With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1
1 journaler for this copy...
I was thoroughly impressed - and delighted - with this book, which depicts many of the problems of raising an autistic child, not pulling punches or candy-coating it in any way, but leaving room for hope. It opens with Sachiko, a young wife and mother, discovering that her infant son Hikaru has autism, something she'd never really heard of before. She encounters (apparent) disinterest from her husband and outright animosity from her mother-in-law, who not only refuses to believe in the diagnosis but considers any problems with young Hikaru to be her fault. We see her attempts to find ways to help her son - and to help herself; imagine the confusion and heartbreak of a parent who cannot hold a crying child to comfort it, because the child hates to be touched... (That alone strikes me as one of the most difficult aspects of the situation.)
There are many lovely moments in among the difficult ones; when young Hikaru first hands his mother a flower and she realizes he is aware of her, may even care for her, just not the way she'd imagined. After a heart-wrenching disruption in her marriage, her husband achieves an epiphany of his own regarding his family's greater need for his presence than his paycheck. Hikaru's first word - well, I actually teared up.
There's a lot to make one angry, too - the prejudice of those who, even after learning about autism, won't make any attempt to adjust their behavior to ease the way for Hikaru; the less-adept of the educators and day-care staff - though there are also some really marvelous individuals who are able to make huge improvements in the lives of their young charges; there's even some active nastiness by a woman who fears for her own child who's in the same day-care with Hikaru (but who turns out to have dark reasons for her extreme views). Some of these people come around eventually - others, not so much. And the book does show just how scary and exhausting it can be dealing with the more severely autistic kids - but it also shows the value of consistency and education (of the kids and of their families and caretakers).
Time passes, Hikaru grows and learns - slowly, yes, and with setbacks, but it seems that he is improving. But his mother has to do a LOT of work to find suitable day-care and, later, schools for him; one of the points of the book is the lack of decent schooling for autistic kids, even as it demonstrates how good educators can improve the kids' lives and bad ones can reduce their ability to function. Hikaru's mother does an immense amount of work herself, setting up charts and schedules for him, figuring out ways in which he can communicate better, amuse himself safely, get things done...
Despite her best efforts, there are times when Hikaru gets away - and into trouble, from wandering into traffic to - well, there's an especially frightening incident fairly late in the book, which luckily turns out OK, but I was on the edge of my seat for a while there!
Near the end of the book, Hikaru gets a little sister - during a typhoon! - and the chapter ends on a simply lovely note.
The book includes sidebars with tips on making the home safe for kids (whether with developmental problems or not), suggestions on how to interact with someone with autism, what to do if they panic, and other helpful items. There are also a couple of accounts of real-life autistic children at the end of the book, and translation notes for some of the panels. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and strongly recommend it!
[There's a TV Tropes page for the series.]
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
April is World Autism Month, so I wanted to release some books about autism. Left this one in the Little Free Library outside the Revive Recovery Center, while checking up on the conditions of some of the town LFLs. Hope someone enjoys the book!
[See other recent releases in NH here.]