The Bottom Line
By Anne Clinard Barnhill; 223 pages. Subtitle: Autism, My Sister, and Me.
The author tells of her years growing up with her younger sister, who was diagnosed back in the '60s with "emotional disturbance" and sent to a couple of daunting institutions for treatment and training, but in recent years was given the diagnosis of autism. It's an interesting account of how such problems were dealt with in earlier years, her parents' desperate attempts to help, and her own experience as the "normal one" in the family.
- Nicely written memoir of growing up with an autistic sibling
- Interesting depiction of the way "emotional disturbances" were handled in the '60s
- Reflects on the ways a child's overwhelming special needs can affect siblings
- The behaviors mentioned will be familiar to parents of children with autism
- The parents and the hard choices they made are treated sympathetically
- Though sympathetic to the parents, it's not the parents' story
- Autism is in the title, but the diagnosis is sort of an afterthought in the book
- Institutionalizing a child was a parent's best hope then, but may make you sad reading about it now
- Unlike some memoirs, you may not find much application to your own life in this period piece
- Introduction - Page 9
Chapter One - Page 17
- Chapter Two - Page 23
Chapter Three - Page 39
- Chapter Four - Page 45
Chapter Five - Page 67
- Chapter Six - Page 78
Chapter Seven - Page 90
- Chapter Eight - Page 98
Chapter Nine - Page 107
- Chapter Ten - Page 123
Chapter Eleven - Page 130
- Chapter Twelve - Page 136
Chapter Thirteen - Page 148
- Chapter Fourteen - Page 153
Chapter Fifteen - Page 165
- Chapter Sixteen - Page 174
Chapter Seventeen - Page 188
- Chapter Eighteen - Page 203
Afterword - Page 218
Guide Review - Book Review: At Home in the Land of Oz
There are all sorts of reasons to read a memoir of a family's struggle with special needs. Sometimes you can pick up tips and insights from a parent who has gone through the same experience. Sometimes just knowing that someone has shared that experience at all is comforting. Sometimes you can learn what not to do from another's struggles. And sometimes, those books are just a good read when you need something more substantive than a novel but just as entertaining.
At Home in the Land of Oz falls into the latter category. You may relate to the bizarre behaviors of young Becky -- she reminded me a lot of my son in places -- and sympathize with her parents' heartbreaking efforts to help despite a lack of good choices. But things have (thankfully) changed in the diagnosis and treatment of children like Becky significantly enough that this is not the sort of memoir from which you pick up tips.
It's a sister's tale, filled with stories of her own growing-up experiences, and one that's enjoyable to read and frequently moving. If you're looking for some lighter reading amid all the parenting how-to tomes, this is a fine choice.