Review and Description
Dr. Bucher, with his remarkable family, does more than share his family’s experiences. He deftly illustrates their innermost feelings; he draws me into their world. This book should not only be read by parents and educators of children with autism, it should be read by anyone who has the desire to truly understand the joys and the challenges faced by families affected by autism. The Buchers exemplify the journey faced by all such families.
--Bill Moss, Executive Director of Linwood Center (LinwoodCenter.org)
At age one, doctors knew Jimmy needed care and lots of it, so they pushed his parents, Rich and Pat, to put Jimmy away and get on with their lives. Fortunately, they knew better. When eleven year-old Jimmy was finally diagnosed as autistic in 1986, Rich and Pat were told by their neurologist that the chances of having a child like Jimmy were 1 in 10,000.
Before and after Jimmy was diagnosed, his family and his teachers were in crisis mode. After 23 schools from Texas to Rhode Island rejected their son, they were running out of options. Jimmy’s behaviors were out of control, and strong meds with nasty side effects seemingly made no difference. Why did he behave the way he did? What was he thinking and feeling? When Jimmy acted out, was it the meds, was it his parents, or was it Jimmy? Were Rich and Pat’s expectations too high, or not high enough?
Early in their lives, Jimmy’s sisters talk at length about what’s it’s like to have someone so different so close. And it isn’t all pain and hurt. There are unique and wonderful things that come with having an autistic brother. What life lessons do they learn from their brother, and how do their lives change for the better?
This book connects the personal and the scientific. More than sixty short chapters, such as “Managing Fears,” “Using Fixations,” and “Challenging Behaviors” begin with cutting-edge research and findings on autism in addition to proven strategies and interventions. Then, a piece of the story unfolds as readers follow Jimmy, his parents and his siblings over the course of more than four decades, starting with preparations for Jimmy’s birth to his sisters’ concerns about his future now that he’s a middle-aged man. Fascinating anecdotes and perspectives come from every member of Jimmy’s family and many others in Jimmy’s social circles including pastors, educators, friends, and health professionals.
In order to make sense of his family’s journey together, Dr. Bucher draws heavily on his extraordinary empathy and experiences as a highly-involved husband and father. Jimmy’s family shares their vulnerabilities and worries. What makes their lives special and full of surprises? How do they struggle within themselves, with each other, and the outside world?
Dr. Bucher goes outside the family to make sense of what’s going on within the family. Why Sunday School? Why put up with the stress of family vacations? What difference did Sesame Street and the Muppets make? How did the Linwood Method impact Jimmy? What happened when Jimmy ventured outside the safety and support of his home? Finally, what about his friends, pastors, teachers, and coworkers? How did someone with such serious communication issues develop such a wide wonderful web of relationships and support?
It’s a raw, authentic, and emotional story told over the span of 40 years by a mommy, a daddy, two sisters, and Jimmy himself, as well as many others who have been a big part of his life. And it’s an inspirational, unexpected journey full of the power of tenacious hope, and the story continues.