A 26-year-old with autism (and his mother) gives an honest review of Uniquely Human by Barry M. Prizant

by Taylor Cross and Keri Bowers, co-directors of the documentary, Normal People Scare Me: A Film About Autism.

Taylor

I have never been asked to read a book on autism and then review it. I like that me, a person with autism was asked to say what I think about Uniquely Human. It’s good to get a point of view from people who have autism, and, you know, not just people who tell us about autism, but those of us who live with it. So I am glad I got this opportunity to say what I think.

I had the support of someone I have known for a long time to write my opinions. Susan is a longtime friend and behaviorist. She inspired me to start and finish the book. I am glad for her help.

In Uniquely Human, I like that Barry Prizant reminds people over and over again to listen, observe, and ask why. He says this many times in his book. This is an important point in autism. People don’t always ask us with autism what we think, and they definitely don’t listen a lot of the time.

Often, the people who support me have not asked why I do certain things, or why I don’t do certain things. A lot of time, my support staff just thinks I should be able to do things because I seem like I am capable to do things on my own. When I fall short or cannot find the words to ask for help, they do not ask why. Some things are very hard for me and so they just assume I am lazy or don’t care. But I do care; it’s just hard for me to do things like college or follow through on a lot of things — even though I live in my own apartment with supports.

I wish more people would ask why I seem to fall short of doing certain things, for example, instead of just thinking I failed at something. I like what it says in the book about this sort of thing, and more people should ask why is this happening instead of assuming I (or others) just don’t care.

I like that a lot of stories are used in the book to talk about the points Barry is trying to make. I enjoyed reading about the ways people were successful, but I do have a complaint and that is that all of the stories are tied up too neatly with the result being always having success. Autism is not like that though. There is not always a nice and neat bow tied up at the end of how things turn out. It seems like Uniquely Human is saying everything with this strategy or that always turns out well, and that’s just not how it is. It just doesn’t seem real to me.

I like that the book was easy for me to read. When my mom asked me to read it, at first it was hard because it is not the type of book I would normally read. But with help from Susan, I started to get really into it and I learned a lot. I feel proud that I was asked for my opinion. I think my opinion matters. One day I want to be a reviewer of video games because I like them a lot — like a lot of people with autism. Reviewing this book made me see how much work needs to go into that dream, so I am thankful for the opportunity.

I have been able to do many really great things in my life, like making a film, or traveling around different parts of the world. I have spoken on stages, including once for one of Barry’s events. People think I am really able to do so much, and in a way, I am. But when I fail or fall short, I just want the people around me to ask why — why do I have a hard time? — instead of deciding for themselves that I just failed and say, “Why can’t you just…?”

Thank you for letting me review this book. It was a hard but worthwhile thing for me to do.

Keri

Having known Barry Prizant and his ideology and values in autism for over a decade, I was excited to read Uniquely Human while on a backpacking adventure in Europe. I sat in cafes, in parks, on river cruise boats, and other places in 5 different countries and took my time to absorb the delicious ideas and tools shared. I often smiled and found myself shaking my head “Yes, yes and yes!” Other times I became nostalgic, reliving my own past in raising my son Taylor, now 26 with autism.

You might call me a quirky artist mom, one who has used the arts and positive approaches to support emerging Taylor from the cocoon of “ism” since 1988. Using a person-centered approach since before the term was even popular, I raised my son based on his strengths and not his weaknesses. Barry’s premise that deep interests can help a child to be more engaged and more attentive is, I believe, the ultimate foundation of building self esteem, self determination and ultimately, self advocacy. When a child is valued, they know it. When they are dismissed or patronized they also know this. This truth has been seen in the hundreds of children I’ve worked with over the past two decades.

Barry vividly brings these point home.

In Uniquely Human, Barry weaves with words a vibrant and colorful cloth of insightful textures and possibilities. He shows us ways of seeing beyond the label of autism to find the unique and soulful individual that resides within each person on the autism spectrum.

Questioning the status quo, we are challenged to constantly ask why, and readjust our approaches and expectations to meet ever-changing circumstances, transitions and experiences. The powerful strategies Barry provides will help readers — whether parents or professionals — to meet autism in a whole new way, and undoubtedly, experience wholly new and unexpected results. Autism is challenging for sure, yet it is also a magical mystery tour, creating when we allow it the opportunity to be uniquely better humans.

Brava, on an excellent book, one I wish I had been able to read 26 years ago when autism first came knocking on my door.

“I am autistic, but it does not define me.” says 26-year-old Taylor Cross. At 15, Taylor made his first film, Normal People Scare Me, with his mom and producer Joey Travolta. Now, 10 years later, they’re at it again. Normal People Scare Me Too: A 10 year Retrospective is due out in early 2016. Taylor, who has traveled all over the world to present key note talks about his film and life with autism, is excited to get out on the road again.

Owner of Normal Films, and co-founder of The Art of Autism, Keri Bowers has been an advocate, filmmaker, author and educator for over 20 years. Her son Taylor, who is now 26 and has autism, collaborated with mom to make 3 documentary films including Normal People Scare Me, The Sandwich Kid and ARTS. She is a featured columnist for Autism Asperger’s Digest Magazine. Her book, Autism Movement Therapy: Waking Up the Brain, co-written with Joanne Lara, is due out in October, 2015.

Uniquely Human, by Barry M. Prizant PhD, is available online and at your favorite bookstore.