When three-year-old Joey is diagnosed with autism, Kat’s heart sinks. With a single phone number and a few suggested therapies, she and her husband Derek are left to wade through the unknown abyss of ASD.
Derek assures Kat their son will grow out of it, but she has done enough research. That never happens. Still, Joey can improve, and Kat vows to make his life better any way she can.
Jumping feet first into the depths of therapies and developmental preschool, Kat gives it her all. Everything should get easier. But Derek still can’t handle Joey’s meltdowns, and now he only wants to spend time with her. What happens if his attitude doesn’t change?
As Kat’s world continues to crumble around her, she finds something in herself that she didn’t know was missing.
Karen Meyer’s Review: 5-Stars
Awesome book! Wow, I just finished this book and was hungry for more. I was kind of surprised at the ending, but it is a book that holds the reader spellbound from the first page to the last.
I have never been around a child with autism and know God didn’t give me one for a reason.
The stress of everyday living is so real, you can tell it is written from experience. I could feel for both husband and wife for everything they were going through. It is a must-read for parents with an autistic child.
Thank you for sharing this book with us, and I will be surprised if it doesn’t sell thousands and thousands of copies.
I will recommend this book on my Facebook page, and I will give it 5-stars just because that’s as high as it goes.
Corinne Morier’s Review 3-Stars
Eh. It was kind of okay. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. My rating hovers somewhere between 2.5 stars and 3.
This just wasn’t a very gripping story. I never really cared about any of the characters or got invested in their situation. I guess that, as an autistic individual myself, the doctor suggesting that the parents try ABA or consult Autism Speaks for resources affected my initial enjoyment of the story.
“But Corinne, that was in Chapter One. If you sampled the book and saw that in Chapter One and knew that you weren’t going to like the story if it went down that path, why did you agree to review it nonetheless?”
BECAUSE I HAD FAITH DAMMIT. I thought that, over the course of the story, Kat would research these and realize these things for herself. That’s the kind of “autism story” I was hoping it would be.
For the uninitiated, ABA is short for Applied Behavioral Analysis. Imagine forcing an autistic child to make eye contact “your” way, when this is literally painful for us, rather than teaching them that because eye contact is important to show other people you respect them, you can “fake” eye contact by looking over the other person’s shoulder or watching their mouth move instead. Or taking a child’s favorite toy out of their hands and saying “You can’t have the toy back until you sit at the table with the other children,” even though the other children are being rowdy and the noise causes sensory distress for us.
Now, granted, these do not occur in the book, but one that does is that Joey loves lining up his toys — as many autistics do — and even though he isn’t hurting anyone by playing this way and he is more than likely engaging in the “pretend play” that is crucial to a child’s development, his mother still, on multiple occasions, tells him not to do this, physically stops him from lining things up, and views his different methods of playing as “wrong.” 🤦♀️ If Kat was to truly accept his diagnosis, she’d accept him for who he is and not try and force him to be “normal.”
And Autism Speaks is a literal hate group. Not only do they not have a single autistic person on their board of directors, but they actively silence the voices of autistic adults, treat autism as a “disease to be cured,” and put all their money toward eugenics (aka “curing” autism) rather than supporting autistic individuals who need extra services as adults. Luckily Autism Speaks remains no more than a passing mention by Joey’s pediatrician in Chapter One, but still… I’m not sure if doctors, in reality, are aware of how much autistic people look down on Autism Speaks, but I must still mention it here nonetheless. 🤷🏻♀️
For those interested in learning more, please feel free to visit the following resources:
#ABAisabuse hashtag on Twitter with real stories of autistic individuals talking about why ABA is wrong
Very informative blog post from a former ABA therapist discussing the harm “compliance training” does to a child
Very informative Ted Talk from Chloe Everett, a young woman with Sensory Processing Disorder, talking about ABA and why it’s wrong
Amythest Schaber, an autistic woman, speaks about Autism Speaks (Youtube)
So in this book, we follow Kat and her husband Derek as they struggle to accept their three-year-old son Joey’s autism diagnosis. Except… they never really accept it. Kat kind of does, but when compared to other similar stories I’ve read (see With the Light by Keiko Tobe or Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig) rather than come to a complete acceptance of her child’s diagnosis like Hikaru’s mother or Ginny’s foster parents, she just kinda… stops rejecting it. And Derek never does. In fact, Derek’s character arc is really incomplete in this book and considering that he gets a good chunk of chapters all to himself and we spend a good bit of time with him at his restaurant seeing him learn to be a better manager, he is just stuck permanently in “denial” the whole time, until the last chapter where we see him when it could be said that he’s regretting his actions (but he still hasn’t accepted his son’s diagnosis, if he did, he wouldn’t have done what he did in that chapter).
Up until the picnic and Joey’s hospitalization, I read this more out of an obligation to have it finished and the review written for the group. After Joey was hospitalized, I got slightly invested in where Derek went, but that never got resolved. Hence my designation as a “WTF ending.”
Kat and Derek’s relationship went from “happily married” to “fighting over nothing” way too many times for my liking, and it all just felt way too episodic to be enjoyable. Pointless drama, pointless drama, pointless drama… I got relationship whiplash from hanging out with them for 200 pages.
In summary, this book is just… meh. I feel like it just sort of takes advantage of autism as a plot device rather than providing any real representation for actual autism. I’d prefer to raise up voices of #ActuallyAutistic authors, like The Reason I Jump by Naomi Higashida or of authors who take the time and effort to ensure that they are being respectful of autistic people like With the Light.
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