Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Advantages of Being Different: A Commentary from Robert Naseef, Ph.D.

Sam and his grandpop are quite a pair—each remarkable--Sam with autism and Dan with quadriplegia. In The Wisdom of Sam: Observations on Life from an Uncommon Child, Dan Gottlieb, Ph.D. writes with simplicity, gentleness, and keen insight about their relationship, the human condition, and what he learns from his grandson.

So much is “normal” about them. Until you imagine Dan in his motorized wheelchair or read about how Sam doesn’t know how to join in a conversation with other kids his age, or is asked to leave his mother, or is confronted by a change in the day’s routine. Such is life with autism, but as this grandfather points out the limitations don’t matter for “We are who we are.”

Because of his autism, Sam often notices things about the world around him more clearly than his parents or his grandfather. It could be a texture or a color or the words used in a particular situation—something others have missed in hurrying around. As we read about Sam’s observations, we become enlightened to some advantages of autism. Dan reminds us through Sam’s observations of the simple truths and passions we once knew as children.

When my son’s autism began almost 30 years ago, I tried single-mindedly to change him. After 7 years, I realized that he had changed me. Likewise Sam’s perspective through his different kind of mind makes him a remarkable teacher to his grandfather and readers from all walks of life.

I met Dr. Dan Gottlieb in 1997, when he interviewed me on his radio show Voices in the Family on WHYY-FM about my book, Special Children, Challenged Parents. He was genuinely interested in asking me what it was like to have a child with autism who had lost his speech. He looked in my eyes, and I knew then that he was not afraid to hear the real answer. Words stuck in my throat, my eyes filled up. He went to a station break, asked if I was ok and told me he wanted listeners to hear my story.

Having been close friends and colleagues ever since, I am hardly an objective reviewer. However I can tell you with certitude from over 25 years of listening to other families of children with autism, that many have experiences of profound insight and learning from their children. These are precious autism moments that reward parents’ love and devotion.

The Wisdom of Sam elevates these moments with dignity, grace, and profound meaning. This is a book I will pick up over and over to take me back to the passions of childhood and that wisdom inside. Don’t miss it.

Check out the trailer on YOUTUBE. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V4QrekU1Wk

Release date 4/1/2010. Orders can be made now on Amazon.