Saturday, November 21, 2009

A New Book By an Autistic Kid's Mother

Yediot Aharonot's "7 Days" section has an interesting interview this weekend with Galit Distel Etebaryan, who wrote a novel based on her experiences as the mother of an autistic kid. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it on-line in either Hebrew or English, but here's a review of her book from Ha'aretz in Hebrew and in English.

In the interview, Etebaryan calls her son "formerly autistic", although he still has some problems. I'd say this is misleading. He's still autistic, but very high functioning.

It's interesting that the European psychiatrist who told her that her son is autistic blamed her for his condition. Apparently not everybody has parted with the notion of refrigerator mothers. I'd like to hope that had her son been diagnosed in Israel, that wouldn't have happened (she was in Europe - Greece in the novel, I don't know if it was Greece in real life, too - because her husband was working there at the time).

She also says honestly that she isn't glad she has a child with special needs. She says that hearing other parents saying their special kids made them better people makes her laugh. I can understand her feelings. Most people would rather have normal children, though I do think having children with special needs makes their parents (and other relatives) more sensitive and more understanding.

One last observation: the book review says the child in the novel never spoke a word before he was diagnosed, while Etebaryan says in her interview that her son spoke fluently until he started regressing at the age of two, although she also describes him as rejecting her and avoiding physical contact as a little baby, which would suggest he was autistic from the beginning. I find this interesting, because I always wondered if kids really did regress, or maybe the parents were in denial. Anyway, it's perfectly possible that there are different forms of autism, some with regression, some without.

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