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12 and HoldingA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Lethal InheritanceA Mother's Courage: Talking Back to AutismA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA Special EducationA Toss Of The DiceA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainABC of Eating DisordersADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeADHD Grown UpADHD in the Schools: Assessment and Intervention StrategiesADHD NationAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAlpha GirlsAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAsperger Syndrome and Your ChildAsperger Syndrome, Adolescence, and IdentityAsperger's and GirlsAssessment of Childhood DisordersAttention Deficit DisorderAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderAutism - The Eighth Colour of the RainbowAutism and MeAutism's False ProphetsAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBeen There, Done That? DO THIS!Before I DieBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBipolar ChildrenBipolar Disorder in Childhood and Early AdolescenceBipolar DisordersBipolar KidsBlackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive DevelopmentBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoy AloneBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingBullying PreventionBut I Love HimCan't Eat, Won't EatCaring for a Child with AutismCatalystChild and Adolescent PsychiatryChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChild and Adolescent PsychopathologyChild NeuropsychologyChild Well-BeingChildren and SexualityChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChildren’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneCommunication Issues In Autism And Asperger SyndromeConcepts of NormalityConcise Guide to Child 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Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTemple GrandinThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bipolar ChildThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Boy Who Was Raised as a DogThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully Action GuideThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Burn JournalsThe Color of AbsenceThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Evolution of ChildhoodThe Explosive ChildThe Eyes of van GoghThe Fasting GirlThe Field of the DogsThe Flight of a DoveThe Hidden Gifts of the Introverted ChildThe Horse BoyThe Identity TrapThe Inner World of a Suicidal YouthThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Kindness of StrangersThe Last Normal ChildThe Little MonsterThe Medicated ChildThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Nurture AssumptionThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe Other ParentThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of AutismThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Ride TogetherThe Rise and Fall of the American TeenagerThe Science of ADHDThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Survival Guide for Kids With LD*The Unhappy ChildThen Again, Maybe I Won'tTherapy with ChildrenThings I Have to Tell YouThings Tom LikesThrough the Glass WallThumbsuckerTotally WiredTouching Spirit BearTrauma in the Lives of ChildrenTreating ADHD and Comorbid DisordersTreatment of Childhood DisordersTwistedUnder the Wolf, Under the DogUnhappy TeenagersUnstrange MindsWastedWe've Got IssuesWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWhat about the KidsWhat in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online?What Works for Whom?What Would Joey Do?What's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?When Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhose America?Why Don't Students Like SchoolWill's ChoiceWinnicott On the ChildWorried All the TimeYou Hear MeYoung Minds in Social WorldsYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?
Raising Blaze is a
rich memoir by Debra Ginsberg chronicling the first thirteen years of her son
Blaze's life. During his birth, which was overdue, the umbilical chord became
tightly wrapped around his neck, twice. Maybe this was the reason that Blaze
was different from other children. Whatever the reason, it was clear that he
had difficulty fitting in with other children at school right from the start.
His psychological development was a little unusual, being gifted in some areas,
such as identifying different musical styles, but he did not begin speaking
until he was three, and he was always extremely sensitive to loud noises.
Ginsberg thought it best that Blaze did not attend pre-school and he had no
experience being around other children. So she was not surprised that he was
not very cooperative when he first started kindergarten. Ginsberg was
astonished, however, when after his first day his teacher suggested that he be
put into a special-education class and asked her to attend a meeting to
construct an individualized education program (IEP). This meeting proved to be
one of countless such meetings in which she butted heads with psychologists,
teachers and administrators. Nevertheless, she agreed to Blaze joining the
special-ed program, and she also agreed for Blaze to undergo psychological
testing. She soon found that he did not test well, because he mostly refused
to perform the tests tasks. Ginsberg was sure that his true abilities were not being
accurately measured. She also soon found that different psychologists arrived
at very different assessments of Blaze's skills and problems. One said he was
of above average intelligence, while another proposed a label of mental
retardation. He had his first neuropsychological evaluation when he was five
years old. From early on, professionals were recommending that Blaze take
medication to help him gain more from his time in the classroom and to stop him
from being so disruptive. Ginsberg was very reluctant to put him on
psychotropic drugs when it wasn't even clear what his diagnosis was. His
behavior improved on its own, but still the school recommended that Blaze
retake kindergarten because he was not yet ready for first grade, which they
explained was very demanding.
The struggle to understand the school's thinking
about Blaze and get him the best education available continued for years.
Ginsberg eventually gave up a promising career in the publishing industry in
order to be able work as a parent volunteer in Blaze's class, so she could give
him the help he needed. This arrangement worked well for him, but it didn't
solve all his problems, and by the time he moved up to middle school, he was
getting absolutely nothing from his education. At that point, Ginsberg took
him out of school and started home schooling him, where he started doing much
better. That is where the book ends, with Blaze's future uncertain. His most
recent categorization by the middle school IEP team is "multiple
disabilities." Along the way, we see Ginsberg's perception of various
teachers and suggestions change. She gets to know some professionals who she
greatly admires for their dedication to their jobs, while there are others who
she views as entirely unsympathetic and unprofessional. Ginsberg becomes far
more open-minded about special-education, but she retains great suspicion for
the medical approach to Blaze's problems.
Raising Blaze is a powerful book,
especially because it is unusual. There have been a number of memoirs telling the
stories of families with children diagnosed with fairly well-defined
disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism, but what is distinctive about
Blaze is that he does not fit existing diagnostic categories well, and so he is
given catch-all diagnoses such as pervasive developmental delay. It is hard
enough getting appropriate treatment and education when a child's condition is
well-understood, and Ginsberg's memoir shows what a struggle it is when the
bureaucratic structure of special-education does not fit a child's needs.
Ginsberg herself comes across as a loving and articulate parent ready to admit
her own faults and intent on fighting for her son. This book should be required
reading for special education teachers and administrators. Child psychologists
and parents of exceptional children who do not fit well into existing
categories should also find it thought-provoking and helpful.
© 2003 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also
editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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