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by Florica Stone
Jessica Kingsley, 2004
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Feb 3rd 2006

Autism - The Eighth Colour of the Rainbow

   In a captivating book, entitled Autism -- The Eighth Color of the Rainbow, Florica Stone passionately delivers the message that non-autistic persons should endeavor to forge meaningful bonds of connection with autistic persons, anchored securely in the bedrock of mutual trust, love and understanding.  As envisioned by Stone, when attachments of this nature are achieved, autism, in a metaphoric sense, becomes another (the eighth) colorful part of the rainbow, something which, in its own way, adds wonderfully to the colorfully panoramic beauty of the rainbow.

   Stone is the parent of an autistic child, and the text is viscerally imbued with a personalized approach to unraveling some of the enigmas enveloping autism.  With both vigor and sensitivity, Stone advances the view that the parents of an autistic child should strive to build a communications bridge, designed sensibly to enable meaningful interaction with the child.  The building materials to construct such a bridge include palpably manifested empathy, love and respect.

 This powerful book explains, in lay-reader-friendly terms, how parents of autistic children can potentially become far more adept with respect to interacting meaningfully with their children.  Stone does not, however, regard the achieving of meaningful interaction as a "therapy", or "cure", for autism.  In her view, autism is not a disease or illness which, in a pathologic sense, "hurts" the affected person.  The view espoused trenchantly, by Stone, is that autism is, in reality, akin to a way of being.  And the key to unlocking an understanding  (by a non-autistic person) of an autistic person's way of being is meaningful interaction between the two.

   As contemplated by Stone, rather than coveting a "cure", the autistic person, instead, is more likely seeking empathy and understanding.  Towards that end, Stone sweeps aside perceived biases, stereotypes and misunderstandings ascribed erroneously or misleadingly to autistic persons.  In their place, Stone meticulously probes and examines the possible opening of effectual channels of communication, potentially interlinking autistic and non-autistic persons, in meaningful fashion.

   The text is divided into twenty-five chapters, which tend to be abbreviated in their academically substantive content, and generally devoid of the characteristic trappings of academic rigor.  The information presented in the book is mostly based not on experimentally validated, scientific medical data, but, instead, on the personal experiences of Stone, over a lengthy timeframe, with autistic persons, including, very notably, one of her own children.  The textual message is delivered in an inspiring, albeit non-scientific, manner.

   Measured doses of real life fragments, linked to autism, are injected, interestingly, into the body of the text.  There are, as well, many "food for thought" musings, germane to potentially eliciting fuller understanding of autism.  Additionally, some thought provoking "exercises", of things readers can do to possibly augment their grasp of autism, are embedded in the textual edifice.  Several appendices adjoin the text, and instructively resonate with the core of the textual body, including:  an appendix which expounds pithily on "frequently asked questions", appertaining to autism; and an appendix which, in tabular like form, adroitly delineates particular linguistic behaviors, and their possible meanings.  The book also contains some notes and a glossary. 

   Variant topics, tethered firmly to autism, are broached by Stone, reaching to:  grieving, adapting, aloofness, the lineaments of an autistic friendly environment, autism as a way of being, friendship, non verbal communication, social communication, interaction, language, repetitive behavior, and emotions.

   The book is molded very carefully to fit the parents, of autistic children.  And indeed, its keystone is the conveying, in plainly helpful terms, of what parents, of autistic children, can do to help their children.  Venting very considerable personal feelings, suffused with insightfulness and thoughtfulness, Stone proffers multifarious suggestions, traversing the length and breadth of the book, which, in practical, real life terms, may facilitate a better quality of life for autistic children, and for their parents.  The etchings of autism, crafted artfully by Stone, may substantially reshape perceptions, of particular readers, regarding autism; and, at least in a non academic way, may considerably broaden and deepen readers' knowledge and understanding of autism.

   Without wishing to seem churlish, it is important to maintain in mind that the textual message is composed, in significant part, of anecdotally tinged information, which is unhitched from a scientifically grounded mooring.  Although the information presented by Stone may helpfully steer the academic scientist in the direction of potentially rewarding research paths, paved with enhanced understanding of autism, the ruminations of Stone, in a scientific sense, are neither proven, nor disproven, by the qualitatively rooted information, ideas and insights ensconced in the text.

   Those with a personal or professional interest in autism, including the parents of autistic children as well as professionals working in the expansive realm of mental health, especially if they are appropriately mindful of the foregoing admonitions, should be benefited greatly, by this book sculpted beautifully with vibrantly uplifting emotion and infectious intensity of personal feeling.

 

© 2006 Leo Uzych

 

Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.