Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Making Peace with Life

I'm about three quarters of the way through Susan Senator's book, Making Peace with Autism. I knew very little about autism before reading the book and only really read it because I work with Susan's husband Ned and have met the family on a couple of occasions, regardless I'm finding it a fascinating read. There are two things that have hooked me on the book, learning about autism with it's similarities to my own mental make up and the fact that tangentially it's a story about the everyday life of people just like me.

The more I read about autism the more I see parallels between my approach to the world and how Susan describes their autistic son Nat's. This is not to say I think I'm autistic, only that there's a very thin line between one state and the other. Take for example the following: I'm a loner. In loud or crowded social situations I often get anxious and zone out. I see patterns in odd places. I'm very much a creature of habit. In general I don't like change but preparing for it always makes it better. From reading the book I've found out all that all of these attributes could be ascribed to an autistic person (or at least Nat). I know these attributes could also be ascribed to a classically nerdy programmer type, but that's really why I find it so fascinating. Cognition is really a mysterious, fragile and wonderful thing.

The second reason I mentioned liking the book, and this is really the primary reason for me, are the insights into the Batchelder family. It feels pretty voyeuristic at times, peering behind the facade of a modern family like theirs, but that's also what makes it so compelling. If you take away the family specifics, you could just as well be reading about my wife and me instead of Susan and Ned. It's a very personal and honest portrayal that I give them all kudos for having the courage to publish. None of us have the perfect easy lives we try to present to the outside world so it's very refreshing and life affirming to see other people, especially people you know, live through pain, fear, and doubt and yet come to find some level of peace and happiness.

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