Little Squares With Colors: A different way to look at Autism
Book ReviewCredit: Lavender Rose
About a year ago, I won a copy of author Christina Dagnelli’s book, Little Squares with Colors: A different way to look at Autism. Written from the light-hearted, irreverent, down-to-earth perspective of a mom to a little boy with autism, Christina gives us a clear, insider’s view of what new parents can expect and hope to learn from their special children.
If you’re having trouble understanding your autistic child, or if you’re thoroughly exhausted and just need to feel like you are not the only one going through the challenges and frustrations involved, this book can help you see what you might be missing. Life with an autistic child is difficult; no doubt about that. The autism spectrum is described as a puzzle for good reason, but life on the spectrum doesn’t have to shatter your world like glass. It can be rewarding and uplifting in its own unique way. Christina Dagnelli shows us how.
Little Squares with Colors Teaches Parents What to Expect from a Child with Autism
The insights and tidbits we learn as we watch others go through similar trials can teach us more about our own situations and ourselves if we choose to be observant and look at life objectively. Parents, families, and friends of kids on the spectrum will easily identify with the stories and special anecdotes that Christina chooses to share in her book. They will learn valuable tips for handling their own unique situations from watching the scenes unfold.
As we travel along side of Noah and mom from his birth through the age of about 7, we can learn what to expect from a child with autism, what is typical childhood mischief and behavior, and how to sort it all out – if possible. Each autism path for both parents and child is a one-of-a-kind drama, but experiencing Noah and life on the spectrum from his mom’s point of view can make your own one-act play a little easier to deal with.
Christina offers a nice balance between the positive and negative aspects of the experience known as autism. It discusses the various autism therapies the family chose to implement, their struggles to find and bring a dog into the family, and the ultimate value of going through those experiences. But Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Speech and Occupational Therapy, Floortime (DIR), and dietary intervention (a GFCF diet) isn’t tackled from a scientific perspective.
Rather, we are pulled into the story in such a way as to literally experience the chaotic atmosphere and emotional investment that’s involved with raising a child with autism.
As you journey along side of the family, those who have been touched by autism have the opportunity to pocket the author’s valuable tips and strategies for surviving their own ordeal. You will glean pieces of useful wisdom from the non-typical answers to life Christina found as she sought answers to some of the endless questions and problems that continue to surface throughout the journey. It’s those non-typical ways of dealing with behaviors, sensory issues, and life itself that keeps you turning the pages.
What Parents Can Learn from Their Autistic Children
If you are new to autism, a diagnosis can feel like the end of the world. Life as you currently know it will change. For some autistic children, dietary treatments and behavior modification works wonders. Tasmanian Devils can turn into what the public believes are typical children and adults who can benefit society. However, those who fully recover from autism are comparatively few. While Noah drastically improved on a gluten free casein free diet, life’s rocky lessons for both parents and child continue. There is still autism’s:
- irratic behavior
- communication problems
- sensory processing disorder
- and social ineptitude
These must be dealt with on a daily basis, and more often – from minute to minute. There are difficulties with so-called professionals who don’t seem to be able to incorporate autism’s peculiarities into their methods. However, Christina chooses to look at her current world a little differently than most.
Refusing to accept her son’s lack of communication skills, she presents readers with the idea that there is always something new to learn – either about her child or herself. With each additional potential problem, strange behavior, or Noah’s over-the-top reactions, she offers an amusing, real-life voice and vibrant personality through which parents of autistic children can learn how classic autism behaviors play themselves out in the real world. In addition, she also confides what parents can realistically hope to fix (like her son’s nonverbal behavior), and what they cannot.
Throughout the book’s pages, we see the stress triggers and the results of those triggers as if we are right there in the same room with them. We see what works for Noah, what doesn’t work, and why. We become privy to the author’s inner world, her secret thoughts that few ever get the opportunity to hear. And we walk away from those special moments feeling like maybe – just maybe – there is hope for a better life ourselves.
Our Attitude and Judgments Color the Outcome for Children with Autism
Autism teaches a parent – and sometimes society – how to be more tolerant, accepting, and patient; but most of all it teaches parents to never give up hope. Working with autistic children takes many hours of repetition. It takes waiting, and then waiting some more to see lasting results. It takes consistency and a caring heart, as well as the curiosity and drive to dig into the whys and hows.
On the surface, those diagnosed with classic autism are thought of and defined as low functioning, yet Dagnelli reveals that the end result of all of that hard work totally depends on the attitude and judgments of the parents. While Noah began his journey being classified as severely autistic, today he has moved more toward the middle of the spectrum.
All children on the autism spectrum are difficult to raise. Being labeled high functioning doesn’t mean that a parent’s job will be easier than those with children who have been labeled low functioning. However, Christina comes to the table with a word of advice. Rather than spend her days chasing after why her child has autism, she prefers instead to live in the moment:
“Why this happened isn’t important – what we learn from this experience is what matters.”
Autism brings a life of unpredictability. That’s what we learn as we travel through the book’s pages sharing Noah’s life. But while autism’s journey often brings discomfort and judgment from others, soaring above and beyond the pain, our selfish tendencies, and caring about what others think – is the key that will open up the door to a wealth of possibilities.
Little Squares with Colors is a book that helps us do exactly that. And because it offers a fresh breath of life that will feed your heart as well as your mind, it is a must-read for all whose lives have been touched in some way by autism.
Autism Rates Continue to Climb
In the latest study performed on 337,000 eight-year olds across 14 U.S. states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released staggering figures regarding the rise in autism rates between the years of 2002 and 2008. Nationwide, autism has risen by a whopping 78 percent, and here in Utah the figure is even worse: 157 percent! While the new nationwide average is 1 in 88 children, Utah's rate is the highest of the 14 states studied: 1 in 47 children.
The following video is dedicated to all of the children and adults who have autism.