I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism

I Am in Here:  The Journey of a child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice

Elizabeth M. Bonker and Virginia G. Breen, Authors

Revell, Baker Publishing Group, Oct., 2011, Nonfiction

Suitable for:  Parents, and Teens and Adults with Autism

Theme:  Autism Spectrum, Poetry, Finding a Voice

Synopsis:  Elizabeth was diagnosed with autism at age 13 months and lost her ability to speak at 15 months.  Until then, she was progressing normally.  She was diagnosed as mentally retarded by specialists, but her intelligence is now considered in the genius range.  Her older brother Charles also has autism, but is very talkative.  Virginia admits the autism journey is like riding a roller coaster as they heard of new treatments daily and had to make their own decisions about what would work for their children.   In their attempt to reach Elizabeth,      her parents worked with a woman who developed teaching method called Rapid Prompting Method (RPM).  The program worked for Elizabeth.  She began to write single-word answers and then full sentences with a letterboard.   From ages seven to thirteen, Elizabeth has written more than 100 poems, in which she talks about her inner world and her connection with the world around her.  She is a self-taught poet who was born with a gift to write.  I found it interesting that Elizabeth does her homework on a laptop computer, but writes her poetry on the letterboard.  I have told you enough about Elizabeth.  Now I want you to meet this beautiful soul.

 ME

I sometimes fear
That people cannot understand
That I hear
And I know
That they don’t believe I go
To every extreme
To try to express
My need to talk.
If only They could walk
In my shoes
They would share my news:
I  am here
And trying to speak every day
In some kind of way.   (age 9)

I wrote Me to let people know that even though I don’t speak, I feel and understand the world around me.  I want to be heard and respected.  I want that for everyone, especially for people like me.” – Elizabeth

Me Revisited

I can’t sit still.
What’s wrong with me?
My body is doing things
I can’t explain.
My dignity I am trying to maintain.
People Stare at me
When I rock and shake.
I don’t know how much
More I can take.
So much to deal with
Going on inside me.
I wish I could get better.
I want to be set free
From my silent cage.

“Some of the people at school who do not know me make me feel uncomfortable.  They stare at me.  I would not rock and shake if I could stop it.  It just happens sometimes  I wish they could understand, but mostly I wish I could explain it to them. ” – Elizabeth

Bright Future

When you see
A tree
Think of me
Growing strong and tall.

When you see
The Sun shining brightly
Think of me
Tough and mighty.

When you see
The water on the lake
Think of the future
I plan to make.

Me
Strong
Mighty
Free

Why I like this book:  Elizabeth’s book, co-authored with her mother Virginia, is an inspirational and powerful beacon that will offer much hope to parents with children in the Austism Spectrum.   It is a profoundly moving and spiritual journey between a mother and daughter.   Elizabeth shows great courage and determination in learning to communicate, despite the fact that she lacks fine motor skills to write.  She types one letter at a time with her forefinger.  Her optimism is remarkable as she wants people to find peace in her book.

For Virginia, “Elizabeth has become my teacher, and I am learning to think about life, faith, and relationships in a whole new way.  I have come to see the world as divided into Why People and How People.   Why People cannot be at peace until they answer the question of why suffering has befallen them.  How People ask “How can I move forward?  Having been dealt their hand in life, their focus shifts to how they can find whatever healing and wholeness is possible.”  For Virgina, her 13-year-old daughter is a miracle who has “shattered the silence of autism through her beautiful poetry.”   I Am in Here, is a masterpiece of poetry and prose.  And we are so fortunate to capture a rare glimpse into Elizabeth’s beautiful mind and world.

You can visit Elizabeth at her website I Am in Here, and read the first two chapters of her book for free under “Book” and “Read a Passage.”   You will also find  videos, resources and other information.    Virginia has also indicated that Amazon is having a Kindle special price of $2.99 for I Am in Here during the month of March. 

Autism Awareness Month is approaching  in April.  For information contact Autism Speaks .   Join Autism Speaks in celebrating World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and Light It Up Blue to help shine a light on autism. Whether it’s your front porch or your local city hall, an office party or a banquet, the entire world is going blue to increase awareness about autism.  The month will be filled with activities.  Among the buildings going blue last year were the: Empire State Building, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Niagara Falls, Al Anoud Tower in Saudi Arabia,  Cairo Tower in Egypt, Great Buddha at Hyogo in Japan, CN Tower in Canada and Sydney Opera House in Australia.

In Jesse’s Shoes – Perfect Picture Book

In Jesse’s Shoes: Appreciating Kids With Special Needs

Beverly Lewis, Author

Laura Nikiel, Illustrator

Bethany House Publishers, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Themes:  Appreciating a sibling with special needs,  embarrassment,  teasing, acceptance, friendship.

Opening/SynopsisEvery day I walk my brother to his bus at the corner.  It’s not far, but it takes a long time because Jesse gets distracted by things like rain puddles, honeysuckle blossoms, and even ladybugs — which bugs me a lot.”  Allie walks with her older brother, Jesse, to the school bus stop every morning and endures his distractions, and the teasing and giggling of the other kids waiting for the bus.  She wonders to herself “Why didn’t I get a regular brother?”  She loves Jesse, but is frustrated and tired of being embarrassed by him.  Allie feels terrible about her feelings.  One  day Jesse meets Allie and tells her to put on his large shoes and instructs her to “do what Jesse does.”  Allie follows Jessie  and discovers the wonders of his world that she has not noticed.  That day changes Alli forever.

Why I like this book:  Beverly Lewis has written a story with a powerful message about acceptance for children.  I like that she told the story from Allie’s viewpoint.  Laura Nikiel’s illustrations are bright, colorful and filled with expression.  There are many children who have a sibling with a special need.  Like Allie, siblings deal with  emotions ranging from love to embarrassment.  It’s important that they have a way to express how they feel to someone who will listen.  Beverly Lewis comes up with a very creative way of helping Allie see life as Jesse does.   This is a good book for home or at school.  Activity:  Have students discuss what it means to “walk in someone else’s shoes” before you read the book.  Encourage them think of examples of people to share.  After you read the book,  have each child write a letter to Jesse to tell him what they learned from his story.

For those who want more information about siblings and special needs families, please go to Sibshops. They have developed a flexible curriculum that provides much-needed peer support and a safe place for kids to talk about their feelings and experiences.  The workshops are always a good balance of fun, friendship and support and help build a network of friendship and resources.  The Sibshop curriculum is used throughout the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Guatemala, Turkey, and Argentina.  Thank you Cathy Mealey for the information about this site.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Following Ezra – Austism Spectrum

Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism and Love from His Extraordinary Son

Tom Fields-Meyer, Author

New American Library, Nonfiction, September 2011

Suitable for:  Parents, Family Members, Teachers, Special Ed Teachers

Synopsis: “The walk was always the same.  Then one day it was different.”  During the summer of 1999, Tom and his wife Shawn spent two months at a retreat with their three sons.  Ezra was three years old when they began to notice subtle changes and unusual behavior.  On an early morning stroll with his dad, Ezra took off down an isolated road.  Tom followed him for nearly half a mile.  Tom kept backing off to see if Ezra would realize he was alone and get upset.  Not Ezra.  He was utterly alone and in his own world.   Tom felt bewilderment and fear.  “Ten years ago I watched  my solitary son venture down an isolated road, ” said Tom.  “Long ago, I made a choice to follow Ezra, and to watch in awe and mystery, as my son makes his own unique way in the world.”

Following Ezra is a must read book for parents with children diagnosed with autism!  This is the most powerful, compelling and inspiring book I’ve read to date about how one family chose to reach their autistic child.  Instead of listening to a therapist tell Tom and his wife, Shawn, that they needed to “grieve for the child he didn’t turn out to be,” they refused.  “When Shawn and I dreamed of starting a family, I carried no particular notion of who our children would become,” said Tom.   I didn’t carry any conscious notion of what my children would be like — whether they would be girls or boys, tall or short, conventional or a little bit odd.  I planned only to love them.”

Autism effects  each child differently  In Ezra’s case, he showed signs of isolating himself, playing alone, and hiding in closets.  He showed no fear, or didn’t understand consequences.  He liked to be wrapped tightly in a blanket so he could feel his body, but he didn’t want to be touched.  He spent hours lining up his dinosaurs in a row.  Loud noises and crowds overwhelmed his senses.   If you asked Ezra a question, he would look off into space and just repeat the question.

Although Ezra participated in special education classes and therapy that was available, Tom chose an unconventional approach to working with Ezra at home.  Tom decided that he  wasn’t going to “fix” Ezra, but rather follow him into his world so he could understand and find a way to reach him.   There are many moments of humor.

Instead of discouraging Ezra’s obsessions with trains, Gumby figures, the color red, and zoo animals, Tom saw it as an opportunity to build a relationship with his son.  Tom spent many afternoons with Ezra at the zoo.  He watched in amazement as Ezra happily followed his traditional path around the zoo pointing to animals and reciting information.  Tom discovered that the zoo represented order for Ezra,  as every animal was in its place.  This order helped calm Ezra.  Over time, Tom realizes that Ezra understands that his father cares about what he cares about.   The connection between father and son continues to grow,  as does his potential to have relationships with family, friends, and other people.  It also helps that Ezra is the middle child, as he is forced to interact with his two brothers.

Ezra is smart and memorizes numbers and dates of favorite Disney movies.  He begins to connect with people by asking their birthdays and then telling them what movie was released on that day.  He develops a fascination with cartoons and animations, because the faces have fixed, predictable expressions.  Tom enrolls Ezra in an animation class, and Ezra begins making animated films. (Click on  “The Alphabet House”  to view Ezra’s animation that  became a book he co-authored with Tom Lichtenheld.   E-mergency was released in October 2011.)

Ezra is gaining a sense of self-awareness by age 12.  It helps him prepare for his bar mitzvah on his 13th birthday.  His bar mitzvah really culminates in a celebration of the past 10 years of his life.  Ezra greets 300 people, shakes their hands, thanks them for coming, and fulfills the required chanting, recitations and speech.  This is a remarkable achievement for a boy who couldn’t look at people, and a testimony for Tom and Shawn’s perseverance, belief and love for their son.

Tom Fields-Meyer, a former senior writer for People, has written for dozens of publications, includig The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.   A graduate of Harvarard, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their three sons.  Follow Tom on his website at http://followingezra.com.   He travels and speaks to parent groups all over the country. 

Out of My Mind – Cerebral Palsy

Out of My Mind

Sharon M. Draper, Author

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for:  Ages 10 to Adult

Themes:  Cerebral Palsy, Intelligence, Interpersonal Relationships

Opening “Words.  I’m surrounded by thousands of words.  Maybe millions.  Cathedral.  Mayonnaise.  Pomegrante…Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes — each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.  Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts.  Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas.  Clever expressions and jokes.  Love songs.”  Melody’s head is full of words and sentences.   She is  11 years old and has never spoken one single word.  Melody has cerebral palsy and is trapped in a body that won’t do what she wants it to do.  She is confined to a wheel chair, unable to move, walk, talk, feed  and care for herself.  Melody has a photographic mind, and is a very smart.  But no one knows that except Melody.  No one knows that her favorite song is “Elvira.”

Draper has written a very compelling novel and has given us a rare glimpse into Melody’s world.  She shows Melody’s frustration in having doctors, teachers and people talking about her like she’s “profoundly retarded and unable to understand.”  Her frustration  and her inability to speak can lead to “tornado explosions,” which only reinforces their beliefs that she’s severely brain-damaged.  Melody says, “I live in a cage with no door and no key.”  “And, I have no way to tell someone how to get me out.”  Draper has created a very strong protagonist who simply will not give up and fights to find that key to unlock the cage so people will know she is there.   She’s tired of going to school and being put in a special education classes and taught the same nursery rhymes and songs year after year.   She wants to learn.  She’s hurt that no one wants to be a friend and deals with constant bullying when she participates in inclusion classes.

Fortunately for Melody, she has loving parents who advocate for her, and a neighbor who drills Melody every afternoon on words she has written on flash cards to help Melody communicate.   Melody is even more determined, and one day she discovers a special computer that can help her speak.  Melody world begins to change once she gets her Medi-talker.  She is catapulted into some exciting new adventures that are also fraught with disappointment.  But this very courageous girl now has a voice, and she’s not afraid to express her feelings.  Hooray for Melody!

After reading Draper’s very moving novel, I believe there are very important things Melody would want you to know when meeting or working with a child with special needs.  Don’t talk about them as if they are invisible.  Don’t assume that they are brain-damaged and aren’t intelligent.  Always assume they can hear or understand you even if they can’t communicate.  Look directly into  their eyes and talk to them as if they understand you.  Treat them with respect and dignity.  Don’ talk in a loud voice, talk normally.  Don’t look away if you feel awkward.  Smile and say hello.

Draper is “fiercely adamant that nobody feel sorry for Melody.” “I tried hard to make her unforgettable – someone you would never dare feel sorry for,” says Draper.  “I wanted her to be accepted as a person, not as a representative for people with disabilities.  Lots of people have worse difficulties in their lives. As readers embrace the story, I hope that they will cheer for her!”

Sharon Draper is a two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, most recently for Copper Sun, and previously for Forged by Fire.   Visit this award-winning author, educator, speaker, poet and National Teacher of the Year at her website (click here).   Her website contains interviews and information about all of her books.

I also want to say a special thank you to Cathy Mealey for recommending this extraordinary book to me.  Out of My Mind is one of my favorite reads this year.

The Best Worst Brother — National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

The Best Worst Brother is written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Charlotte Fremaux and published by Woodbine  House for children 4-8 years.  It is a very realistic portrayal of how a sibling deals with her feelings about her brother who has Down Syndrome (DS).   The author’s text is simple, and is complimented by the illustrator’s lovely pastel paintings, which give a sense of tenderness to the story.  What I especially like is the fact that no where in the story is Emma’s brother labeled as having Down Syndrome — he is just different.  So the book has a more universal appeal.

Emma feels that her brother is the worst brother.  She liked Isaac better when he was a baby when she could cuddle and love him.  Now that he is older, she feels frustration and confusion.  As a baby, Emma has fun feeding Isaac  and  makes funny airplane sounds as she flies the spoon into his open mouth.  Now, he spits out his food and throws it everywhere.  Emma likes to make funny faces and watches Isaac giggle with glee.  Now that he is older, playing with Isaac has become a battleground.  Emma is impatient with Isaac’s slow motor and speech development, which is a common sibling response.   Emma and her parents learn sign language, but progress is slow and Emma is frustrated.   It isn’t until Isaac attends Emma’s open house at school, that  she realizes  he’s learning what she is teaching him.  When her teacher approaches Isaac with a plate of cookies he signs “please” and “thank you.”   Emma is so proud and decides that her brother is a keeper.   Sign language is often used with children with special needs like DS.  There is a Question and Answer section at the end of the book.

October marks the 30th anniversary of the National Down Syndrome Society’s awareness month.  For information please check out their website.

Woodbine House is holding a contest for talented  teen/adult writers and artists  with Down Syndrome  Woodbine House says that “many teens and adults with DS are incredibly talented and don’t always receive the recognition they deserve.”   Winners will receive an award and have the opportunity to see their work published in a high quality, full-color book.

Participants must be over 12 years of age, residents of the U.S., Canada or Mexico.  Entries may be submitted in many different categories that include fiction writing, poetry, song lyrics, cartoons, painting, sculptures, embroidery, weaving and other mediums.     For details on contest submission go to http://www.woodbinehouse.com/DScreativecontest.asp.    The deadline for entries is Dec. 31, 2011.

If you are a parent, teacher or an interested teen/adult with DS, please pass along the contest formation.

I became familiar with Woodbine House after reviewing a special series of books titled Off We Go! last April, and most recently The Best Worst Brother.   I discovered that Woodbine House is a leading publisher of books for children with special needs.  Many of their employees have a personal connection to someone with special needs — a winning combination for all involved.  You can view their books for children, parents, teachers and professionals at: www.woodbinehouse.com.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

 

Writing and Art Contest for Teens and Adults with Downs Syndrome

Woodbine House is holding a contest for talented  teen/adult writers and artists  with Downs Syndrome.   Woodbine House says that “many teens and adults with DS are incredibly talented and don’t always receive the recognition they deserve.”   Winners will receive an award and have the opportunity to see their work published in a high quality, full-color book.

Participants must be over 12 years of age, residents of the U.S., Canada or Mexico.  Entries may be submitted in many different categories that include fiction writing, poetry, song lyrics, cartoons, painting, sculptures, embroidery, weaving and other mediums.     For details on contest submission go to http://www.woodbinehouse.com/DScreativecontest.asp.    The deadline for entries is Dec. 31, 2011.

If you are a parent, teacher or an interested teen/adult with DS, please pass along the contest formation.

I became familiar with Woodbine House after reviewing a special series of books titled Off We Go!  last April.   I discovered that Woodbine House is a leading publisher of books for children with special needs.  Many of their employees have a personal connection to someone with special needs — a winning combination for all involved.  You can view their books for children, parents, teachers and professionals at: www.woodbinehouse.com.

Just Because by Rebecca Elliott

Just Because

Rebecca Elliott, author and illustrator

Lion UK,  April 2011, Fiction

Suitable for:  Children 3 to 8 years

Theme:  Disability, Acceptance, Sibling Friendship

Synopsis:  “My big sister Clemmie is my best friend.  She can’t walk, talk, move around much, cook macaroni, pilot a plane, juggle or do algebra.  I don’t know why she doesn’t do these things.  Just because.”  Toby’s sister Clemmie is his best friend.  She can’t walk, talk, move around very much or cook macaroni.  Toby recognizes the differences, but doesn’t really understand why.  Just because.   Clemmie makes noises, wears silly hats,  makes funny faces and makes Toby laugh.  Just because.  Clemmie in turn doesn’t mind Toby making loud noises, chasing the cat, or eating crayons.   Just because.  And, when there is a thunderstorm, Toby gets scared but Clemmie keeps him calm.  Just because that’s how things are between them.  There is a lovely simplicity about this story.

Why I like this book:  It is a heartwarming story about the strong bond between siblings.  I find her book refreshing because it doesn’t mention the word disability.  The main theme is about the unconditional love and acceptance of a brother and sister.  Elliott’s illustrations are colorful, bold and magical.   It is a book that families who have a child with a disability will find endearing and helpful.  Use this book to encourage sibling friendship.

Activity:  It’s a tough balancing act for parents who have a child with a special need.  It is important to include the children in joint activities.  But it is important that each child in the family receives special time with the parents.  Acknowledge the feelings of both the child with a special needs and the siblings.  Have the siblings draw pictures about how they feel.  Involve the sibling in the care of a disabled child.   Seek out support groups related to your child’s disability.  For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Rules — Autism Awareness Month

 In wrapping up Worldwide Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to end my children’s book reviews with Rules, by Cynthia Lord.   This is a chapter book for children in grades 4-7, published by Scholastic Press.  The author won the Newberry Honor and the Schneider Family Book Awards in 2009.   Lord, is the mother of two children, one of whom has autism.  She is also a former teacher and behavioral specialist.

The book cover says it all, “No toys in the fish tank!”   It is one of many rules, that 12-year-old, Catherine has made up to help her autistic brother, David, understand his  world.  There are others too:  Flush!   A boy can’t  take off his pants in public.  This is Catherine’s room.  David must knock!  It’s okay to hug Mom, but not the clerk at the video store.  Don’t chew your food with your mouth open.

Rules, is a very convincing story about the challenges for siblings living with a brother/sister with autism.  For Catherine, it’s about wanting to live a normal life, which is not possible when life revolves around David.  Catherine is an endearing character, struggling with her own identity and wanting to have friends.  She has all the normal feelings of resentment, anger, embarrassment, frustration and jealousy that siblings share.   A diagnosis of autism is very hard on siblings.

Yet for  Catherine, it becomes a fine balancing act.   She loves and fiercely protects her brother, but she also has wants and dreams for herself.    A lot for a 12-year-old girl to handle, as she is attempting to come into her own.  The  rules begin to blur for Catherine as she becomes involved in other friendships.  You begin to wonder who she has really written the rules for — David or herself.   In the end, what is important to Catherine is that everyone is different in their own way.  And, that is okay.

This book is an inspirational read for siblings and their parents, and an exceptional  discussion book for  teachers and students.

Transition into Adulthood – Autism Awareness Month

As many youth within the autism spectrum transition into adulthood, the next decade will be an especially important time.  I want to share one of my favorite young adult fiction novels, where the protagonist is faced with that very challenge.  

Marcelo in the Real World, a brilliant and authentic novel written by Francisco X. Stork, allows the reader to experience the life of a high-functioning  17-year-old boy, who has a unique form of autism commonly known as Asperger’s Syndrome.  Stork has created an endearing  character in Marcelo Sandoval, who is raw and honest in the way he perceives the world.  The book is written in first person, although he highlights Marcel’s flat inflection of voice, his  use of third person in conversations,  and his obsessive interests.  He gives us a glimpse into his mind. 

Marcelo has led a fairly protective life attending private schools for kids with disabilities.  He is looking forward to a summer job as a stable man at the school, caring for the ponies.  As Marcelo ends his junior year, his father, Arturo, feels differently.   He wants Marcelo to experience the real world, and spend the summer working at his law firm interacting daily with workers.  Arturo strikes a bargain with Marcelo.   If he follows the rules of the real world and succeeds, he will be able to decide whether to return to his private school for his senior year, or attend a public high school.  

Marcelo works in the mailroom where he is supervised by Jasmine, a striking co-worker, who confronts Marcelo about his “cognitive disorder.”   Marcelo explains that the term implies that “there is something wrong with the way I think or with the way I perceive reality. ”  “I perceive reality just fine.  Sometimes I perceive more of reality than others.”  Jasmine is very accepting of Marcelo, and finds ways to use his strengths.    

Marcelo also will have to deal with Wendell, the conniving son of Arturo’s partner, Stephen Holmes.   Through his daily interactions with people at the firm,  it’s sink or swim for Marcelo as he learns to navigate  the real world.  Marcelo learns about  competition, anger, abuse of power, betrayal, envy, desire and compassion.  Marcelo is challenged to make very difficult decisions when he’s confronted with a situation of  injustice  in the law firm.  Will Marcelo be able to stand up to his father and Stephen, expose the truth and do what is right?   

Stork really took the time to create an engaging and educational experience for those wanting to journey into  Marcelo’s world.  An excellent book for teenagers and young adults.  It received the Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2009, the School Library Journal Best Book for 2009, and the New York Times Children’s Book of 2009.

For more information on helping your teenager make the transition to adulthood, contact Austism Speaks  for their helpful  “Transition Tool Kit.”  Over one-half million children will make this transition, and they will want to have homes,  jobs and friends.   This is a societal issue.

A Friend Like Henry — Austism Awareness Month

When I began reviewing books in honor of Autism Awareness Month, I never imagined how much I would grow in my understanding of the complexities of the autism spectrum, and the level of respect I have for those with autism and their families.   One of the things I have discovered is that no children are alike and their methods of learning may vary.  I found that in this wonderful story A Friend Like Henry, by Nuala Gardner.   An international bestseller by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Nuala  bravely invites us into her world sharing with great authenticity the pain, agony and despair  a  family with a severely autistic child copes with daily.   A nurse, Nuala recognized very early that her son Dale’s infant behavior didn’t seem right.  He was simply “the perfect baby.”    He was passive and rarely cried and slept through the night without a peep.  Everyone commented how good he was.  When she shared her concerns with her physician, she was dismissed.   As the months passed Nuala, began to see that Dale was addicted to motion.  When he was with other babies, he was unresponsive.  He learned to crawl quickly and when he discovered his legs he ran on his tiptoes.   One day at a play group, he sat next to a little girl, studied her and then wacked her in the face with a toy.   By the time he was two and three, severe tantrums began when something wasn’t on Dale’s terms.   And, his sleeping patterns changed — he would only sleep two hours at night.  Dale didn’t speak for a long time.  Nuala and her husband, Jamie, were exhausted.   Finally a friend recognized his behavior and recommended a doctor and he was diagnosed with severe autism.

After years of working with Dale, a small breakthrough occurred.   At a family outing, Dale met two dogs and began playing and laughing.   The Gardners had never seen their son so happy.  They took Dale to visit a litter of Golden Retriever puppies, and one dog in particular chose Dale.   The bond between Dale and his new puppy, Henry, literally changed his world.   Within three weeks of having Henry, teachers were reporting significant changes in Dale.   Through his unconditional love, Henry helped unlock Dale’s world and him how to feel, communicate and care for himself.   Henry helped Dale navigate in the world.

Although this book was written from his mother’s perspective, we gain some insight into Dale’s life through his recollections at the end.   There are a number of videos on the web about Dale and Henry.  Just click on:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJSu3G0U5SY