When my friends at Kensington Books approached me about a novel concerning autism, Words Get in the Way by Nan Rossiter, I knew who the correct reviewers would be. First, I introduced Kensington to Emily of Coloradomoms.com where she posted this review. She also writes for 5minutesforspecialneeds.com and posted it there as well. Next, I sent the book to Jean of http://www.mommytotwoboys.com/ who is also the mother of an autistic child. I was happy when Jean emailed to say that autism is very correctly portrayed in the book.
When Andrea told me she had a book that might be a perfect fit for me to review, I was apprehensive. The subject of autism has become very popular and there is now tons of literature focusing on or mentioning the topic. As a mom of a son who is part of the now 1 in 88 kids epidemic, I am very skeptical of books with the material.
I was pleasantly surprised to find Nan Rossiter did it right it Words Get in the Way. I assumed she was a fellow mom of a child on the spectrum, but she spent time with parents, kids, and adolescents who have autism in preparation of writing the book. On the very first page in the acknowledgments Nan Rossiter says, “I promised God I would try to write uplifting stories that make a difference.” And that is exactly how I felt about Words Get in the Way.
Words Get in the Way is the story of a young single mom named Callie who recently was told her 3 year old is on the autism spectrum. He is nonverbal, which is one of the most difficult aspects of having a child with autism. Callie moves back to her hometown after running into financial problems. Her father recently had to move into a full time care facility so she also takes the move as an opportunity to visit and help take care of him. While Callie is back in town she reunites with several old acquaintances, including a former love, Linden. While Callie is visiting with her dad she accepts Linden’s offers to watch her son. Linden and 3 year old Henry form an amazing relationship and Linden helps Callie to understand sides of Henry she didn’t see herself.
From page 1 I was hooked because Callie’s struggles are real and related to me. I was shocked when that first page described what my life was like when my autistic 5 year old was 3. She describes perfectly what I used to refer to as bedtime mommy guilt, “Callie knelt beside Henry’s bed. He looked so peaceful, so different from the frustrated little boy she lived with all day…Finally, the tears she’d been fighting all day spilled hot down her cheeks.” She goes on to describe his consistent waking at night, a typical symptom of kids with autism and sensory processing issues. It is another of the worst parts of my son’s disability; the sleep deprivation really gets to you as a parent.
Another extremely relatable part was Callie’s money problems. She is unable to work because of her son’s disability, which causes serious financial troubles. This was our family’s situation until recently when I was really able to start making more money to contribute because my son went to Kindergarten full day. One of the hardest parts of the book to read was when Callie pulled up to McDonald’s and had just enough to get Henry a Happy Meal, not enough to get anything for herself.
My favorite quote of the book comes from a part where Callie is struggling with Henry’s behavior, “Every child has tantrums, she thought, so how does the parent of an autistic child know if the trigger is some inner turmoil or plain, old-fashioned defiance?” This thought has gone through my head at least once a day since the day my son was diagnosed at 18 months. For 4 years I have also struggled with that question and the first time I met Temple Grandin, an autism advocate and researcher with autism who is mentioned in the book, I asked her that exact question!
Another favorite quote was another thought that often runs through my mind, “I just wish Henry were more like all kids. It breaks my heart to think that he’ll never lead a normal life, that he’ll always be different…” However, Callie does go on to realize the importance of Henry’s own happiness. Just because he may do things differently doesn’t mean he won’t live a happy life, filled with doing things he enjoys.
Please don’t think that Words Get in the Way is just for parents of kids with autism! The quote above can apply to so many kids. My son’s Kindergarten teacher tells me often that yes, he is quirky and intense, but all the kids in the class are! I need to stop pushing him into a not-normal category and accept that all kids are different and will have to do their share of striving to “fit in.” Besides the autism aspect there is a good Nicholas Sparks type love story, excitement, and some unexpected turns.
I read an article about Nan Rossiter in anticipation of Words Get in the Way and loved this quote from her, a quote I wish others would take to heart, “I had to do quite a bit of research to really get an idea of what it is like. Like many people, I didn’t have a complete understanding of autism. A lot of people just don’t get it. They see a child screaming and carrying on in a store, and assume they are just misbehaving. My goal was to raise awareness. It is my hope that people who read the book will, maybe, think twice before making a snap judgment.”
I just found out that Nan Rossiter lives only about a half hour from me, which makes the book even more exciting to me! Who knows, maybe a book signing is in my future?
Kensington Books provided a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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