I began this book, as a mother of a child with Asperger’s syndrome, not quite sure what to expect. However, I quickly fell in love with how Priscilla Gilman related so much of her experiences to her most beloved poetry. As a reader, you can literally feel the perception shift in Gilman as she comes to terms with the special needs of her son by the way her interpretations of poetry shift. I could relate so well to Gilman’s experiences with her son. I was shocked, though, when I came across the page where Gilman describes hyperlexia because she was describing my son perfectly. It was because she chose to share her story that I was finally able to identify a mysterious piece of my son’s early development and could provide information on hyperlexia to his therapists and doctors. Through sharing her experiences, Gilman provided me with a new understanding of my son and new ways to relate to him. She opens up the discussion on how we come to terms with having children that do not “fit” others’ and even possibly our own definition of “normal.” Gilman shows the power of love to not necessarily overcome adversity, but to accept it as it is, embrace it, and even welcome it. She shows us that through the shedding of who we thought we were supposed to be, who we thought our children were supposed to be, a new way of thinking, a new way of life, a new self emerges. What was once considered anti-romantic becomes most romantic and beautiful through the acceptance of what is and a fierce determination to no longer allow others to define who we are or who we should be. Gilman not only becomes an advocate for her son but also for herself. She grows alongside Benj and finds strength and courage through his experiences and uses them to ultimately find her true self.
I believe everyone should read and will learn so much from The Anti-Romantic Child. We are at a point where excavating our authentic self is more important than ever, and it may just be that the children we’ve labeled as “special” are indeed so, as they are emerging as our greatest and most powerful teachers yet.