Rachel, who runs the wonderful blog, Autism and Empathy, sent me a PDF copy of her latest book, Blazing My Trail: Living and Thriving with Autism to review a while back. This is Rachel’s second book about living with autism. You can view my review of her first, The Uncharted Path: My Journey with Late-Diagnosed Autism by clicking on the link. I knew I loved her second book after a quick look, but I wanted to be able to do a longer review and finding time has been an issue until now.
Rachel shares more of her adventures in self-advocacy, talks about harmful medications, and shares some adaptations that have made her life happier. This alone would make this book worth reading. However, the part of the book I love the most is the way she works to deconstruct cultural attitudes about disability and offers suggestions to our society at large about needed changes. Chapter six addresses this in detail although Rachel intersperses it throughout the book.
I love Rachel’s comment on page forty-eight, “I’ve come to understand that one of the primary reasons that disabled people are so ostracized and excluded in our society is that we remind everyone that life is a messy, fragile, difficult thing.” She determines that in many ways she is fortunate to face difficulties now as she believes this is better than having lived a charmed life only to find yourself disabled due to aging. She talks about life’s difficulties, but notes, “Difficulty is not the same as impossible!”
I found myself nodding my head in agreement many times as I read. Those of us who experience autism whether, as a parent or directly can tell you that naysayers are a part of life with autism. Another favorite comment is on page sixty, “There are people who will never understand that some things cannot be overcome by will power.”
Chapter five beautifully addresses the issue of asking for and receiving needed accommodations and the painful realities of abuse that some with disabilities also face. She quotes someone she met over twenty years ago at a support group, “There is no such thing as better or worse when it comes to abuse. Once someone forces us to cross that line, we’re all in this together.” Amen!!! Thanks Rachel for sharing this along with the Judaism teachings that we are all born and die pure souls and that our essential nature is not changed by events in-between.
Rachel addresses another conflict within the autism community too as she asks the question, “Do we focus on making autistic people ‘indistinguishable from peers,’ or do we work to build a world in which all the people who fall outside the realm of ‘normal’ have equal access and equal rights?” She is not saying do not help autistic children to find ways to communicate more effectively and to navigate the world, but rather that our attitudes about normality need to change too.
The final chapter addresses Rachel’s solitary path through life’s journey in a peopled landscape where at times we find support that strengthens us.
Disclosure/Disclaimer: I reviewed this book from a PDF copy received from the author. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about the book!