Media

BOOK REVIEWS

Memoirs

Raising Blaze by Debra Ginsberg

Episodes: My Life as I See It by Blaze Ginsberg

Raising Blaze is a very honest, raw look into a single mother raising a child who defies labels yet exceeds expectations while refusing to conform to any societal ideas of appropriate behavior. Reading it left me eager to read Blaze’s follow up, Episodes. Sadly, Episodes is simply a middle-schooler’s daily diary. And, not a very dynamic or dramatic one at that. It offers no particular insight into his behavior or thinking patterns. It has the depth and emotion of a TV guide.

Scattershot: My Bipolar Family, A Memoir by David Lovelace

Like the tornado that misses only one trailer in the park, bipolar hit everyone in David’s family except his sister. He writes about this with the mind of a scientist and the heart of a poet.

Life is So Good by George Dawson

A testament to the power of perseverance, George Dawson learned to read at age 98. This is his story as told to Richard Glaubman. Touching and remarkable.

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

A poet at heart, Lucy Grealy’s memoir of her cancer treatments as a child and her efforts to come to terms with the disfigurement it left her with is both poignant and beautifully written. The world truly lost an amazing talent when she died in 2002 from her depression.

My Lobotomy by Howard Dully

True story of a man who received a lobotomy in the 50s because of his “behaviors.” A disturbing, yet gripping story.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The editor of French Elle has a stroke and is left only being able to blink one eyelid, yet dictates a book to his nurse. Fascinating, captivating, and utterly impossible to imagine. Also an excellent, if tortuous movie.

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and Tweak by his son Nic

Father and son each wrote a book about the son’s drug addiction and the impact it had on their family. To read both back-to-back gives the most insight into drug addiction, its causes and effects.

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

First person account of living with autism.  Excellent.

The Center Can Not Hold by Elyn Sacks

First person account of triumphing over schizophrenia.  While her struggle is commendable, her book could use a better editor.

A Child Called It, The Lost Boy, and A Man Named Dave, all by Dave Pelzer

Excellent trilogy about overcoming an abusive childhood.

Burned Alive, A Victim of the Law of Men by Souad

A riveting true story of a woman disabled by the heinous actions of her family under the guise of an “honor crime.” Her courage and resilience are remarkable, inspirational, and seemingly near impossible.

Non-Fiction

Acquainted with the Night: A Parent’s Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children by Paul Raeburn

What could have been a father’s insightful journey to understand and help his mentally ill children is instead a guilt-ridden father’s diatribe against insurance companies.

I don’t want to be inside me anymore by Birger Sellin

If you ever thought of autism as the most isolating, depressing, lonely, frustrating, and incomprehensible disability ever, this book is proof of just that.

Understanding Teenage Depression by Maureen Empfiled, M.D.

For anyone new to the diagnosis of depression, this is a comprehensive overview that very calmly and thoroughly defines and explains all the necessary terms and lingo.

Saving Adam A True Story by L. Smith

While I believe Adam does truly have a story to tell, this is a quickly thrown together magazine article masquerading as a book that is lacking in anything remotely resembling substance.

The Short Bus A Journey Beyond Normal by Jonathan Mooney

A perfectly pleasant tale of a road trip in a short bus that entertains while making the reader contemplate what it means to be disabled in America.

The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simpson

These two stories hysterically document an asperger’s man’s quest for human connection in a world that values abstract feelings over his pure logic.

Atypical: Life With Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters by Jesse Saperstein

While occasionally humorous and insightful, for the most part the author spends 223 pages blaming his Asperger’s Syndrome for his truly obnoxious personality.

Trapped by Rosie Lewis

A 9 year old foster child’s autistic behaviors are really just her way of coping with unimaginable abuse at the hands of both her  wealthy, well-respected parents.

Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz and Overcoming Dyslexia for Dummies by Tracy Wood

These two as a set are extremely helpful tools in helping families find what they need to help their children become fluent, happy readers.

Wish I Could Be There: Notes From A Phobic Life by Allen Shawn

Behind a clever title lies an academic study of the history and nature of phobias completely void of humor or personality.

Cowboy & Wills: A Love Story by Monica Holloway

This three hanky true story of an autistic boy learning life lessons from a golden retriever puppy with cancer never dissolves into the schmaltzy mess that it easily could have. Written in no-nonsense prose with wit and humor thrown in for good measure, it’s a quick, enjoyable read that will make you go home and hug your child and your dog.

Knowing Jesse by Marianne Leone

An outspoken, caustic New York Jewish princess learns more from her disabled son than she could ever teach him, including the true meaning of unconditional love.

Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar

In Middle School, Ido Kedar was given the gift of communication by the Rapid Prompting Method and a letter board. Now he has written a book, and boy is he ever angry! Not an easy book to read, but a necessary one for anyone who works with non-verbal autistic people.

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

At times as tedious to read as it must have been to write the dictionary, but overall fascinating. The main contributor to the dictionary had undiagnosed, untreated schizophrenia. Would he have been able to achieve the same level of brilliance without his affliction?

All Dogs Have ADHD and All Cats Have Aspergers by Kathy Hoopman

Charming descriptions of the symptoms of each disorder using photos of animal behaviors.

Riding The Bus With My Sister by Rachel Simon

An endearing true story of acceptance with prose as simple as its message. A must read for all drivers of public transportation.

Ending the Homework Hassle by John Rosemond

Does not deal with disabilities, but has excellent advice if your child’s homework is overtaking your life.

The Soloist by Steve Lopez

New York columnist befriends a homeless, schizophrenic, yet talented musician. The voice is a bit detached, as it is written by a newspaper writer, but the story is true and honest and really gives insight into the struggle felt by people trying to help the mentally ill.

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg

Classic true tales of schizophrenia. As captivating now as they were when they were written.

Ghost Girl, The Tiger’s Child, and One Child, all by Torey Hayden

All true stories of a teacher and the abused children she reaches out to. Her books can be quite addictive once you get started. While depressing in nature you can’t help but feel grateful Torey was there for those children.

My Sister From The Black Lagoon by Laurie Fox

While not as funny as the title would suggest, a poignant point of view from the “non-disabled” child of the family.

Running With Scissors by Augustus Burroughs

A nauseating account of a dysfunctional family.

The Acorn People by Ron Jones

This wisp of a book offers a sliver of a glimpse into the daily lives of disabled children that will leave you tearful, hopeful, and wanting to spend more time with them.

Fiction

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Not only does the main character’s sister have Down Syndrome in this wonderfully creepy psychological thriller, she is the most multi-dimensional character and truly saves the day with her smarts and sense of humor.

Socially Awkward by Stephanie Haddad

While refreshingly unexpected to read a story about a deaf teenager, the only interesting characters in this insipid little romance are the hearing aides of said teenager.

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

In this mediocre historical fiction romance, the author desperately wants the main character’s Asperger’s Syndrome to be a key component to the story. It isn’t, and the whole thing just falls flat.

Up High in the Trees by Kiara Brinkman

Although a fictional account, this book reads as an authentic tale of what happens when a family, whose members all suffer from some sort of mental illness, loses its matriarch.

Cut by Patricia McCormick

By simplifying the behavior of cutting, Patricia McCormick has written a touching young adult story that is both sweet and heartbreaking.

A trio of wildly original stories by Matthew Dicks:

In Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend an autistic little boy is taught to stand up for himself by his imaginary friend Budo.  Something Missing tells the story of an OCD thief who returns way more to his “clients” than he ever takes.  A man with Tourette’s Syndrome learns the importance of honesty and self acceptance in Unexpectedly, Milo. All told in a voice that is both hysterical and heartfelt.

The Boy Who Went Away by Eli Gottlieb

If Holden Caulfield had had an autistic older brother, this book would replace Catcher In The Rye as a classic tale of teen-age angst set against the back drop of middle America circa 1970.

Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser

At times sad and hysterical, Terry Spencer Hesser’s OCD inspired this story of Tara, a young girl who does wind up kissing doorknobs before she is diagnosed and treated. Compelling and sensitive.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

The struggles and drama of a family impacted by Autism.  Fiction, but resonates as true.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Both deal with school shootings, what leads up to them and the aftermath. Like a car crash you can’t avert your eyes from, these books will knock your socks off and keep you up way past your bedtime.

A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard by James Frey

His stories may or may not be true, but they are most certainly awesome. The last page of My Friend Leonard will have you laughing hysterically as you bawl uncontrollably. Drug addiction, rehabilitation, and mafia thugs have never been so much fun.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

The 50’s were a different time for those with Down syndrome. A deeply moving story of one man’s devastating decision and how it changed the lives of all those around him, especially the ones who were left in the dark.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

A well written, unforgettable portrait of living with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern

A girl is missing and the last person to see her has autism.

A gripping mystery with thoughtful insight.

A Wild Ride Up The Cupboards by Ann Bauer

A fictional account of late-onset, never clearly diagnosed autism. Love the title, the writing, not so much.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

An amazing fictional story of an autistic boy solving the mystery of a murdered dog.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

An utterly unforgettable yet disturbing story of a girl who cuts words into herself.

Icy Sparks by Gwyn Rubio

A girl with non-diagnosed Tourette’s Syndrome growing up in the rural Kentucky mountains in the 50’s. She finally finds acceptance and love as an adult.  At times funny and alarming with great insight into the erupting nature of tics.

daniel isn’t talking by Marti Leimbach

A fictionalized account of a mother’s quest to stabilize her family and find treatment for her son diagnosed with autism. Alternates between sad, compelling, and inspiring.

 

MOVIE REVIEWS

Gifted

2017

Starring

Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer and McKenna Grace

The phrase “in the best interest of the child” is truly put to the test when the child in the middle of a custody dispute is a math prodigy. When both college and elementary school seem inappropriate for a 7 year old, what is an uncle or a grandparent to do?

 

Phoebe in Wonderland

2008

Starring

Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Elle Fanning, and Bill Pullman

Phoebe in Wonderland is a delightfully magical film about an adorable, imaginative young girl who happens to have Tourette Syndrome. Felicity Huffman gives a stunning, powerful performance as her mom who is torn between accepting her daughter as she is and finding help for her. It’s an incredibly thought provoking situation that applies to all disabilities. Does a disability define a person? When does eccentric behavior cross the line and really become a problem to be fixed? While this movie does not answer these questions, it is a marvelous platform to start the conversation.

 

Adam

2009

Starring

Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne

Adam will charm your socks off. Two very different worlds collide in this quirky yet delightful romantic comedy. If you have a young child with Asperger’s, this movie will give you hope that there is someone out there for them.

 

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

1993

Starring

Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen, and Leonardo DeCaprio

Before he was king of the world, Leonardo DiCaprio gave the performance of a lifetime as the mentally challenged younger brother of an equally talented Johnny Depp. A real, honest portrait of family life that will have laughing and crying in equal measure.

 

I am sam

2001

starring

Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diane Weist, and Dakota Fanning

A tear-jearker of a story if ever there was one! Sean Penn plays a mentally challenged man trying to regain custody of his daughter. Everyone nails their part and the story stays with you long after the credits roll.

 

Where’s Molly?

2006

A documentary 47 years in the making. Heart wrenching tale of a family‘s secret and a son’s quest to find the truth – and his sister.

 

Girl, Interrupted

2000

starring

Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, and Vanessa Redgrave

The turbulent 1960’s are the back drop for this alternative coming-of-age story. Surprisingly, a young girl’s stay at a famous psychiatric hospital is both redemptive and entertaining.

 

Rainman

1988

starring

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman

The classic story that made autism a household term. It’s as good today as it was when it was made.

 

Molly

1998

starring

Elizabeth Shue, Aaron Eckhart and Jill Hennessy

A fictional account of an adult “cured” of autism and the repercussions of that. While not true, or possible, at this point, it raises some great questions. What risk would you be willing to take to be cured? Which you is the better, real you? Is autism something that should be cured if we could? What risk would you take? This movie would take quite the cheesy turn without the talented performances of its leads. They make it real and honest.

 

Chocolate

2009

Foreign

If Bruce Lee had an autistic sister, this is the movie that she would make.

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