Friday, February 27, 2009

'A Child's Journey Out Of Autism' by Leeann Whiffen


My first experience with autism was just a few months ago, when I attended a week-long program for parents of autistic children. I arrived there as an interpreter for a family from Poland and five days later I left as a changed, spiritually and mentally uplifted person. A Child’s Journey Out of Autism by Leeann Whiffen left me with the same feeling of awe and amazement I had experienced at the program five months before.
Leeann Whiffen and her husband Sean were suddenly thrown into the world of nightmare when their two-year-old son Clay was diagnosed with PDD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, which is a form of autism. From that day forward, they went through the whirl of misinformation, doctors’ inadequacy and fellow parents’ misunderstandings, confused, sometimes cold and reproachful looks and comments. They hit every stumbling block, every wall and shutting door but they refused to give up. Because of the determination to win their son back from autism, they also met many helping angels on their journey: doctors who wanted and knew how to help, parents who suffered the same anguish, and people who wanted to help simply because they wanted to make a difference in one child’s life.
A Child’s Journey Out of Autism leads us through Leeann’s incredible path of always holding on to hope. Even though it is a real-life story, it reads like a first class action and suspense book. Even all the medical terms and description, that otherwise could bore a reader to tears, are surprisingly interesting because they are written in a language of deep emotions. Leeann turns out to be a fantastic writer. Her writing is clear, very straightforward and engaging, grabbing a reader’s attention from the first page and holding it to the very end. Probably the best part is that Leeann neither sanctifies nor victimizes herself. There are moments of doubt, selfishness and despair, but there are also moments of great joy, determination and courage to go on one more day. She is a normal mother who loves and cares for her children and who manages to win the battle despite being told that she never would. Precisely because of this ‘normalcy’, Leeann’s message of hope to other parents of autistic children is so powerful. I couldn’t help but care and cheer for every member of the Whiffen’s family: Leeann, her husband Sean and their two wonderful boys, Clay and Drew (who, by the way, is a wonderful, courageous brother and friend to Clay). I cried tears of sorrow and joy, and I guarantee that everyone who reads this book will too.
This book however, should be read by every parent, not only the ones with autistic children. It is a story of how to appreciate every little thing about our children, how to love them fully and unconditionally. It is a story of perseverance in the face of biggest despair, of determination to never give up, even if we are told that that’s precisely what we should do.

Favorite quote:

"He smiles his crooked smile and tilts his head until it touches his shoulder. His smile morphs into a giggle. Then, simultaneously, we laugh out loud – a deep, feel-good laugh right from the belly. We laugh together some more, and I cry, because I am so full of joy. A joy that is so deep it can only be felt when one has finally emerged from the depths of desperation and discouragement."

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Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks for providing me with a copy of this book.