Synopses & Reviews
Faced with her two-year-old toddler's precipitous bout with epilepsy and his puzzling behaviors, Valerie Paradiz took a bold and unusual path, coming to terms with and ultimately embracing the strange beauty of her son Elijah's special neurological disorder, which was diagnosed as Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.
In "Elijah's Cup, " Paradiz tells the powerful story of her family's struggle with her son's disease, one characterized by social awkwardness, literal-mindedness, and a fixation with particular subjects and interests. Like attention deficit disorder (ADD), dyslexia, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Asperger's has exploded in diagnosis in the last decade, reconfiguring the known incidence of autism in the population with estimates as high as one in fifty people.
Ever since autism was "discovered" by researchers in the 1940s, the disability has been under the strict purview of professionals in medicine, psychiatry, and education. Like the deaf community, autistics themselves have had little voice in expressing their real experience and needs. They were framed as too "sick" to be conscious of their own internal lives, too "mentally ill" to possess an identity. All this has changed.
Today there is a blossoming movement of autistic self-advocacy groups and alliances that pose challenging questions to the medical status quo. A fascinating, independent expression of another way of life, full of quirkiness, hardship, and humor, has emerged. "Elijah's Cup" is a provocative and pioneering book that pushes the envelope of what we know about autism. Were Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, and the comedian Andy Kaufman, whom we usually think of as brilliant eccentrics, autistic? Can these figures serve as role models to this community?
"Elijah's Cup" offers a refreshing take on mental disability from the perspective of civil rights, history, and the arts. From encounters with the founders of the first civil rights organizations for autistics, who guide Paradiz and her son toward a sense of community and self-respect, and with visual artists, who share with Elijah their special ability to "think in pictures," Elijah reaches extraordinary heights in his sociability and emotional well-being.
In this utterly absorbing and inspiring narrative, Paradiz also reveals her own shadow syndrome, which afflicts many family members of autistics. She is a "cousin," a genetic link to her son's autism. Standing as she does on this cultural borderline, Paradiz is a sensitive translator between two worlds, revealing a groundbreaking insider's view of the beauty of minds hidden in the shadows of autism.
"Not only a joy to read, it challenged my thinking...and inspired new directions in my own clinical work." Tony Attwood, Ph.D., Author of Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide For Parents and Professionals
"Valerie doesn't offer a typical autism story, for, as a sophisticated translator and teacher, she is highly literate, comfortable quoting from Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, and well able to avoid the personal and emotional excesses often seen in similar, less intelligent and less thoughtful testimonies." Booklist
"Valerie Paradiz has written an honest, artistic, and very human account of the impact of this exceptional and controversial social-political movement on her life and that of her colorful son, Elijah. She captures how this sometimes mind-blowing social adventure in a world rarely visited by most people expanded their lives and helped shape a different place of belonging within the world." Donna Williams, author of Nobody Nowhere
"Sixty years ago, my father, the Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, revealed the appealing and often overlooked qualities of these unusual children. He also showed how we even find some resonance of their difficult traits within ourselves. Now it's time for us to hear more directly the voice of autistic people and that of their parents. Valerie Paradiz has given us a precious gift of a book, full of her own experiences with her son." Maria Asperger, Child Psychiatrist
"Valerie Paradiz's appealing narrative of day-to-day living with her autistic son held me from start to finish. It brims with insights, especially those stressing the importance of "dismantling our fear" of other ways of perceiving. Very timely and resonant." Gail Godwin
"Bravo, Valerie, you are eloquently describing the journey that you and Elijah, and I and my son Jeremy, and the other fellow travelers I have met along the way of this "long strange trip" of parenthood and childhood on the spectrum are making." Phil Schwarz, VP Asperger's Association of New England
About the Author
Valerie Paradiz was born in Colorado and has lived and worked in Germany and Japan. For several years she has taught literature and writing at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. She lives with her son in Woodstock, New York.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 Elijah's Cup
CHAPTER 2 The Gift of Loss
CHAPTER 3 Perfect Strangers
CHAPTER 4 The Coincidence of Sharron Loree
CHAPTER 5 Nietzsche in the Bathtub
CHAPTER 6 My Father Was a Yakker
CHAPTER 7 Echolalia Fun Fun Fun
CHAPTER 8 Balloon Days
CHAPTER 9 Cartoons Don't Get Hurt
CHAPTER 10 Life Under Glass
CHAPTER 11 Playground Comedian
CHAPTER 12 Cracking Code
Web Sites by and for Autistic People and for Autistic Advocacy