Magazine article The Spectator

Much More Than a Handful

Magazine article The Spectator

Much More Than a Handful

Article excerpt

Much more than a handful MULTICOLOURED MAYHEM by Jacqui Jackson Jessica Kingsley, £12.95, pp. 256, ISBN 1843101718

Before I read Multicoloured Mayhem, I had watched the television documentary My Family and Autism about Jacqui Jackson and her family. This single parent, whose husband left after their second youngest, Joe, was born (returning briefly for a reconciliation before the birth of their last child Ben), has managed to bring up seven children, four of whom are on the autistic spectrum. For parents, teachers of children with special needs, or carers, this book provides valuable insight into how to cope with autism.

Jacqui is direct and honest about her 'multicoloured' family ('multicoloured' refers to the different conditions on the autistic spectrum). She is not ashamed to bring up the subject of personal hygiene; Ben, six, is not properly toilet-trained and sleeps in the same bed as his mother. Jacqui has developed great empathy for her children's difficulties; she writes about their inner minds and their outer behaviours and also looks on the positive side of autism, which is great. Many I know look more on its negative side. She is extremely optimistic about life - last year she took all seven children on a very difficult holiday to America and got through it.

We have eventually boarded the plane and I have to say, awful as it sounds, that I can't help but cast envious glances at another family with a young girl with cerebral palsy. This little girl's disability is glaringly obvious and the staff and other passengers can't do enough to help her and her family. On the other hand, I am on the receiving end of glares and tuts as Joe interrupts everyone's conversations, Ben strips naked and drops to the floor in a hysterical screaming fit and Luke chatters insensitively about the makings of bombs (we travelled on 11 September 2002!).

I have Asperger's Syndrome and completely understood this. Those more obviously disabled receive sympathy, but high-functioning autistic children are regarded as badly behaved.

Jacqui Jackson has more knowledge of autism than most. One aspect of the book that I found useful was her remarks on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. …

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