Newsletter – February, 2000

**Companion Resources Newsletter**

edited by Paul D. Leichty

Volume 2, No. 2 February 2000

Warm greetings from Companion Resources! In this month of love and hearts, I would like to highlight a book that spoke to me of the courage and love of a mother and son. This is the first time I’ve done a book review in this newsletter .

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At Christmas break, my daughter brought home a book from her college library and invited my wife to read it. Soon I was being encouraged to read it as well. I decided it was time to get our own copy. It came in time to wrap up as a Christmas gift.

Reading A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage by Beth Kephart has been a gift to me. More than once, I was overwhelmed to tears. I commend the book to anyone interested in an honest, yet uplifting look at what it is like to live with and love a child who is different.

Beth Kephart is a writer by profession, but the story she tells is anything but the objective technical writing she describes as her daily job. In an unusual first person, present tense style, she brings the reader face to face with the myriad of emotions she experienced during the early childhood of her son, Jeremy. At the same time, she attempts to step into Jeremy’s world, thereby allowing us as readers to understand more fully what it is like to perceive the world so very differently than most of us do.

Kephart gives us her son’s diagnosis right up front in the first sentence of the preface. It is a diagnosis that frustrates many parents (including my wife and me at one point). The older term is “autism” but that is not precise enough for the medical community these days. However, the catch-all term, PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) can be even more frustrating. What it mostly says is that a child has some of the features associated with autism, but cannot be pigeon-holed into any of the existing categories of what medical community now considers a continuum of “autism spectrum disorders.”

In many ways, that lack of specificity is fine with Kephart, who constantly battles the perceptions associated with autism and PDD by insisting that her son is unique, intelligent, and creative. Her seven-year struggle, chronicled in this book, is to shape Jeremy’s environment in ways that will allow him to communicate and express who he is. The stories will make you laugh and cry as they unfold.

While Beth Kephart emphasizes the courage of her son, it is her own courage and tenacious love that is just as striking. Most of all, it is the honesty with which she faced her own weakness and emotions that grips the reader.

More than once, I ached for this mother and other parents like her, that they would have a more supportive community around them. For in many ways, even with a loving father in the family, their journey as mother and son was a lonely one. How, I wonder, can we as a society do more to support parents on this kind of fearful and wonderful pathway in raising a child who is different?

Yet, at the same time, I see in Beth Kephart, like many parents raising a child with special needs, a resourceful mother who launches out and builds her own community of support around her son. In doing so, she goes through all of the thoughts and feelings of a parent struggling between protecting and letting go of her precious child.

A Slant of Sun illustrates vividly, that even with all the awareness and study of disabilities that we have in our culture, there are still some simple tools for overcoming. Active unconditional love, a love that listens to the other person, is the most essential ingredient. Beyond that is simply good common sense.

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Some major changes are in the works for our family and will undoubtedly become the source of further issues of the Companion Resources Newsletter as we continue into this millennium year. A sneak peak is available on my personal web pages accessible through the Companion Resources home page.

And remember, I always enjoy hearing your responses as together we become “People using Technology building Community.”

Give someone a hug today!

Paul D. Leichty

PDLeichty@cresources.org

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