Loving And Living Well With Autism

I was talking to a friend of mine recently, he is a musician, film maker, and technology luminary. He was telling me about his new movie that is going into production in a couple of months. A sci-fi film about how technology has created what he refers to as an autistic planet. The studio did not like his original title, and for now are running with the working title of Mind Blind. This actually is quite a good way of viewing the subject of autism.

Autism can take many different forms, In fact my next door neighbors have an autistic son, he is in his late 20’s, a quiet young man, who likes to potter around in the garden helping his mother.

Kathy Almeida and Gayle Nobel are close friends, though geographically apart, one lives in Florida, and the other in Arizona. Their connection is that both have autistic sons in their early 20’s. They met many years ago when they both attended a learning program teaching how to make adjustments to better help autistic children.

They kept in touch over the years by Saturday morning phone calls. An opportunity to talk and explore how their respective sons were doing. A long distance self help group, a support system if you will.

It’s All About Attitude is the fruit of this long time friendship. Let’s start with what this book is not. It absolutely is not a self help book. This is a book of stories, and lessons learned. Told in a series of often two and three page vignettes we get an intimate glance into their worlds.

I found this book to be one that I just had to sit down and read cover to cover. It really is two stories for the price of one, yes much of it concerns Autism but there is another thread running and that is the clear friendship that these two ladies have.

Kathy and Gayle cover a lot of ground in 150 pages. Some of it was new to me even though I have read a couple of books about autism. They both talk about the importance of diet, and how by changing eating habits they were able to reduce the frequency of seizures, and even moods. This certainly was new to me, their stories are anecdotal, but most thought provoking.

Another episode that caught my eye was a short piece penned by Gayle titled Virtual Autism. She attended a workshop where she was effectively thrown into how it feels to be autistic. Loud noises, bright lights, repetitious questions, to quote:

Though fully aware I was pretending, I still felt overloaded, overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and a bit frustrated.

I said It’s All About Attitude is not a guide book, however I do believe that it would be beneficial reading for any parent facing this challenge. Actually, even if you are not dealing with the problem, you should still read it. It might give you pause for thought the next time you are in the grocery store, or your favorite restaurant and something strange happens.

Clearly both families have made huge changes and sacrifices to accommodate the needs of their sons, sometimes at the expense of their other children. That theme is like a zephyr that runs through several stories. It is a very valid question though, and a disturbing one for any parent. Who wins? The short answer is no-one. It is an impasse no matter how you look at it.

You can order your copy of It’s All About Attitude from Amazon. There is also a companion web site.

Simon Barrett

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