Praise of Motherhood – book review

Is it relevant for us, parents or mothers of sons, sons who are different?  Maybe no, maybe yes.

I’ll declare my bias up front:-

My Son-in-law and daughter are fluent in Portuguese.

I am a mother with sons with severe anxiety.

You can read an interview with the author here.

And you can read an excerpt here.

Why would any of ‘us’ be interested in reading this novel?

The negatives first:

The punctuation is distracting, initially.

There are a few typos, but they’ll probably be cleaned up before going to press.

I found one section overly long, but that’s just a personal preference.

You may not like ‘bad language’ but it goes with the teenage territory.

On to the positive.

For me it provided insight into the self-obsessed and self-absorbed world of a teenager.  It’s a singular perspective–‘it’s all about me’–but it helps align a parent’s viewpoint.  We’re both on the periphery and at the center of the storm, the gatekeeper, while simultaneously required to be a solid anchor of calm and reassurance.  Not that Sophia, the mother, is restrictive, not by any manner of means.  She allows and encourages Phillippe the freedom to be who he wants to be, but she’s also there to pick up the pieces, until one day she isn’t.

This novel examines the author’s grief and loss when his mother dies unexpectedly and his reflections about their relationship.

His description of all pervasive anxiety is accurate and daunting, and his experience with prescription medications should give us pause.

The non-linear storytelling is refreshing and his voice non-formulaic.  It reflects the chaotic emotions of a teenager, both strident and mewling.  The ‘holes’ in the narrative speak to the spotty attention, distraction and frustration of someone in the depths of despair.

It is a heartbreaking story of a journey cut short, a reminder to plan for the future but live in the present.



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About the book: Praise of Motherhood is a son’s tribute to the woman who not only gave him life, but helped him live: through various psychotic breakdowns, tumultuous teenage years, and years of feeling out of place in the world. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Phil Jourdan fronts the lit-rock band Paris and the Hiltons, runs the fiction press Perfect Edge Books, and occasionally works on a PhD. Visit Phil on his blog, music site, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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The Optimistic Child

A proven program to safeguard children against depression and build lifelong resilience by Martin E.P. Siligman, Ph.D.,


I’m not here to argue with the premise of this book as that kind of review is available elsewhere.  Instead, I’m going to attempt to see whether the strategies contained within this book might be applicable to children such as ours.


First up, the mainstream population is also on a spectrum and therefore the success of failure of such an approach is probably equally as problematical, but our children present in a different order of magnitude.  Their opinions, behavior and way of life as so deeply ingrained as to be part of them, integral.  In many ways, to extract the elements which we [some of us] believe are unhelpful, is to destroy that which is the essence of the child.  Sounds like gobbledegook?  Let me give you an example.  Take perfectionism.  You know what it is, I don’t need to explain it.  You also now how it ‘presents’ in your particular child.  I would hazard a guess that it is, in some realms at least, all pervasive, all encompassing and impossible to eradicate no matter how disabling the net result.  The anguish, stress and anxiety caused by the ‘less than perfect’  falls off the end of the Richter scale.

So, after all the numerous strategies we have all been using since day one, how might this book have an impact?

Well, for one thing, around here, we have greater powers of speech and self expression, so we have a better understanding of the difficulties our children experience.  They are bigger, older and grow in tolerance as they master elements of flexibility.


So why bother?  We’ve tried something like this before with no particular impact.  There are always infinite variations on a theme and no magic bullet.  How is this any different from its fellows?  Will it work?

Who knows, but isn’t it worth chipping away – not at the foundations necessarily but at the core from where so much of the negativity flows from.

I’m doubtful if it’s possible to change some children from pessimists to optimists, but I’m hopeful that it is possible to teach people strategies that may help prevent hitting self destruct.  For instance, in view of the degree of impulsivity common is so many of our children, if it were possible to help them, in a moment of despair, to pause, reflect for a moment, rethink their options and make better choices…if not now, then in the future, with practice, so there’s just a chance that when we’re not around to coach them they’ll be able to retrieve some of those strategies.  Certainly gets my vote.

And you’re right, in a way.  I won’t sell you the package, merely differentiate the choice.  Think of it as a refresher course.  Maybe it wasn’t ineffective 6 months ago, or two years ago, but maybe now, at this stage of their development its worth having another go.  Reading about strategies, thought processes and practicing the work sheets [adapted and modified for a better fit] might galvanize new growth and inspire burst of productivity, after all  we’re all just a work in progress, aren’t we?

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How Behavioral Optometry can unlock your child’s potential by Joel H. Warshowsky – a book review


First up I must declare my biases:-

1.  I received a free galley copy of the book.

2.  One of my sons experienced a semester of vision therapy a few years ago and I have nothing positive to report from that experience.

3. Recently we’ve [he] had a diagnoses of Kerataconus which has greatly affected my opinions about the rosy future.


Now on to the book.

The sub-title is as follows:-  identifying and overcoming blocks to concentration, self-esteem and school success with vision therapy.  I can certainly check a few boxes on my wish list there.

When I read the first pages of a new book I often unconsciously pick up a sense of warmth or foreboding.  Sometimes there is a tone in the phraseology, or trigger words, which lead me to make certain assumptions about what’s ahead.  The writer has an agenda otherwise they wouldn’t have written the book.  Will it be benign or merely commercial?  In the realms of autism, is it some new crackpot theory or merely rehashing the old?


Strictly speaking this book is about vision therapy for those who need it, not necessarily those on the spectrum, and as such it has a much wider remit.  It’s a slim volume packed with both factual information as well as a welter of examples.  There are a plethora of inspirational personal stories and a whole host of helpful examples for the reader to relate to.  It also has a section about practical examples of what a carer can to do help with exercises.  These are particularly beneficial for those on a waiting list wondering what to do in the meantime, and also serve to reinforce therapy if and when it can be acquired.  It explains what to do and how and why it helps.


Overall, the ethos of the author shines through, his holistic and multifaceted approach is admirable.  I would hope that you could find a therapist like this where you are.


Available from JKP and Amazon.

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Trueman Bradley, Aspie Detective by Alexei Maxim Russell

I have just been reading this fiction novel and I think you might like it too.  I plan to harass the author for more information in a most shameless fashion.

Any first hand experience of stalking?

Want to share?

There must be lots of grandmotherly types, who track down and snare young men.  Right?  Oh right, I’m not a cougar:-



More of a Tiggy Winkle:-



But, far more dangerous with those prickles.  Watch this space.

Available for JKP and Amazon.

You can follow him on Twitter, or facebook, or tap into his website.

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Life, but not as we know it

We have lots of words these days.  I find many of them very amusing.  Just the other day we were off to a holiday party with friends.  I spent the twenty minute drive there prepping my peeps:  what to say, what not to say, things to try and do, and a much longer list of things not to do.  It’s familiar territory, a mom’s diatribe.  I include handy tips, like, “it’s okay to ask someone’s name if you’ve forgotten,” and “the best way to get what you want is to ask and use your words.”

So when we’re half an hour into the merriment, my son seeks me out to ask, “what is the name of the dominant female person of this household?”




The hostess loved it.

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Embracing Asperger’s by Richard Bromfield, PhD

A Primer for Parents and Professionals


In his introduction, Richard Bromfield encapsulates the essence of complexity that is Asperger’s syndrome.  This lets us know, as parents, that we can trust his advice.  His words set the tone and flavor of his approach when he writes:-

‘These children frequently smash through the glass ceilings that authoritative professionals have predicted for them.’

I enjoyed this discrete paradigm: the child, parent and teacher.  Although Richard acknowledges the impact of the deluge of other influences from therapists to peers, he restricts his remit to a manageable 170 pages.

To me, the choice of title seems a curious one–why would anyone NOT embrace Asperger’s?  Certainly, over the years I have met a great many children with Asperger’s syndrome as well as their parents.  As often as not, these parents are forthcoming about their children’s diagnoses, strong advocates, who are proud of their children’s achievements, talents and gifts.  Most of these children are mainstreamed although I would hazard a guess that this is primarily because these is no suitable alternative program.  There is no good fit available.  And that is the unwritten secret of this book, which also accounts, in part, for Bromfield’s patient and compassionate approach.

Most teachers have a heavy workload, more so, in the current economic climate.  Class sizes grow.  Resources shrink.  And then, teachers are expected to expand their skill set to accommodate and teach a wide spectrum, one or more quirky kids, some with learning difficulties, ADHD and maybe Asperger’s.

Teaching is a vocation, a fact reflected in their salaries.  They want the best for their students, all of them, but some are more difficult to engage and motivate.  This is where Bromfield steps in to demonstrate how teachers can intervene to promote successful learners.

There are so many useful bullet points here, one-liners that once grasped could make all the difference in a child’s life:-

–  Don’t take it personally

–  Assume anxiety exists

–  Model acceptance

–  Do not turn away from depression

But I won’t give too much away.

Bromfield’s hands-on experience shines throughout this book; his insight is sure to prove invaluable to many readers.

I do have one criticism, something easily amended on the next printing:-  give me an index!  [please]


Available from JKP and Amazon.





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From Anxiety to Meltdown How Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Deal with Anxiety, Experience Meltdowns, Manifest Tantrums, and How You Can Intervene Effectively Deborah Lipsky


Deborah Lipsky, the self dubbed Raccoon Lady, has written a must read for people like me.  People like me with children on the spectrum are apt to sit on my children’s shoulders and try to examine the insides of their heads.  It is a less than perfect arrangement.  More often than not, what with the speech delays and such, my translations are usually just my best guess with a dollop of wishful thinking.

So here, Deborah provides great insight into the thought processes and thinking patterns applicable to many people on the spectrum.  Her perspective may not be unique, in that there are lots of other autistic people with similar viewpoints, but the trouble is that not enough of them have written a book about it to enlighten us.  So here is the opportunity.


I particularly warm to her distinction between a meltdown and a tantrum, but that is probably because I agree with her.  You may well think otherwise, as you are entitled to, once you have read the book.


Her insights, tips and approach should prove invaluable to many, but for me, I was particularly interested to read about the interplay between anxiety, OCD, stress and how these elements can affect someone in their adult life.  Her account provides ample evidence about the importance of intervention early in life, to provide our children with as many coping mechanisms as possible, as well as the need to teach and practice flexible thinking.


I was delighted to read about Deborah’s challenging and fulfilling life, which I’m sure will prove inspirational to both parents and autistic children.  It would be far too sweeping to say, ‘Nothing holds you back except the limits imposed by yourself,’ but the impulse to self-censure is a commonplace part of the human condition.

p.s. lastly, I would like to add a request, namely, that a sequel might look at another black and white issue:  depression, autism and the mire of inertia.  How can parents intervene effectively?


Available from JKP.


And you can visit Deborah Lipsky here.


P.s.  Added later – thanks to Trish for this link where you can hear and see Deborah lecture where you can get a flavor of her wit and wisdom.

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Part 2 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dummies

By Rob Willson and Rhena Branch,TopRight,35,-73_OU15_SS100_.jpg


It’s all about me:-

Here’s a gem I came across which is proving very helpful for the perfectionists amongst us.

This is my rendering of their illustration which is simple enough to reproduce for your own version.


Yes it is a bit small but if you look carefully you will see that the capital ‘I’ is made up of many, many little ‘i’s.  This is great for the visual learners amongst us and goes to illustrate the principle that each of us is made up of lots of different little bits that go together to make a whole person.

Hence, when one of those little ‘i’s falls out or proves itself to be less than perfect, there is no need to have a  meltdown because all the other many pieces are still in tact. It is not the end of the world.  This picture can help with perspective taking, the big picture rather than focusing all attention on one minute blemish.

Alternatively, the imperfection once identified, is most probably less than 1% of the whole.  [wise parents count to make sure there are indeed one hundred little ‘i’s.]  This can help calm down those who have a tendency to catastrophize a situation.


It can also be used by printing off a fresh sheet every day and then marking each hic-cup with a pen or sticker, then even if you happen to experience a really tough day, the majority will remain unmarked.  Over time, say a week, a child can then see the progress they’ve made – this is especially good for perfectionists who are also pessimists and provides visual feedback or proof of improvement.


…….and still alive to tell the tale!

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies

By Rob Willson and Rhena Branch

Many moons ago I would arrive in the kitchen to find my mother slaving away over a hot oven.  This would occur frequently, often early in the morning before I was really awake.  If I asked, ‘what are you cooking for supper,’ she would usually give the same answer, something along the lines of ‘I’m not sure…yet.’  I would look at this menopausal mother in her 1970’s caftan, ruler of my universe and wonder how this could be?  Her hands were busy, her body moved about within the available space and she spoke and yet she made no sense at all.

Forty [plus] years later, it seems unduly harsh to criticize this woman knee deep in sautéd onions and hot flashes, but now, it seems to me that this would have been the ideal time to grasp what we now call a ‘learning opportunity.’  She might have said, ‘there’s this book that hasn’t been written yet because the authors haven’t been born yet, but in the future you could learn to accept that there is a whole slew of things over which you have absolutely no control.  If you learn that now, your life will be a whole lot happier.’  So if, like me, you find that as a parent you spend a great deal of time telling your autistic child the same things many, many times, just be assured that you’re on the right path, not matter how futile it may sometimes seem.

This book may seem an odd choice for parents like us, after all, we’ve been dealing with variations on a theme for some while now, what else or more could we possibly learn from such a self-help book?  The answer, for me at least, is quite sobering and twofold.  Firstly, it’s an acknowledgement that our children are growing older and we are still dealing with the same underlying issues.  Although they are coping much better, better than we could possibly have ever imagined, nonetheless, the underlying difficulties remain stubbornly in place and more importantly, they will probably stay there long after we are dead and buried.

This may seem a little gloomy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. What it means is that we need to update our skills as parents so as to deliver a different set of coping strategies, those better suited to an older person with greater cognitive abilities.  Star charts and tick down schedules are all well and good, but children move beyond such motivators and develop different skills.

I did learn something new.  I learned about NATs:- Negative Automatic Thoughts.   These are thought which enter your mind automatically, immediately.  This is something we have been tackling forever, but it’s a slightly different approach.  In the realm of autism we tend to describe this how we perceive it as parents: rigidity, inflexibility, a desire to maintain a strict routine, a resistance to anything that deviates from a well-worn regime.  Do you recognize it now?  I certainly do.  When they were younger we tackled this in a variety of different ways but surprise, surprise it’s still there, writ large.  This is just a different way of tackling the very same issue and I was grateful for the reminder.

If you take the acronym NAT and add a G for ‘General’ or ‘Global’ then you have GNAT – which is much easier to remember.  Take some time to explain the concept, that those negative responses need to be curbed, but first they need to recognize what they’re doing.  Quite often it’s become so ingrained that it just blends in.  Then, every time someone says something negative, a first response, without any thought because it’s automatic, you can ‘snap that GNAT and be a smooth, cool cat.’  I snap my fingers at the same time, as it’s more likely to catch their attention.  Pretty soon, I found out just how frequently this occurs.

Yes, it’s only the first stage:- recognition.  What to do about it thereafter, replacing it with more proactive and helpful strategies, comes a bit later.  Clever people can problem combine both strategies at the same time, but for now, we’re still working on it.

More later.

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Fully Present by Susan L. Smalley, PhD and Diana Winston

The Science, Art and Practice of Mindfulness.

I began reading this book initially to help my children but as it’s turned out it was also quite helpful to me too.  For the moment I don’t really have the time to squeeze meditation into my current life style, but it’s certainly given me quite a lot of material to think about and lots of tips to use with the children to help them move less painfully into their teenage years.

The book is an easy read and peppered with instances of unhelpful thought processes and examples of how to alter them.  I imagine that many parents of autistic children have already mastered many of these techniques but around here we needed a refresher course on how to tackle negativity and defeatism.  In the high octane world of autism and Alzheimer’s I need all the tricks and tips I can get.  When I read the ordinary, everyday kinds of negative concerns of other people, I found it quite reassuring, but I expect that’s just a spectrum thing.

To give you a flavor of the book, the authors retell a story which I also found here

Two Wolves

An old Cherokee told his grandson that a battle that goes on inside each us.
The battle is between two ‘wolves’.
One ‘wolf’ is Evil. It has anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other ‘wolf’ is Good. It has joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Everybody seems to have stressful lives these days and many of the mind strategies should help us all keep a bit more grounded.  In many ways it reminded me of a catechism although obviously more modern and secular.  Maybe mindfulness, emotional intelligence and spirituality have become the new religion.

As the authors quote Henry James:-

“Three things in human life are important.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind.  And the third is to be kind.”

And you can buy it at Amazon and elsewhere.

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