Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: The Best Kind of Different

The Best Kind of Different: Our Family's Journey with Asperger's Syndrome, by Shonda Schilling (with an introduction written by Curt Schilling).

As the title says, this is a "my family and autism" story.  What the title doesn't clue you into is that this is a "sports star dad" story, similar to Not My Boy!  I'm never quite sure, reading these kinds of books, whether to envy or pity the autistic child in question.  Because yes, the child never needs to worry about food or shelter or schooling or medical treatment being unavailable.  But the thing about professional sports is that they basically eat your life for months out of the year.  This book, written by the wife of the sports star (Curt Shilling, for anyone not familiar, pitched for the Boston Red Sox), gives a better picture of exactly how out-of-the-picture the dad can be. 

It's honestly to the point where the home in question is all but a one-parent home for most of the year.  That's brutal for the remaining parent, and also bad for the kids.  On top of that, though, professional sports players tend to move around a lot.  I don't think I've detailed exactly how detrimental it was to my social life and connections when my parents moved.  And naturally, given how the business world was, we moved three times during my childhood.  I didn't quite count up how many times this family moved, but even once destroys your social connections and automatically relegates you to "permanent outsider" in the school pecking order.  I made that work for me when I could, and suffered it when I couldn't.  I suffered far more than I benefited.

Perhaps a somewhat mitigating factor for this autistic kid was that he had siblings relatively close in age range.  He may not have been able to take his friends with him to his new schools, but at least he kept his siblings.  Siblings can support each other sometimes, since they go through the same things.  I lacked that when I was growing up, unfortunately.  It's not that my brother didn't care; he absolutely did.  It's that he was nearly six years older than me.  We had few common interests and even less shared perspective.  He could conceive of the future while I was still figuring out how to conceive of the past.  Also, he likes tactical games, and I have no patience or focus for those. 

At least my personal history and worst childhood moments aren't recorded in a book for thousands of strangers to read...  I recognize that the younger generations are more accustomed to having no privacy, their every moment documented with photos, blog posts, and tweets, and all of it traceable back years and years on the Internet... but I shudder to imagine that being the case for me.  Bad enough I had to live all those moments and remember some of them, far worse to have all of them on record so people can know all the trying and difficult things I've done in my life. 

My last thought on this book is that the narrative stops before the autistic kid hits his teenage years, on a happy-ish note.  Which is just adorable to me because that is naturally when things tend to go horribly trying again for a half decade or so.  It makes it a very incomplete story to me, and not at all the end of a "family journey" as the title puts it.  The only complete bit about it to me is that the dad finally retires from baseball and comes home to help with the kids, so the family is then complete. 

Just in time, as far as my experience tells me.  This book was published in 2010, so here's hoping the author and her spouse braved the trials of having four teenagers (one of which is autistic) with grace and patience.  I wasn't able to locate any further books regarding the family's status, beyond a brief article about one of the older brothers. 

Read This Book If

You'd like to read about how a household like this one (sports star dad, mom, four kids) can work out, or you're interested in this mother's particular mentality on the experience.  I personally think the narrative is weighted much more towards explaining the trials and hardships of the life than celebrating the positives espoused later in the book.  If you're a Schilling fan, this book may be for you, though. 

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