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Customer Review

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insight into living with autism, 18 May 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: George and Sam: Autism in the Family (Hardcover)
This is an extraordinary and inspiring book. Charlotte Moore is the mother of three boys, two of them autistic. This is her account of living with children who can see no reason not to finger-paint with their own excrement, stay awake all night long, or climb on the roof to rip off and fling down the tiles. Moore last had an unbroken night’s sleep fourteen years ago.
But the book is anything but grim ( in fact, it is often extremely funny), and is written without a trace of self-pity or complaint. Moore does not see herself as either a victim or a heroine – though readers will see her as one. For her, her children are true individuals, loved so dearly that even their differences from “neurotypical” children are celebrated.
This is not because Moore is sentimental about the condition, or her children. Indeed, she is able to be so accepting of their behaviour, and find so much compensating richness in their peculiarities, partly because she is so tough-minded and clear-eyed. She wastes no time bemoaning the children George and Sam might have been or regretting the genius she thought she had when George was a toddler (heart-breakingly, George was extraordinarily precocious, able before his second birthday to recognise all the letters of the alphabet and recite poetry from A Child’s Garden of Verses). She recognises that her autistic sons are not ‘normal’ children trapped within their disability – to be released by some miracle cure; they are autistic through and through. “I learned, long ago, that loving children like these had to be unconditional. That’s true of loving all children, actually, but with autism you quickly learn that you can’t look for gratitude or reciprocity…This wasn’t a hard lesson to master. Loving them is the easy part.”
“Every day”, according to Moore, her sons provide her “with delight, amusement and joy” – which is what this book provided this reader. Like The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, it made me marvel at the strangeness of the human mind – both normal and autistic. Moore is particularly fascinating on the link between language and a sense of self. George’s apparent infant precocity turned out to be chiefly brilliant memory and mimicry; as he grew older, it became clear that he found it difficult to create his own sentences. He uses quotations to communicate – often wonderfully apposite, intriguing or poetic, but often hilariously off-beam (“This will make Ben Hur look like a vicarage tea-party!” he exclaimed, when he found his mother having tea with a friend.). His less verbal brother, Sam, finds visual correspondences in the world about him which are as strange as anything in the ‘Martian’ school of poetry (tagliatelli was “seat-belts…’licious”).
Moore certainly convinced me that her children are fascinating – but not that I could have coped as she has done. The demands placed on her by George and Sam make the destructive antics of an average toddler look like a vicarage tea-party!
A truly wonderful book.
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