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Saturday, March 3, 2012

How Can I Talk If My Lips Don't Move - A Review

How Can I Talk If My Lips Don't Move: Inside My Autistic Mind
Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay

I know. It’s been weeks since I update my blog.  Life has gotten in the way and I have not spent a moment writing even though there is plenty to write about.  I have recipes to post for Wednesday night dinners, crafts that have been fun for both the boys, life events and opinion pieces that have all been floating around in my mind with nowhere to go.

I’ve decided to end my silence with a short review of a book I read in just a few days.  It was so moving, so unfathomable, so surprising, that I decided I needed to devote a few paragraphs to it instead of a short Facebook status update saying it was great.

The other day I was browsing through the book aisle at Dollar Tree, looking for some inexpensive stories to read to the boys.  For one reason or another, the title of this book caught my attention: How Can I Talk if My Lips Don’t Move.  I picked up the book and realized it was referring to someone who had autism.  I read the synopsis on the jacket and was more intrigued as I found it was written by a man who has “severe” autism.  I certainly felt I could splurge a dollar on it and give it a read.  Boy, was I surprised once I delved into it!

Tito begins by telling autobiographical stories from his earliest memories, based on his perception of the world around him.  What a different world he experienced than the one I did as a child!  Though he is an excellent writer, I struggled at times to comprehend the descriptions of how his mind worked—it is so alien to the way mine works.  I simply cannot fathom it.  No wonder the mind of someone with autism struggles with comprehension in a “neuro-typical” world.  I struggled delving into the world of autism and can’t imagine processing things the way he did, even when he clearly spelled out how to.

What I found even more amazing, as do many experts who have met and studied with Tito, is that there is a highly intelligent, creative, funny, articulate mind at work inside a body that does not speak, has extreme difficulty functioning in “normal” social situation and struggles with obsessive/compulsive behavior so strong he describes it at addiction.  Inside his mind he comprehends all of this about himself but cannot use his mind to make his voice work, nor look someone in the eye when he meets them, nor accept unexpected changes to his routine or environment.  He truly expresses the complexity of the human mind and it’s inner workings.

Tito describes how his primary sense is auditory and is translated in his mind to colors and images.  It’s hard to visualize, since I have a very visual mind, how he sees someone through sound, associated with color and circumstances and may not recognize them by their face at all.  He is very good at trying to explain how this works for him in laymen’s terms.

I was fascinated with his stories describing why he was obsessed with mirrors, flapping his hands, staring at the sun, learning to write, his experience with a special education school and so on.  Interspersed with each of his stories are poems written in various forms, from rhyming to free verse.

He gives tremendous credit to his mother, who, outside of himself, is the primary subject in the book.  From his perspective, she is the only reason he was able to reach outside of himself and connect with the world outside of his mind.  While I was fascinated and in awe of her patience and ingenuity, I was grateful toward the end of the book when he mentioned times that she was impatient or missed the point entirely.  Not that I wished her to fail.  I was just glad that she was human, with flaws and I could relate more to her as a mother, doing everything within her power to see that her son lived a happy, productive life, but not having all the answers or tools to do it herself.  She seems like an amazing person and the best mother and advocate for her son.  It certainly was encouraging to read about her dedication and tenacity when it came to reaching her son, at what ever level he was capable of being reached.

The book mentions that Tito has written other books and after reading this one, I am looking forward to those as well.  I encourage anyone to read this book, but especially those who have someone in their life that has a developmental disability.  I think Tito gives great insight into the mind of someone who’s brain doesn’t operate like the “norm”.  It certainly helped me understand ways in which my own son might be processing thoughts and how I might change some of my own perceptions and actions in regard to his behavior.

Pick up the book and give it a read.  If you can’t find it at the Dollar Tree, I noticed it’s less than $3.00 on Amazon.  If you’re local, you could even borrow it from me for free!

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