by Cynthia Lord
The book is very well structured. The flow is easy to read. I seldom read a book in one day, but did with this one. This book was on target and families who live with Autism can certainly relate to the life situations in this story. The story was told by one person, Catherine, the “typical” sister. The description of Autistic tendencies and quirks is spot on, and while not making fun of people with Autism, the author provides some levity on the disorder. This story is cleverly written, with great attention to detail.
The story line is about twelve-year-old Catherine, who is frustrated and bored. She is always in charge of watching her brother, David, who has autism. Her father spends all of his time at work, even when he doesn’t have to. Her mom works from home, so she can constantly arrange therapies and manage things for her son. Catherine feels she is missing out on a regular childhood and longs to be friends with kids her age, outside of her home. She seldom has the opportunity to do so because she seldom has a chance to meet anyone.
The middle of the book focuses on the therapy center where David receives OT (occupational therapy.) Catherine always has to go with her mom and keep her company in the waiting area. Catherine always asks mom if they could go somewhere else while her brother is in therapy. Mom seldom says yes, because she wants to sit in the lobby “just in case” therapy goes poorly. Catherine then starts to be aware of the other folks in the waiting area, who sit and wait for therapy to begin or end. Catherine slowly befriends a boy her age whom cannot speak, but uses pictures to communicate and is confined to a wheelchair. He is her age, and handsome. A wonderful friendship may indeed develop, while everyone is spending their days in the waiting room of the therapy center.
Thomas the Tank Engine is mentioned, which is a real life obsessive interest for many children with Autism. The description of the video, how the boy watches it, his hand stimulation that occurs during the “exciting” part of the video, was precise. I found myself following my husband around, reading excerpts from the book, because the situations were very similar to the ones’ in our home, in regard to Autism. I have an eight year old son with Autism who is just like David in the book, speaking minimally, focusing on what he likes best, and enjoying every minute of it. The Autism information portrayed is completely accurate. The therapies David receives are on target. The waiting room of a therapy center we have gone to is just like this one. David’s tendencies to toss toys into the fish tank occurs in this house also. Somehow all nine of our fish dodged a Thomas the Tank engine train flying into their tank. David is a typical boy with Autism. He likes what he likes. He takes everything literally. He recites “the rules” and does his darndest to follow them.
The story ends with a life lesson about the importance of reaching out to everyone, no matter what sort different abilities they might have. Accept the situation you are in. Make the best of it. Make it even better.