Autism Heroes: Portraits of Families meeting the challenge – Barbara Firestone
This is a collection of biographical snippets from a wide range of families with autistic family members. Alongside these snippets and recounts are photographs of the families.
It’s a little difficult to know who this book is targeting; my best guess is that the main audience will be other families with autistic members. Regardless of the audience, this book includes a wide range of families, where autistic family members range in age from young children to adults. The accounts are loosely grouped together under different themes which are reflected in the content and throughout these, the family members talk about many different areas of life.
Most of these accounts are straightforward and simply honest accounts of day-to-day life or of a single event within the lives of their autistic families members. There are a few which are patronising or come close to advocating for non-scientific approaches such as biomedical treatments, but these are not the majority. The different stories are interesting to read, especially given the diversity of the families, and the photography is pretty incredible.
Unfortunately, a big downside of this book is that there is nothing from any autistic people themselves. Even where the individual with autistic is able to make their views known, nothing is included where they talk about their experiences. This is a shame as the way forward for the autism community is for autistic people, families, and professionals to all be equally included in literature and by leaving autistic people’s voices out of this book – it lets it down. I also don’t particularly like the title; it continues this idea that families who have autistic members are either heroic or have to be heroic, and neither is a pleasant tone. The former suggests that you need to be an amazing person to have an autistic family member, and the latter suggests you need to be superhuman to do what’s best for your family member. It’s an idea we are moving away from thankfully, but it hasn’t quite left yet.
Should you read it?
Autistic people will perhaps not enjoy this book as much as family members, and I don’t know how much professionals will get out of it either. Family members will probably get the most value from it, especially since they may find accounts that are similar to things they have experienced.