Review by "The Goth" administrator of Asperger United magazine
The book is subtitled "a single Asperger woman's adoption of two Down's boys" but it is actually her full autobiography, right from birth through her school days to the present day at the age of 50. The adoption of her sons is, however, central to the story she tells.
The book is written with a terseness which is typical of people on the spectrum but the overall style is very readable and very fluid - it was a pleasure to read. As you might expect, the book is full of details of her life - she brings much more insight into these anecdotes and stories than the authors of many autobiographies, so repeatedly she has illuminated aspects of my own life.
I think this book will be of interest to people who want insight into living in the wider world, and although central, the adoption of two children and the difficulties that she was forced to tackle in raising them are not narrowly presented - many of the problems she has with her sons are apllicable to my life and life in general.
It is a pity that such a good book was not taken up by a mainstream publisher.
This review first appeared in Asperger United, a magazine by and for people on the autistic spectrum and is reprinted by kind permission of the National Autistic Society.
Review by an adoptive parent for Adoption Today, the Journal of Adoption UK
My first thought when I received this book was "Wow!, how on earth would a person with Asperger Syndrome be able to cope with two Down's boys, she must have lots of support". Having read the book I realised that the impact of the title was due to my prejudgement and misconceptions of Asperger Syndrome. Fiona Barrington's story dispels the myths surrounding Asperger Syndrome and puts the traits that are indicative of the syndrome into context and onto a spectrum.
At the end of the book there is a useful guide to Asperger Syndrome taken from the National Autistic Society. This covers the full spectrum of the syndrome explaining in particular the triad of impairments; social interaction, social communication and social imagination.
The book is an autobiographical account of Fiona's life from her childhood to present. The book explores three main issues; Fiona's awareness but often lack of understanding of her differences, how they are received and how she learns to live with them, her faith in God and how she fits in within the Christian community, and also her desire to adopt particularly children with Down's, and the ensuing trials, tribulations and joys.
It is really interesting to learn how she became aware of how she may react under certain circumstances and found ways of avoiding the situation or finding a way around it. Fiona was not actually diagnosed as having Asperger Syndrome until the age of 48, so the children were not as such placed with her as a person with Asperger Syndrome. It did make me wonder whether her application to adopt may have been received differently had she applied already having been given a label.
I found the book very inspirational. The determination, self-belief and faith in God's plan helped Fiona to overcome many obstacles and achieve her aim. The two boys it would seem could not have found a better match. Fiona's Asperger Syndrome and life experiences gave her a good grounding when it came to understanding her children.
The book is written in a very matter of fact way, but this only helps the reader to feel an affinity with the author. Fiona's life experiences take the reader on a journey that is often painful and frustrating but equally humorous and above all, full of hope. The book is easy to read and interesting. I would say that there is something in this book for everyone. I have already passed it on and I would highly recommend it.
This review first appeared in the December 2008 edition of Adoption Today and is reprinted by kind permission of Adoption UK.
Review for the Down's Syndrome Journal
This is a strikingly honest, funny, searching, brave and easy to read account of the author's life. Fiona's predominant experience of childhood and teenage years was one of unhappiness and overarching anxiety. At 18 she had a nervous breakdown but a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy, friendships at university and gaining a personal faith gave her new hope. The key to the author's eventual and deserved fulfilment came with the adoption of two baby boys with Down's syndrome, Daniel and Matthew, and her sense of relief at receiving a late diagnosis of Asperger syndrome at the age of 48.
I must admit that I was initially sceptical about this book believing it to be similar to many other books from this genre that had crossed my desk. However, after the first few pages, I found myself unavoidably drawn in and engaged by Fiona's writing style. Her story offers a fascinating insight into the interior world of a person who has Asperger syndrome. It brought to mind Luke Jackson's excellent book 'Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome' which I equally enjoyed. There is a strong religious strain to this book, which some may find off-putting, but the book left me highly respecting the personal faith and integrity of the author and the way that her faith has helped her to overcome major obstacles in her life. What is also striking is the overall support and non-judgemental acceptance that the author received from many and various church-based groups.
This book does not shy away from confronting painful and difficult issues such as Fiona's devastation on learning that her younger son has diabetes which somehow seems to her, at a fragile time, worse than Down's syndrome as she did not choose a child with diabetes. There are also the all too familiar struggles with DLA and insensitive doctors. However, there are many light hearted and wry moments of fun in the book. One of Fiona's sons decides to drop his trousers whilst a prospective minister is preaching (know in Baptist circles as 'preaching with a view'). One of the congregation comments to Fiona after the service that the preacher 'certainly had a view'. When Daniel becomes sexually aware he starts to ask strangers if they have sex. Fiona, with tongue firmly in cheek, speculates that maybe Daniel should get a job as a social worker assessing people for adoption as he would be able to ask all kinds of intimate questions about people's sex lives and get paid for doing it too! I laughed when I read Fiona's speculation that in future one of her sons may be discovered to have a new syndrome called 'Annoying People Disorder' (APD) due to his love of winding people up! Whilst much of this book is about difference, there is much about this account that is refreshingly ordinary and day to day and with which most readers will identify.
The book contains a couple of lapses in terminology and a couple of factual errors around Down's syndrome but these are insignificant when compared to the author's desire and commitment to adopt a baby with Down's syndrome. I defy anyone not to have a lump in their throat at Fiona's evident emotion when Daniel first says 'Mummy'.
For me the essence of the book is summed up in Fiona's reflection that "I sometimes feel like one of the irregular shapes in Daniel's shape sorter. For years I have tried to fit into conventional shaped holes, but now I have just found the right hole for me."
Stuart Mills, DSA
Reprinted by kind permission of Stuart Mills of the Down's Syndrome Association
Author's Note: the errors mentioned in the above review are that I stated that children with Down's syndrome find it difficult to speak clearly because of their large tongues. In fact their tongues are of normal size but appear larger because their mouths are generally smaller and they have poor muscle control. It is the poor muscle tone that tends to affect their speech.