I recently joined LibraryThing to try to organize my book collection and, along the way, signed up on the site to be an early reviewer. This means that every month I receive an email linking me to many books that LibraryThing makes available to its members in exchange for a review. You can request as many as you would like and if you are chosen to receive a book, it is sent to you and you have several weeks to read and review the book (more people request most books than copies are available so you don't get all you request). In my second month on the list, I actually got a book. As fate would have it, from the many I had ticked off as books I was interested in, I received an autism book: Dancing With Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free by Emily Colson (with prologue and epilogue by Charles Colson, her father), published by Zondervan. The following is largely based on my LibaryThing review but I wanted to share here too.
Dancing With Max is a wonderfully uplifting story of breaking free of what parents of children with autism are often told to expect from their children, but the book is much more. The book is about both author Emily Colson and her son Max growing and changing, in sometimes unexpected ways. It is about forming a truly deep parent-child bond despite the challenges of autism. The book also is about how Emily's relationship with her own father evolved and healed, due in part to the family having to understand, accept and adapt to Max's challenges with autism. Chuck Colson was special counsel to President Nixon, a workaholic, who did not always, by his own admission, spend enough time with his family. He also was incarcerated on Watergate-related charges. He became more religious and founded a non-profit to minister to those in prison. Like her father, Emily is a woman of strong faith and she found unique and wonderful ways for Max to share in her faith.
Emily's story demonstrates what so many fail to understand about "autism moms" - how a mother can continue to fight to improve her child's life - searching for new therapies, schools, treatments - but all the while accepting him and loving him for who he is at the moment.
I suspect that while on the surface there are many differences between myself and Emily Colson, deep down there is much that we share. Her book is a moving tribute to her son and her family. It is clear that, while he faces many challenges as he becomes a young adult with autism, Max also has a gift to share with the world and Emily is working is ways both small (in their everyday lives) and large (the book!) to share Max and his gift with others. While the book is frank about tough moments - any parent with autism would see through a book that did not give a fair shake to those tough times - it is ultimately affirming -- a story about moving forward, persevering, growing, loving and being loved.