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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-05-24
- Reviewer: Staff
In this especially timely, painstakingly positive work, a children's film coach recounts her adoption of a troubled Russian toddler and her long, tortuous, ultimately enlightening journey to treat his nonverbal autism. A former actress, Hall worked as a successful "baby wrangler" for Hollywood feature films; 40-something, married nine years, active in her Jewish faith, and devastated by successive miscarriages, she along with her then husband traveled to an orphanage in Yekaterinburg, Russia, to adopt a quiet two-year-old. Neal, as she named him, couldn't speak or make eye contact, and despite Hall's belief in his innate intelligence, the boy was eventually diagnosed with "severe sensory dysfunction." She beautifully chronicles Neal's development to the age of his bar mitzvah vis-à-vis his responses--positive and negative--to the slew of experts and coaches Hall found to create therapies tailored to his very individual needs. Though Hall's marriage dissolved under the pressure of Neal's care, and there were moments Hall truly believed she and her son were "slouching toward normal," she had to accept that Neal would never be "cured" of autism. She created her life's work in the Miracle Project, a theater arts program for autistic kids (eventually made into the Emmy Award–winning documentary Autism: The Musical). (July)
A mother's heroic quest
In attempting to reach her autistic son, Elaine Hall developed imaginative new ways to connect with other autistic children. These miracle breakthroughs, as well as a performing arts program she started for autistic children, were the subject of an award-winning HBO documentary, Autism: The Musical. Hall relates this incredible journey in her heartwarming memoir, Now I See the Moon.
Once a highly successful film and television acting coach for children, Hall consistently distinguishes herself by employing creative approaches to motherhood. When she learns that Neal, the two-year-old boy she adopted from a Russian orphanage, is autistic, she recalls a Chinese proverb: “Barn’s burnt down—now I see the moon.” And here is where the hero quest of a devoted mother begins.
Hall enters her son’s world, flapping her hands, crawling under tables and spinning as Neal does in order to understand his heightened sensory perceptions, his difficulty with communicating through speech and his remarkable gifts. She witnesses his protectiveness toward other children, his occasional psychic ability and his high intelligence, and she learns to empathize with the physical pain and panic he experiences when subjected to loud noises.
Hall writes unflinchingly about the strains and sacrifices of parenting an autistic child, yet more importantly, her work encourages parents to accept their child’s uniqueness, to question and rethink what is best regardless of established practices, and to appreciate the miracles that come with never giving up on developing pathways to communication.
Now I See the Moon is an amazing story written by an indomitable woman and an important book for anyone wanting to nurture and appreciate the special gifts of autistic children.