There is certainly no shortage of books about autism, and there is also a rapidly growing collection of titles about Asperger Syndrome. When a child receives a diagnosis in the Autism Spectrum, parents search for the key to unlock the puzzle of this mysterious and baffling condition, and it's hard to know where to start reading. Occasionally there is a special contribution such as Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome by Stephen Shore. As an individual who grew up with autism, Shore has an exceptional input to give.
Diagnosed with “atypical development with strong autistic tendencies” and nonverbal until four years old, Stephen Shore was once recommended for residential placement. Because his parents believed in him, they rejected that idea, which was fortunate for their family and the world. Stephen is now completing his doctoral degree at Boston University in special education. He has a focus on helping people on the autism spectrum to develop their capacities to the fullest extent possible-whatever that may be. By walking us through his life story with insight and simplicity, Stephen guides the reader to an awareness of the different way of being which he shares with people on the spectrum. His ability to articulate his experiences clearly and with humor make the book seem like a friendly visit with the author.
The author begins by describing a typical day in his life including his strong sensitivities that are the residue of his earlier autism. The sound of a bluejay which may be pleasant to most in the early morning feels like the beak is scraping his eardrum. Shaving feels like a power sander on his chin, so Stephen maintains a beard. He rides his bicycle almost everywhere he goes not just for exercise and relaxation, but also for stimulation and to avoid smelly public transportation-and to meet people with a similar interest. Then based upon his mother's recollections and supplemented by family photos throughout, the author reports on his early life as a quiet and gentle infant who shocked his family by rolling over at eight days. By ten months, he was walking and often turning in circles with a finger in his ear.
There is so much of value in Stephen's story, such as how he learned to develop friendships through common activities and the role that music has played in his life. By high school, there was more wonder than terror at school. Dating was an intriguing puzzle for the author, but by his college years, it was another dilemma he was able to solve. In the book we are treated to a brief contribution by his wife, Yi Liu, whom the author met as a fellow graduate student in music. The world of work was no less perplexing, and again the author takes us into his confidence and reveals his struggles to find a niche that works for him.
As a way of concluding, the author summarizes with simplicity and clarity his understanding of the autism spectrum. This is done in way that makes the concepts intelligible to families regardless of the individual differences of their child. Perhaps more than anything, Stephen Shore brings us as readers to an acceptance and appreciation for people who are different. With the simplicity and directness of a child, the author shares his well earned knowledge and wisdom. Beyond the Wall is on my “short list” of books about autism; it deserves your attention.