Posts Tagged ‘ dyslexia ’

What It’s Like to Have Autism: ‘Dummy’ by David Patten

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

For the December issue of Parents, I wrote about an intense book. If you know anyone with autism then Dummy: A Memoir is a must read.

Imagine what it would be like to live in today’s society with a severe learning disability. Now think about being born with autism in the 1950s–before the term even existed. This book proves how far we’ve come in research and acceptance, and it makes me think about how much further we have to go.

Even though author David Patten still can’t read or write, he has dictated a beautiful, touching and often harrowing book about growing up with severe learning disabilities in the 1960s. Today, a child like David would be treated for dyslexia and autism. But back then, he was labeled as a “dummy” with psychological problems. David excelled in math but couldn’t grasp letters. Emotionally intelligent and sensitive, he fights hard to fight to avoid bullies and has a sense of duty to protect others from them. But adults just see him as a troublemaker, and he is sent to a mental hospital after a suicide attempt and then to a dangerous Chicago school for troubled teens.

Even his mother, who is a school psychologist, doesn’t know how to help. He spirals into dealing drugs and trying to save his deeply troubled teenage girlfriend named Donna. Through soul-searching—and with the help of 1970s spiritual gurus—he stops believing the negative messages and starts accepting himself.

Patten’s success story reveals the deep inner workings of the autistic mind, leaving his readers with a profound sense of empathy and compassion. Readers will come away with new thoughts on what it’s really like to be autistic.

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