Monday, June 06, 2005

Books Bought and Read, April and May

Books Bought:
George and Sam: Autism in the Family- Charlotte Moore
Millenials Rising: The Next Great Generation - Neil Howe, et al.
13th Gen: Abort, Rety, Ignore, Fail? - Neil Howe, et al
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon
Carter Beats the Devil - Glen David Gold
Right From the Start: Behavioral Intervention for Young Children With Autism: A Guide for Parents and Professionals - Sandra L. Harris and Mary Jane Weiss
Raising a Child With Autism: A Guide to Applied Behavior Analysis for Parents - Shira Richman
Fever Pitch - Nick Hornby
Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination - Helen Fielding

Books Read:
The Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornby
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon
Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism and Related Disorders - Maria Wheeler
Carter Beats the Devil - Glen David Gold
Right from the Start: Behavioral Intervention for Young Children With Autism : A Guide for Parents and Professionals - Sandra L. Harris and Mary Jane Weiss
Raising a Child with Autism: A Guide to Applied Behavior Analysis for Parents - Shira Richman (unfinished)
Fever Pitch - Nick Hornby (in progress)

I think I have a new favorite book. It's easy to see why The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was awarded the Pulitzer; it is an extraordinary novel, with characters so real that though I finished the books weeks ago I often find myself wondering what they're doing now. It is a book about escape and the many ways that people attempt - with varied success - escape from poverty, from oppression, from reality, from themselves. And it is about the superheroes that exist within us all, suggesting that though most of us lead simple unassuming lives, there are extraordinary powers lurking just below the surface.

Because I read them back-to-back, Carter Beats the Devil never had a fair chance. It was a good book, but was recommended to me twice - once by someone who knew I'd liked Katherine Neville's The Eight and again by someone who knew I liked Kavalier and Clay - so my expectations were probably unreasonable. That being said, I enjoyed the book a great deal. Like both Kavalier and Clay and The Eight, some of the characters - including Carter The Great himself - were real-life people (others include Warren G. Harding, Groucho Marx, and Philo T. Farnsworth), though the book is a novel about Carter's life as a magician. The blend of reality and fiction in Carter Beats the Devil is like magic itself; it was difficult to know what was fact, what was based on fact, and what was complete illusion. Very early on I decided to read the book as though it were a magic show, suspend my disbelief, and prepare to be mystefied. And despite some visible wires and a couple of tricks that fell flat, it was a very good show.

The toilet training book was a utilitarian read, as Bud has been struggling in that area. Training has been two-steps-forward-one-step-back when it's going well, and one-step-forward-two-steps-back when it's not. The book had some good ideas, and was a good reality-check. There is no quick fix here; this is a long-range project.

I got the two ABA books because I had heard enough about ABA to think that it might be a good option for Bud. Unfortunately, I read the Harris and Weiss book first and it turned me off completely. It is a short book with a simple message: ABA is the only effective intervention for autism, and must be implemented in the preschool years for 30-40 hours per week with a one-to-one teacher to child ratio. The end. I admit that I am inherently skeptical of absolutes, and of anyone who purports to have found The One Right Answer and tries to spread The Truth. (I don't even practice a religion that promotes a single Truth; I'm certainly not looking for that in my pursuit of autism treatment.) The authors' approach is far too prescriptive for me. I also take issue with the underlying assumption that by pursuing options other than ABA parents are failing their children. Chapter One has a section with the subheading "Who Needs Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention Services?" which reads, "Every young child who is diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (sometimes called atypical autism) should receive early and intensive behavioral intervention services... As discussed in the next chapter, the research documenting the benefits of these treatments is substantial, and the risks of failing to intervene before school age are very serious."

I tried to look past the dogma, but I'm afraid the damage was already done and I found it difficult to acknowledge the small-t truths in what they had to say. I had lost all interest by the time I started Shira Richman's book, and though she is much more balanced in her approach and offers some good approaches that can be adapted for individual children, I just couldn't stay with it. I'll go back to it once I've had a chance to mellow out about it.

In the meantime, I'm reading Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch. I enjoyed The Polysyllabic Spree so much that it resparked my enthusiasm for Hornby. Fever Pitch is one of the two of his books that I hadn't read previously (the other, currently residing on my bookshelf, is Songbook). I enjoyed the Colin Firth movie based on the book, but never felt drawn to a book about football. I was robbing myself. Yes, it's a book about football, but mostly it's a book about football as the content, context and metaphor for Hornby's life. Anyone who has had... unusual connections (I'm going to resist saying obsessions, because that's just too pathological)... to someone or something in popular culture (for me, it's Paul McCartney) will see themselves in this book and will find in it's author someone who gets it in a way that most of the people we encouter in everyday life never will.

Coinicidentally, Nick Hornby's latest novel, A Long Way Down, will be released in the U.S. tomorrow, and will soon be in the stack of books on my bedside table.


Zia said...

hello. I read that someone recommended you Katherine Neville. So did you read it and did you like it?? I am just curious bcoz that's my all time favourite book too and not many bloggers actually list it as theirs.
Curious Zia
mother of 3 children. older son 4 is is low-functioning infantile autist

MOM-NOS said...

I loved The Eight! It was the sort of book that totally consumed me while I was reading it. I have recommended it to people since who just couldn't get into it. There's just no predicting that sort of thing, I guess!

kristina said...

I'm a big Nick Hornby Fan--read all the books but High Fidelity and The Long Way Down--and also believe in ABA. Behavior analysis has been very successful in teaching my son, for his particular needs, though other books besides Harris' are preferred by me. Best wishes, kc