4 out of 4 stars
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My Box of Chocolates: How My Child with Autism Learned to Read, Write and More, by Goretti E. Rerri, talks about the struggles of her daughter with autism who needs to learn to read and communicate with the world around her. We also get to see the author's perspective on what it is like to raise a child with autism.
The book starts with the diagnosis of Teresa with autism at the age of four. The mother, who is also the narrator, tells us how shocking the news was for her. This was especially true because of the prevalent notions of autism wherein children are simply rocking continuously with no indication of being otherwise active. However, she realises that autism is a spectrum and accepts the diagnosis. She begins to do what she can to help her daughter learn as best as she can. The book covers a rather long time period, from the point of diagnosis at age 4 to Teresa’s graduation from high school at the age of 21. We see her grow from a confused child who cannot talk or function in a modern society to a confident adult who is able to cope with her disability. The focus is on her life in school where the teachers teach her in an inclusive classroom for some facets and separately in others. The book is episodic, with each chapter telling us a story about a particular challenge that is overcome by Teresa. Some of the chapters talk about her progress in areas like mathematics, while others deal with her struggle with behavioural issues. There are also sections that discuss approaches to deal with autism like medication and positive reinforcement. The author also does not shy away from the sadder aspects such as the bullying of children with autism. Over the years, she also gets a master’s degree in education, specialising in special education. She talks about how her life has changed because of her decisions and how happy she is with her life now.
My favourite aspect of the book was how much I learnt about the lives of people with autism. So many things that we take for granted like dressing, bathing, counting and shopping for groceries are in fact complicated social interactions that we perform without thinking. However, these are not trivial to teach, especially to someone with autism who processes information differently. In that sense, this book was especially eye-opening, both in terms of how hard it must be to navigate the modern world with conditions like autism as well as to how complex many supposedly simple activities are.
Another remarkable thing about the book is how engaging it is. We see the world through the eyes of both Teresa as well as Goretti Rerri. We are able to feel their struggles and celebrate their victories. This is partly because of the accessible writing style and language, but also because of the fact that the narration is broken up into many small chapters. Reading this book was thus extremely easy and pleasurable. The willingness of the author to talk about the difficult moments like bullying also makes the book that much more engaging. We are truly able to relate to the characters in the narrative.
There was only one minor issue that I had with this book. I found that many of the sentences were very long, with many commas. This made some sentences unwieldy and hard to follow. Although the sentences remained grammatically correct, this made the book harder to read. These sentences were particularly jarring at key moments in the story. With a little editing of these sentences, the writing can be improved. However, this was quite a minor point and so did not greatly impact my opinion of the book.
This book is for two categories of people. The first category consists of people who regularly interact with people with autism. For them, this book would be invaluable in deepening their relationships with them. Apart from that, this book can also be read and enjoyed by people who like to read about the lives of other people and read in order to learn. Such people would also be able to appreciate this book. Since I enjoyed the book a lot and since it does not have any significant issues, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
My Box of Chocolates
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