The Too Precious Child was written by Dr. Lynne Williams, Dr. Henry Berman, and Louisa Rose. It has been a mainstay in my tool kit for helping parents with a variety of issues. I consider it to be one of the most important books busy parents in our culture can read, particularly if they are striving for strong parenting skills. If you answer yes to any of these questions, this book is for you.
- As a parent, have you vowed never to let your child lack for anything?
- Did you have your first child at or beyond the age of thirty?
- Were there obstacles to conceiving your child?
- Was your child adopted or premature?
- Does it bother you when your child is bored, messy, or less than an A student?
- Are you a single parent?
- Is your child artistically, athletically, or intellectually gifted?
- Do you always put your children’s needs first? Before your mate’s? Before your own?
It looks like this book is only available through second hand retailers, but is worth the search.
Dreamsong of the Eagle was written by the late Ted Andrews and illustrated by Deborah Hayner. I had the great fortune of hearing this book recited by the author at a local gathering. I was tremendously excited when he took the stage and then was even more enthralled when I realized that he was going to tell this story.
It was written in the form of a fairy tale about two children in a small village who are challenged in various ways. Each turned to the woods as a place of safety. The animals made them feel accepted and whole.
One day they found an injured eagle and their lives changed forever. The eagle said, “From this day forth your home will be among the woods and streams. Your family will be the creatures that abound within the world. Never more will you be outcast.”
This is a story of inclusion, acceptance, and love and a much needed lesson for our world today.
While traveling through Arizona many years ago I read Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism by Dawn Prince-Hughes, Ph.D. As the secondary title indicates, this is a first-hand account of autism. The author offers a vivid and insightful account of autism.
She was diagnosed rather late in her life, after a childhood punctuated by misunderstanding and isolation. Fortunately, she was able to learn about human socialization and relationships through her keen observation of gorilla communities. She writes, “This is a book about autism. Specifically, it is about my autism, which is both like and unlike other people’s autism. But just as much, it is a story about how I emerged from the darkness of it into the beauty of it. It is about how I moved full circle from being a wild thing out of context as a child, to being a wild thing in context with a family of gorillas, who taught me how to be civilized. They taught me the beauty of being wild and gentle together and as one.”
While there are many excellent texts about Asperger’s Syndrome and autism, this was the first book I read that described it from the inside. Dr. Prince-Hughes is eloquent in her poetry and prose. She describes confusion, rage, fear, and joyful discovery in a way that touches the reader’s heart and heightens understanding. Instead of lists of characteristics or clinical observations, this book placed the experience into context. My understanding has certainly been expanded by this book. I am hopeful that it will change my acceptance of the more “annoying” behaviors often associated with autism. It is harder to remain annoyed when I remember that the strong need for repetition exhibited by persons with autism can be the result of anxiety or panic. Dr. Prince-Hughes had this to say, “Most autistic people need order and ritual and will find ways to make order where they feel chaos. So much stimulation streams in, rushing into one’s body without ever being processed: the filters that other people have simply aren’t there. Swimming through the din of the fractured and the unexpected, one feels as if one were drowning in an ocean without predictability, without markers, without a shore. It is like being blinded
There are also examples of wonderful and intricate coping mechanisms. She used a formula to get along with people in the workplace. This included talking about her skills a third of the time, talking with colleagues about how their interests mergered for a third of the time, and talking about current events and “softened” opinions about them a third of the time. This had to be approached consciously. She also counted seconds to know how long to look into another person’s eyes and when to look away. Each of these required deliberate practice and application.
This book is a great source of information, but is also an incredibly engaging autobiography. Dr. Prince-Hughes has a wonderful command of language. Consider this self description, “I am an individual. I am different, for reasons germane to the phenomenon of autism and reasons mundane. All that is in between and at both ends have made my life. Within these pages, an archaeology cleared of dust and fear, I talk about this life. It is the archaeology of a culture of one.”
When I first published this article several years ago the title was I’ve Been Such A Good Girl – I think I’d like to poison myself today. That title sounds very provocative doesn’t it? But that is exactly what I was doing almost every day. I would reward myself for good behavior with substances that poison my body and strengthen the cravings for that poison. If I was good I would reward myself with ice cream. Although I learned to eat smaller portions, it was still essentially a poison in my body. If I had been really good I would reward myself with a slice of carrot cake from my favorite gluten free bakery. OK, it was gluten free, but it still had so many calories that it was bad for by body and my health. In addition, once I would eat it I was out of control for the rest of the day.
While I no longer look forward to opportunities to hurt my body, I have slipped back into the habit of thinking of unhealthy foods as rewards or eating larger portions than my body can handle. There are so many “diets” out there that build in opportunities for unhealthy indulgences. While that may help to overcome the feelings of deprivation that derail so many eating plans, it still doesn’t address the obsession with certain foods and messed up priorities. (Such as ice cream being more important than health.)
Its not like I’ve ever been really hungry and am reacting to that memory of hunger with overindulgence. I’m not hoarding food because I am preparing for a day of famine. Someday I hope to wake up from the nightmare of food addiction. It would be so cool to just eat when I’m hungry, eat the food my body needs, and stop looking forward to opportunities for unhealthy food.
I did pretty well for the last several years until a period of very high physical and emotional stress knocked me out of balance and I found myself again craving foods that I know are not in my best interest. I haven’t started eating foods that I am allergic to, but those unhealthy foods that I am not officially allergic to have crept back into my pantry and my body. I fell prey to the “anything in moderation” wisdom that is so prevalent.
The truth – at least my truth – is that I can’t handle eating some foods. They change how I feel, how I think, and how my body functions. If you share this experience I’d love to hear from you.