A Journey into the Mind & Heart of My Extraordinary Son
Buzz Bissinger’s twin sons were born three and a half months premature in 1983. Gerry weighed one pound and fourteen ounces, Zachary one pound and eleven ounces. They were the youngest male twins ever to survive at that time at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, the nation’s oldest. They were a medical miracle, but there are no medical miracles without eternal scars.
They entered life three minutes —and a world — apart. Gerry, the older one, is a graduate student at Penn, preparing to become a teacher. His brother Zach has spent his life attending special schools and self-contained classrooms. He is able to work menial jobs such as stocking supplies. But he’ll never drive a car, or kiss a girl, or live by himself. He is a savant, challenged by serious intellectual deficits but also blessed with rare talents: an astonishing memory, a dazzling knack for navigation and a reflexive honesty, which can make him both socially awkward and surprisingly wise.
One summer night, Buzz and Zach hit the road to revisit all the places they have lived together during Zach’s 24 years. Zach revels in his memories, and Buzz hopes this journey into their shared past will bring them closer and reveal to him the mysterious workings of his son’s mind and heart. He also hopes it will help him to better come to grips with the radical differences in his beloved twin boys, inverted mirrors of one another when defined by the usual barometers of what we think it means to be successful.
As father and son follow a pinball’s path from Philadelphia to LA, they see the best and worst of America and each other. Ultimately, their trip bestows a new and uplifting wisdom on Buzz.
His son Zach is not a man-child as he so often thought, but the man he admires most in his life.
The Story of Intellectual Disability
An Evolution of Meaning, Understanding, and Public Perception
Michael L. Wehmeyer
Brookes Publishing (2013)
Readers will discover how different societies have responded to people with disability throughout history, how life has changed for people with intellectual disability and their families over the centuries and how key historical figures and events sparked social change and shaped our modern understanding of intellectual disability.
Enhanced with remarkable images and illustrations, including exclusive photos from the editor’s private collection of cultural artifacts, this informal history is a must-read for anyone devoted to improving the lives of people with intellectual disability.
Top disability experts explore:
- Early ideas about the causes of intellectual disability;
- Evolution of the concept of intellectual disability;
- The role of religion in the ancient world’s understanding of disability;
- Changing approaches to education and intervention;
- The rise and fall of the institution system;
- Depictions of intellectual disability in film, literature and art;
- State-sanctioned sterilization programs in the twentieth century;
- The self-advocacy movement;
- The emergence and impact of parent associations, support groups, and training programs;
- How and why terminology changed throughout the years.
A Story About Gardening, Mothering, and Other Messy Business
Stellated Books (2013)
Leo Tolstoy once wrote, “Happy families are all alike; unhappy families are all different in their own way.” Tolstoy was wrong, especially when it comes to atypical families. Susan Senator’s family is very different from a lot of families; yet she would say they are happy.
Her oldest son Nat has severe autism. Her other two sons, Max and Ben, do not. Autism has provided a certain shape to their family structure; things have been very difficult for them, and yet autism is not a death sentence.
“Autism is not the end of the world; just the end of one kind of world,” Senator says.
Her experiences with autism have run the gamut — an entire spectrum’s worth of changes in viewpoint.
Her third book is a family tale of a couple’s impending divorce and their three sons. The rocky marriage, the oldest boy’s severe autism, the resulting sibling problems, drug abuse, and above all, love all intertwine in this story — with gardening in between. Writing Dirt was an escape for her, a pleasure, a hobby, and yet, imagining the characters of the three sons took me deep into their hearts and minds and in a strange way helped me understand them better. Or so I think. In any case, Dirt is a fun and moving novel of family struggle, relationships and growth.Annie’s Ghosts
A Journey into a Family Secret
Part memoir, part detective story, part history, Annie’s Ghosts revolves around three main characters (the author’s mom, her sister and him as narrator/detective/son), several important secondary ones (his grandparents, his father and several relatives whom he found in the course of reporting on the book), as well as Eloise, the vast county mental hospital where his secret aunt was confined — despite her initial protestations — all of her adult life.
As the author tries to understand his mother’s reasons for hiding her sister’s existence, readers have a front-row seat to the reality of growing up poor in America during the 1920s and 1930s, at a time when the nation’s “asylums” had a population of 400,000 and growing.