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