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A Real Boy: How Autism Shattered Our Lives - and Made a Family from the Pieces Paperback – 28 Feb 2008
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"This wonderfully honest book tells us a great deal, not only about autism, but also about the extraordinary tolerance and unselfishness that is born out of unequivocal love. At the same time, it reveals some uncomfortable truths about the struggle it takes to access the rights of those with disabilities in our so-called civilized society." " "Jane Asher, president, National Autistic Society"
We feel like parents in a fairytale turned to stone by a curse and condemned to stand like statues with our hearts thudding in our chests as our son plays wild games, all alone in the palace. He sees us he knows us, he expects us always to be in our right places - but he has no idea that we are human too. David is eleven years old. He is happy, healthy and affectionate. He loves school, climbing trees and Disney songs. But he's also profoundly autistic.Imagine being, like David, unable to speak more than a few words and unable to express your most basic needs. He is oblivious to danger and blind to other people's emotions, including the pleas of his parents. He is unaware of the chaos that he creates and is completely unmoved by the heartbreak that he causes. This extraordinarily moving account describes the heartbreak, and the unexpected joy, of autism. With raw honesty, Christopher and Nicola Stevens lay bare their experiences, which are by turns harrowing, hilarious, and inspirational.Autism is often depicted as a lonely affliction but, as David's story unfolds, his parents reveal how the condition has given them an unbreakable togetherness; an insight into prejudice, as well as kindness; an understanding of life without words or language; and an intense appreciation of their children.Caring for David is an all-consuming experience...and through it they have learned, most of all, the meaning of unconditional love. See all Product description
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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.
If you are unsure about autism, read this book, it will open your mind!
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