I am not in the habit of contacting authors to praise their work. With that said, I felt I needed to specifically tell you that your ideas and your son’s words have had a tremendous impact on our family’s life. I love when I feel that I am present at the deconstruction and revolution of a concept that is long overdue for a renovation. I think low-functioning autism is such a concept and people like you and your son are major agents of change. Much of the time I was reading your book I kept thinking “Give me the details!!! HOW did you teach your son literacy skills and how did you help him with the motor skills necessary to type? I am guessing this omission was somewhat deliberate so you could maybe write another book or share these ideas elsewhere. So, my question is when or where might we see more of you and your wife’s methods?
Thank-you for your time.
I heard your interview this morning on NPR and was moved to tears. It isn’t easy do do that any more. These tears weren’t out of sadness but a strange sense of hope. His no-frills observations are hyper-poetic and his ideas have a genuine raw humanity that gets lost when most people communicate their beliefs. In all honesty I am looking forward to reading your book and do hope that DJ has a chance at publishing more of his own ideas. Please keep up the good work.
I just finished your book. It is an awesome work of love. You and your wife have liberated a wise soul in your son DJ. Thank you for not giving up on him and for bringing his story to the world. I will recommend your book to my friends and family and also to the autism group (ASCEND) that I belong to.
I too have a son with a form of autism – Aspergers. His name is RJ and he is 11 1/2 (or “almost 12″ as he likes to remind me). He will be starting 6th grade in the Fall. He just completed his first year of middle school in a mainstream class and is a straight A student too. We’ve been on this journey since he was in Kindergarten. He has shown me that the experts are not infallible. Kids like ours continue to prove them wrong. Books like yours show the benefit of inclusive education and the importance of giving every child a chance at a fulfilling life. I shutter to think that DJ might have remained locked outside the world of communication without your interventions and more importantly, your abiding love. Thank you for sharing your story with me.
I heard Edward Albee on an NPR last week. He suggested that art is only art if it changes the audience. The book, Reasonable People, profoundly changed me. I was so lucky to hear you three speak at the CARD conference. I could hear your voices and see your faces as I read each page. I found the mix of prose and poetry, academic and personal writing, thoughts from the head and words from the heart/gut, helping me accept these at times seemingly opposing threads in my own life.
I took my son to a museum on the UF campus half-way through reading Reasonable People. I was wary, but remembered your words, Emily. You asked me why we don’t see more people with Autism every where we go. I didn’t really hear you at the time, but have thought a lot about it. Have thought of my new friends I have met through CARD who seem to be becoming more and more “house bound”, afraid to offend others who might not understand their children. So, courage in hand, off David and I went to the museum.
We had a nasty run-in with a security guard — a brief fleeting exchange that left me filled with rage. I sat down with David and let him color, and found myself writing to defuse myself. What “came out” was a poem, a poem to the security guard. I folded up the original, stuffed it in the donation box, and left the museum feeling like I could come back to the museum and that I would not let this keep David from exploring the world with me..
A huge thank you to all three of you. The book Reasonable People has not only left me changed, but still changing, healing, loving.
I wept as I listened to your interview on NPR. I was so moved, I ordered a copy of your book! As I’ve been reading your book, I feel a “connection” to you and your wife and my initial thoughts were “these people get it!” I’ve been telling my educator and social work friends to read your book!
As a mother of a 15 year old adopted son with “mild” cerebral palsy and some Asperger traits/behavior, I can relate to your story. We adopted KJ when he was 9 years old. We knew he had CP and were told he was mildly retarded and socially and developmentally delayed, having lived in an orphanage for disabled children in South Korea since birth. We’ve had people tell us “they admire us”, “respect us”, “feel sorry for us” etc. We don’t ask for admiration or sympathy. We wish people would just take the time to get to know KJ! If they took the time, they would discover that he is a delightful, endearing, humorous, and sensitive young man! Having no experience or understanding of disabilities, we naively jumped in with both feet. These past 6+ years have been some of the most intense but rewarding and enjoyable years of our lives!
We/KJ have had a good public school experience for which we are thankful! Walking, writing, vision, communication and social “skills” are some of KJ’s challenges. We take one day at a time and rejoice in the small and big accomplishments! He has been a joy and delight! A wonderful gift to our family.
Thank you for sharing your story.
I just finished your book today and found it incredibly powerful on so many levels. Congratulations to you, Emily, and DJ for sharing your family story in a such a personal, thoughtful, way and for educating the reader about autism, trauma, and adoption.
I was struck by how deftly you wove the dialogue and personal stories with poetry and literature, while at the same time offering fantastic treatises on autism, trauma, and adoption. It was at once a book of deep content and deep emotions.
It was fascinating to follow your and Emily’s thinking and analysis of DJ’s words and thoughts, what they could possibly mean, and what might be logical next steps. As educators, you got right down to examining each word! Also, it was interesting that DJ’s cognitive growth, which was absolutely amazing, helped build a scaffold for him to process thoughts and ideas, and especially in 6th grade, to make choices, and begin to turn toward “unhurt.” I loved DJ’s chapter, hearing his thoughts, his essays, and his wonderful account of being in Rome with Grandy.
I have recommended the book to friends and colleagues–one who is the head of the office of principal preparation and development for the Chicago Public Schools, and I will continue to peddle it.
As a graduate of Boston College, I visited the website for the university magazine and discovered, with great delight, your lecture. Your lecture on your book, Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption, which you gave at Boston College last fall, was the most compelling comment on autism. I have a family friend who has an autistic child; he is now at the cusp of adolescence. An observer would see Ian, my friend’s son, as ‘low functioning’; he does not speak and he expresses his feelings by wringing his hands or covering his ears. And yet there is ‘something’ beneath Ian. It seems that Ian (and DJ) have feelings that are beyond our perceptions and thus challenge our own ‘gut feelings’. It is possible that Ian (and DJ) could perceive various ‘karmas’ that we ‘normal’ types brush aside. DJ’s ‘take’ on the death of your sister-in-law’s child blew me away. One of my favorite episodes of Ian’s life happened several years ago when he and his family visited my home for the first time. Ian’s father had planned to take us to the zoo, but he had forgotten his family entry pass and we did not have the cash to cover the zoo’s entry fees. So we all stopped at my home for snacks. Ian headed right to my bedroom and decided to lie on my bed! He also examined a stained glass ornament which featured a rainbow. What was his view of my place. Evidently, he felt quite ‘safe’ at my home. Was there good ‘karma’ in my house? I could not tell. But Ian made it clear; my place was OK.
I am now itching to read your book. Please continue your research on autism and to share DJ’s life with us.
I recently read your story, and it had a tremendous impact on me. I have a great deal of respect for you and your parents. The three of you are courageous people, and you inspire others to be stronger and braver. Thank you for making me want to be a better person.
I came across the beginning of a poem by Walt Whitman this weekend when I was looking for a birthday card for my mom. I was curious about the rest of the poem, so I looked it up on the Internet. When I read it, it made me think of you, and I figured I should share a piece of it with you. You may very well have already read it, but here it is anyway.
from Song of the Open Road:
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought, I did not know I held so much goodness.
I just want to tell you, that I find this sentence about your son’s linguistic style very moving:
“By emphasizing the beauty of such communication, we can all push back against the tendency to pathologize difference.”
The fact that your son does master typical semantics, syntax etc. but still expresses himself in other, and preferred, ways, goes a long way in disproving the ever present claim in scientific (autism-)literature that “different” equals suffering and should be seen as something to avoid, be it through psychological intervention, medicine, genetic knowledge or prenatal screening.
I’m looking much forward to reading your book.
Your son and mine (now age 13) have very similar histories. I have always believed that my boy was thinking and hearing; unfortunately, his communication (even non-verbal) is minimal. Still, I remain hopeful.
I have asked my son’s teachers and staff to read your book. I know that they are very busy, so I would like your permission to copy DJ’s chapter…it is short, so it is likely that it will be read and passed around…and hopefully will entice them to read the entire book.
May I have your permission to do so?
Thank you for writing your book. It is one of the few books on autism that I have found helpful.
Best of luck to DJ.
I read your wonderful book with great emotion and interest. I remember when you were in the process of adopting DJ when we met you in Vermont many years ago, and was amazed and excited to hear your voice on NPR this fall and realize it was you! I bought and read the book right away and found it extraordinarily moving and beautiful. DJ, you are a terrific writer and a very sensitive and intelligent person, and I hope to meet you some day.
I recently purchased your book where you talk about your experiences adopting D.J. While I have not been able to finish the book yet, I can already tell I would love to meet you and him, if it was ever possible. I, like him, have an autism spectrum disorder (Asperger’s in my case, so much higher functioning), and I, like him, have also experienced more then my fair share of abuse (though most of it was physical, not anywhere near what he had to endure, not even trying to say it was.) I am going into special education next year and I am trying to meet more people to help out so I can see if this is the right field for me, so when I stumbled onto your book, then stumbled onto the fact that you live so close by (I am in Cedar Rapids most of the time, attending your rivals in Coe College), I just had to email you. I hope you don’t mind that I did that, I also hope you don’t mind if there are a few errors in this message (you know how people on the autism spectrum have gifts, spelling and proper etiquette aren’t mine, sorry.) Well I hope this message reaches you and your family well and I hope you can get back to me soon.
Hi to whoever reads these things….
I found Dr. Savarese’s book enlightening, infuriating, inspiring, not to mention informative.
I’ve got a little guy named Samuel age 5.5 with dual diagnoses autism and Down Syndrome. I was really struck by the idea explained so well in Dr. Savarese’s book of autism as physical or motor-planning handicap. The concept really seems to ring true insofar as explaining the things Samuel can and can’t do. The concept gives me theoretical justification for why Samuel makes so much progress with “hand over hand” teaching and with peer support.
I recall mention in your book of some techniques for teaching reading to more or less nonverbal people like DJ and Samuel. Would you please be able to point me in the direction of more specific and more complete information about these? It could potentially free another prisoner.
Thank you very much for your attention to this matter, and to Dr. Savarese (and DJ) for writing Reasonable People.
I just heard you on the Diane Rehm show. As a foster (soon to be adoptive) parent, and the uncle of an autistic child, I was especially moved by DJ’s story. It seems to me that your family has shown exceptional strength and love, and helped DJ grow into a fine young man with lots to be proud of and the potential to do much more. Good for all of you!
I read the autobiography you wrote for fifth grade. I want you to know that in fifth grade, and even now, I want to fly too. Who knows – maybe one day we both will!
Good luck and, as I like to tell my kids when they do something especially good, “You rock!”