiction, I am a fiction reader through and through and fictional stories are my escapism. We are experiencing a situation as a family that is hard to bear, I feel the need to escape more than ever but yet I knew, after reading the synopsis of how 'the curse turned the adults to stone' the emotion that short paragraph evoked was to strong to be ignored and I needed to read the story of David Stevens immediately.
My child is 11 years old, we are facing difficulties currently with his mental state and our journey is a hard one. Reading the account of David written from Christopher Steven's point of view gave me an honest insight into their family unit expressing the dramatic difference of both children and the constant commitment to their youngest David. All of the aspects Stevens touched on were factual and happened, I could relate to a small handful which offered the reassurance that we are not imagining our hardship, something isn't quite right and most importantly we need to continue to push for a diagnosis.
David is a beautiful boy, and has come a long way on a very difficult journey, throughout his tale we hear some uncomfortable truths, read of heartbreaking situations and cry tears of sadness and joy. The strength of his parents and acceptance of his older brother is remarkable. People will ask 'How do you do it? how do you cope?' which is silly in itself, as a parent you are bound by unconditional love and would do whatever it took to 'cope' you live it daily continuing to focus on the positives, making the tasks manageable, simplifying as much as you can and progress forward, for me it is only natural to power on (even when I want to give up).
I found Stevens account on the lack of support resonated with me on a grand scale, the times we have felt abandoned and desolate because we have no one to support us or encourage with guidance of coping mechanisms. Trying desperately to not show the strain at how little support is offered, especially at breaking point when the 'professional' on the end of the phone (when they finally return the call) witter on about 'having to purservere' and the clenched jaw responses you really shouldn't repeat. Reactions of how people behave is another poignant subject, so quick to assume 'we' as parents do not have the control over our children. Assumption is a very dangerous thing.
I really enjoyed reading about David and all of the antics he got up to, and as frightening as the car journey was at 70mph on the stretch of motorway with the small child lying on the dashboard I can't help but be endeared by David. Admittedly I howled at that whole scene which clearly, was not humorous at the time. David's 'insistance' on following through such a simple idea to him, although devastating for us adults alike, was crucial and he wasn't going to be happy until he had completed his task. He appeared to be focused when he knew what he wanted to achieve and in his own way it all makes sense.
As Stevens relays to the readers, David is only aware of himself and his own bubble of the world he lives within, I find the references to 'that dad thing' very honest and if we do try and look at the world through Davids eyes everything is simple and straightforward, he doesn't understand emotions or relationships but he does know, especially that, 'this mum thing' is his constant in his routine, in his life.
I will not even begin to pretend I know enough about Autism because I don't, I haven't needed to but reading 'A Real Boy' helped me to understand it a little better. I find it a frightening thought that the brain is such a complex organ and how it adapts itself when necessary and not always for the best. Frustration is our child's biggest enemy and, like David, the head banging is his way to release it. This perplexes us, we immediately don't understand. To lash out physically and emotionally and wreaking havoc is a way to dispel that frustration without the ability to control actions or think as far as consequences, which as parents we do not understand, it isn't logic but yet to David, this may well be. I know logic goes out of the window on a bad day for us.
I believe 'A Real Boy' to be thought evoking, emotional, heart warming and, in my case, reassuring. I can't relate to all of David's behaviour but some I see within my own child. Witnessing the strength in his family unit with the extra support of his immediate carers (at school, at rest spite, etc) has given me the courage to stay strong and continue to push the 'professionals' until we have a solution ourselves.
Thank you, for opening your life out to the rest of the world and allowing us to peer through to observe your family, coping strategies, strength and unconditional love. David is a credit to you both.
I didn't know where to begin this review, I didn't want my words to be tinged with pity or patronising in any way. I simply wanted to express how the book related to me and pass my comments on what I have read. I would recommend this book, (even though I don't read non-fiction) and also believe it will stay with me for a long time to come. Thank you for being so open and sharing David's life with us.
on 14 February 2016
This is a touching insight into a family's struggle and their love for their autistic son. Autism is a condition difficult to understand for those who have not been affected by it, as is clearly demonstrated by some of the inappropriate responses to David's actions, especially among professionals - psychologists, social workers etc.
David is very lucky to have such a wonderful family, whose tolerance of his extraordinary habits in the face of prejudice is a testament to their great love for him. Ultimately I found the book very informative, uplifting and helpful; Chris Stevens gives us lots of analogies to help us understand some of David's unusual behavior but it wasn't an easy read. As suggested by another reviewer, it would have been much better written by someone else. I found the poor metaphors and similes irritating, and although the writer often uses medical jargon, he also says, for example, something caused a headache (in the figurative sense) which disrupts the reading flow while you decide if he means it literally or not. David's mother's small chapter flowed more easily.
I wish the family luck and courage in their struggle to help David cope with the world, and I admire their determination to put David's happiness above what others may consider socially acceptable behavior.
on 17 March 2015
I enjoy reading about autism and A Real Boy satisfied as well as amazed me. Satisfied because David is portrayed with honesty and amazed because David's development has been described with pure love. Although David loves climbing, has the singing voice of an angel, he is profoundly autistic. The tale unfolds David grows and develops within his autism while his parents do everything within their power to make his life as happy as it can be. I was deeply moved by the tolerance and deep love and understanding the Stevens show for their son as they come to understand that David can make hardly any sense of this world at all. Deeply moving.
on 19 February 2016
As the parent of a recently diagnosed autistic child, I found this book incredibly emotional, I laughed and I cried as I found similar early experiences in its pages. This is not a book for people looking for answers or ways to cope, the condition itself is so varied between children. It is a searingly honest account of how autism has affected the Stevens family. Our son is our first child and we are just trying to find our own way to deal with the challenges his condition comes with. It's not easy and there are some days you think you can't cope and fear for the future. This book has given me hope. Thank you for sharing your story.
on 21 March 2015
This is one of the most moving books I've read in a long time. I came to it after reading Lisa Genova's fiction portrayal of autism in Love Anthony, which was also an emotional experience. But this book is different because it's a true story, and the honesty shines out of every page. The detailed account of everyday life with David is totally absorbing, sometimes shocking, often terribly sad, and yet at the same time uplifting and inspiring. The parents' determination to take their child everywhere and let him enjoy whatever he can is admirable and humbling - when i think how much i often complained about the disruption caused by my so-called 'normal' child...
But the best thing about the book is the humour with which it is written. There are many laughs among the tears, and the author's philosophy of life allows him to see the funny side of many potentially tragic situations.
I would have liked to read more from the point of view of David's mother, Nicky - although her name is included as co-author, the story is told very much from the father's point of view. The one account written by the mother, of David's appearance in a Christmas show, is touching and sensitive, and I would love to read more from her - but I guess she never gets the time! Her remark about how tears are an inexhaustible resource has stayed with me.
These parents have my utmost admiration for how they care for their son, but also for how they had the courage to share their experience with others. I am sure this book can offer a better understanding to many.
on 22 September 2014
I have worked closely with a number of autistic children & their families over the past 8 years, whilst running my own preschool. I am passionate about improving the lives of those affected by autism and I am naturally drawn to publications/tv programmes on the subject. This book is amazing; an honest, heart wrenching insight into a family's struggle to access the right support for their autistic son and the daily challenges they face. What shines through is the parents' unconditional love for their son, their selflessness and their joy in response to each small developmental step made... The best autism book I've read since 'Horse Boy'.