Manchester, UK – First time author Sarah Pounder, is a married mother of 3 young boys, Jimmy, Adam and Joel. Her eldest son Jimmy, (James) aged 11, is severely autistic, has a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and profound learning difficulties. Her book, Jimmy, Me and Autism documents her journey with Jimmy from the very early days and discusses in brutal and honest detail her struggles to get the correct educational provision for her son. What Sarah also manages to portray in this book is the lack of knowledge that still surround autism in both the general public and in the health and education professions.
The book description is as follows:
‘A true story written about the realities of bringing a child up, with severe autistic spectrum disorder, and the fight to get his special educational needs met. A fight that should never have happened.’
I was very excited to read this book, having a young child on the autism spectrum myself. My youngest son, who will be 7 in April has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Modulation Dysfunction (SMD) and attends an autism specific school.
Firstly there is something so refreshing about reading those stories from other parents who are in a similar situation to yourself and being able to identify with them. I read this book within a couple of days and at times was angry on Sarah’s behalf, as well as feeling her pain and frustrations in trying to access the correct help for Jimmy.
The book revolves around the need for Jimmy to access Applied Behaviour Analysis therapy (ABA) and the very apparent lack of services and indeed the reluctance of the Local Education Authority to provide the funding and placement for such therapy.
I have very little knowledge of ABA but this did not matter when reading the book, what I focused upon was this mother’s struggle to get the correct help that her son so desperately needed, and she and Dale her partner, did not give up. Through their sheer determination, it is only now that Jimmy is getting the help and support that he needs in a specialist ABA unit attached to a school.
What this book remarkably does is work upon several levels. Firstly it is an inspirational book for parents of children who are on the spectrum. Whether that child has just been diagnosed or if you are further along on your diagnostic journey. You will find some common ground and for those parents who are struggling to access the most suitable education for their child, or even a diagnosis in the first place, then this book will help to support them and to give hope. The strong message running throughout the heart of this book is that you know your child best and that you should go with your gut, (more about this later), but ultimately the reader will feel that they are not alone.
Secondly, professionals will also gain tremendous information from reading this book. Often professionals have no idea of what life is like raising a child who has autism, (this does not apply to all professionals I know), they know information from text books but not from real life; what this book does is even the balance. They get an honest account of what life has been like for this family in raising a child with severe autism. Any professional reading this book will gain great insight into the world of autism simply by reading Sarah’s story.
Thirdly, I believe that this book is a good read for everyone who is affected by autism. Family, friends, child minders etc., and the reader gains so much knowledge about autism and how it affects family life while also reading a story well told.
I have to say that this book was also incredibly easy to read and I found myself immersed into Sarah’s world. I found myself equally excited when they went to visit the ABA school where they desperately wanted Jimmy to attend. He was offered a place, but my excitement turned to outrage when I read that they were flatly refused funding by the LEA. Thus then resulted in them obtaining a Scholarship of which they had to financially contribute to. I felt myself becoming incredibly angry at this point. They fought the LEA, and went to tribunal but they lost their case. I was furious for them; Jimmy had been failed by the system. They had evidence from the school, professionals and evidence that Sarah had collected herself on how ABA was helping to improve Jimmy in all aspects of his life, but yet he was still denied funding.
Sarah’s story of how they finally received the help and funding that they needed for Jimmy is a complex and convoluted one, so you shall have to read the book, but with sheer determination, Sarah and Dale fought for what they knew was right, and now Jimmy is in the educational setting that best suits his needs.
What most touched me about this book though was Sarah’s honesty and her description of her life with Jimmy in the very early years. The fact that he exhibited challenging behaviour when out and about and that strangers would stop and stare. Sara also shared the fact that he would head butt when in the house and would meltdown when traveling in the car.
All of this I could relate to and I know that many other parents out there caring for a child on the spectrum will be able to do so too. This is another reason why I love this book. Professionals do not often know there is ‘another side’ and by reading this book, they will have their eyes well and truly opened.
I will also finally add that I very much like the way that Sarah shows that you should always go with your gut. You know your child best and therefore your voice should be heard. This is why she fought as hard as she did. One example though that she gives in the book is when Jimmy complained of stomach ache and she took him to the GP and then to Accident and Emergency. The medical team suspected appendicitis but Sarah had a feeling that he had ingested something that he shouldn’t, due to his pica. She told staff this fact, but they dismissed her idea. Anyway, it was only when she consented to an appendectomy and they looked at his bowel, that the surgeon removed a yellow piece of plastic poking out of the bowel wall. Jimmy had swallowed two plastic snakes that were not from the family home and this was the reason for his excruciating pain.
My final message then is that everyone who is in anyway affected by autism should read this book. It is an enjoyable story well told as well as raising the issue of autism, and that for many of our children, they are not receiving the correct education or indeed care that they need.
About the Author
Sarah Pounder resides in Manchester Uk with her husband Dale and three sons. James has severe autism, ADHD, SPD and learning difficulties. Jimmy, Me and Autism is her first novel. You can follow Jimmy’s journey over on Facebook at Jimmy, Me and Autism Memoir