Savarese, a writer and professor at Grinnell College, writes a moving account of his family’s adoption of DJ, an abused, autistic youngster. Throughout, he describes the process of helping DJ communicate with the world and discusses larger issues of the rights of people with neurological differences. Savarese’s wife, an autism professional, first encountered DJ when he was only two and a half; by the time they could adopt him, three years later, he’d lived in several homes and been badly abused in foster care. Because he didn’t speak, people were unaware of what he’d suffered; some doubted he even could suffer, believing the myth that the autistic have no sense of self or others. As the Savareses worked with their son, teaching him to sign and to use “facilitated communication” with a keyboard, they learned more about his very deep thoughts and feelings. As they fought to include him in mainstream classrooms, they also struggled with his emerging demons: his memories of abuse, his pain from parental abandonment. Savarese writes with passion and humor, careful to include extensive excerpts from DJ’s typing, so readers get a sense of his remarkable growth.
May 23rd, 2007