Welcome to LearnDifferently.com Too Wise to Be Mistaken, Too Good to Be Unkind

Too Wise to Be Mistaken, Too Good to Be Unkind:
Christian Parents Contend with Autism

by Cathy Steere.

Grace and Truth Books, 2005. ISBN 978-1930133037

Cathy Steere has written an excellent memoir of the first five years of her son Drew’s life with autism. She describes his symptoms, his strengths, and the emotional roller-coaster ride of parents trying to understand and help a child trapped by what she calls “the monster,” autism. She recounts their search for answers and the neurodevelopmental treatment plan they eventually tried. She tells how faith in an all-wise and all-powerful God and an understanding of human nature equip her husband and her to endure and to teach this unusual child.

This book captures the parents’ struggle. First, the growing awareness of a problem: the Steeres saw their son shun their hugs and avoid eye contact, prefer ceiling fans to his parents’ faces. Cathy Steere portrays her fears, self-pity, depression, and grief, as well as their courage, persistence, and patience. She writes about dealing with what others think of your child, of what to say and when. If you don’t care to read about the emotions of raising a child with a disability, skip this book. But if you’ve struggled to understand the needs of a child with any special needs, you might find echoes of your own journey.

Particularly interesting to me was the detailed description of the grueling work these parents in a program of neurodevelopmental therapy, which in their son’s case had extraordinary results. The parents provided hours of therapy at home daily, helping Drew become accustomed to different sounds, textures, and movements, under the guidance of a therapist.

This memoir on autism is also distinctive in the Steeres’ convictions about God. They believe that even though God allows some people to be born with disabilities, God is still good. God has a good purpose behind his actions, whether we see it or not. If you are struggling with why a good God would allow your child to be born with disabilities, I recommend this book.

The author also believes that people, from birth, have a tendency to selfishness and disobedience, so parents must discipline children with firm, kind consistency. Parents should do their best to understand their children’s condition and limits, but a disability is no excuse for a child to disobey willfully. Parents will sometimes err in discipline. (Haven’t we all?) But teaching obedience builds self-control, which our children need to accomplish anything.

Several times, Cathy Steere describes a course of discipline, then says they applied it consistently, and—in a year or so—saw results. This is a good example for anyone training children who take longer than average to respond to correction. Drew’s doctors regularly were astounded by his good behavior, considering the extent of his autism. A severe case like the Steere’s child shows the benefits of consistent, compassionate discipline.

Why read Cathy Steere’s Too Wise To Be Mistaken, Too Good To Be Unkind? Read it to walk with other parents through the process of development, struggle, diagnosis, and treatment. Read it to see an example of neurodevelopmental training in action. Read it for a Biblical perspective on children with special needs.

If you purchase Too Wise to Be Mistaken, Too Good to Be Unkind using the following link, Amazon will contribute a small amount to support this website. Thank you.

Return to the book review index.

Look Me In the Eye

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
by John Elder Robison.

Three Rivers Press, 2007. Paperback edition: 978-0307396181.

Know someone who avoids eye contact, who doesn't know how to converse, but will talk endlessly about a favorite subject? John Elder Robison’s memoir, Look Me In the Eye: My Life with Asperger's, gives an inside look at life at one end of the autism spectrum. He provides an example of an “Aspergian” (a person with Asperger's Syndrome) maturing to become a successful businessman, husband, and father.

Beginning with his preschool days in early 1960’s, Robison recalls how he thought and dealt with people. He remembers being distressed that other three-year-olds did not play with trucks “correctly” and surprised that they were not grateful to be corrected. Later, he writes about adults predicting he would grow up to be a psychopath (because he seemed unresponsive and wouldn’t “look them in the eye”), comments that hurt and worried him, though he did not react.

Calmly, he explains his shocking home life. Though brilliant, his father was abusive and alcoholic. Mental illness destroyed his gifted mother. Robison amused himself and vented his frustrations with science experiments and vandalism. As Robison says, he is no role model. This is a story of slow recovery from a disastrous youth.

Before dropping out, Robison enjoyed his first success in repairing audio equipment at high school. Fixing amplifiers for a local band led to creating exotic guitars for Pink Floyd and Kiss. His life on the road and his friends' drug abuse and immorality are more reasons I do not recommend this book for children or young teens. Robison wrote this book for adults.

Wanting a steadier life, Robison moved to white-collar jobs and then into management. Later, he opened a shop to restore expensive cars. After twenty years in that business, he employs twelve people.

Why read this book if it has an abusive family, drug abuse, lies, broken marriages, profanity (mainly in the hardcover edition, which I have not read), and immorality? Like Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures or Mark Haddon's novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this book helps us see another way of living. Robison demonstrates “that no matter how robotic we Aspergians might seem, we do have deep feelings.”

The fact that a man with autism can write a New York Times bestseller encourages us that our children can excel in surprising ways, too.

If you purchase Look Me in the Eye using the following link, Amazon will contribute a small amount to support this website. Thank you.

Return to the book review index.

Return to the main menu.

© 2009, 2010 Katherine Kuhl