The Autistic Brothers by Thomas Clements

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Close contact with an autistic person fills some with a fear derived from not understanding. How will I cope with unfamiliar, perhaps unpredictable behavior? The world Thomas Clements describes can bridge that chasm for the curious outsider looking in. Those who are themselves on the autistic spectrum will find here the reassurance of company in what they face, as will their families and friends.

People familiar with his first book, “The Autistic Buddha”, already know of Thomas’s internal struggles to make sense of himself and the world he encounters – and they have seen his intellectual prowess in action. This further exploration opens a broader window on his disturbing pilgrimage through life, introducing his brother Jack, himself significantly disabled by his own autism.

So we have here a tale of two brothers, one intellectually highly capable, the other able to achieve, in conventional terms, very little without help. The book compares and contrasts what they each make of life. How do their ordinary days differ when it comes to what are typically simple issues like food, clothing, family, friends, physical contact with strangers, entertainment, sport, talking with others, routines and order, the noise of life, animals...? And critically, which of these brothers has the happier life? We are not spared the pain they encounter, whether the internal anguish with which they each must battle, or the potential for external attacks from bullies.

The writer’s overwhelming tone is one of affection for Jack – and for the parents who have had a torrid journey with their two boys, sometimes trying beyond endurance, but laced together also with sparkles of joy and laughter. A lucid, accessible book, written with palpable love, poignantly illustrated with Jack’s artwork.