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At a time when as many as one in five children face the challenge of growing up with a behavioral disorder, more and more parents are finding themselves at a loss to know how best to raise their children.
For Beth Kephart’s son, the diagnosis was “pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified”—a broad spectrum of difficulties, including autistic features. As the author and her husband discover, all that label really means is that their son Jeremy is “different in a million wonderful ways, and also different in ways that need our help.”
In intimate, incandescent prose, Kephart shares the painful and inspiring experience of loving a child whose “special needs” bring tremendous frustration and incalculable rewards. “What, in the end, are you fighting for: Normal?” Kephart asks. “Is normal possible? Can it be defined? . . . And is normal superior to what the child inherently is, to what he aspires to, fights to become, every second of his day?”
With the help of passionate parental involvement and the kindness of a few open hearts, Jeremy slowly emerges from a world of obsessive play rituals, atypical language constructions, endless pacing, and lonely frustrations. Triumphantly, he begins to engage others, describe his thoughts and passions, build essential friendships. Ultimately this is a story of the shallowness of medical labels compared to a child’s courage and a mother’s love, of which Kephart writes, “Nothing erodes it. It is not sand on a beach. It is the nuclear heart of things—hard as the rock of this earth.”