“Shtum.” By Jem Lester
You’re having a bad day, feeling you’re not measuring up, making big drama out of small issues, feeling sorry for yourself.
Shtum will wake you up.
Don’t read this book if you are faint of heart, easily experience stomach upset, or prefer the ease of a light-hearted read.
Do read this book if you want to be educated about the realities – and surprising upsides, though few they may seem to be – about raising a child with “severe” autism.
Put your seatbelt on.
The minute by minute struggles, tantrums, disruption, unpredictability, the emotional outbursts, never mind navigating the maze of institutions offering help for autistic children – it all seems never-ending, impossible.
The effect on the parent’s other relationships – daunting. The toll on marriage, social life, personal time – jaw dropping.
But the hopeful glimmer keeps you reading. Especially knowing that the author, himself a parent of a severely autistic child, is on this very parenting path. This adds to the credibility of the story, and the weight of its message.
The wonder is in the capacity these parents have to nurture, guide, and care for their children – no matter the personal, emotional or financial cost. While the reader is compelled to say to him or herself over and over again, “I could never cope as that parent does,” the fact is that somehow, these parents do cope. They have no choice. As such, their tireless devotion to their children is astounding.
This is why Shtum is an important read. This book not only educates the reader about the realities for parents raising children with severe autism. It is written by a man who is trying, in his own life, to make sense of it all.
It’s a reminder that life can be relentlessly difficult, but that it’s often the simplest of things that get us through. The thought that tomorrow might be a bit better. The unexpected smile from a loved one. The appearance of guardian angels who offer that helpful bit of enlightenment, just when it’s so desperately needed.
Somehow, someway, the human spirit, that indomitable force, is there to push us forward, no matter the obstacles, no matter how deep and overwhelming the troubles. Shtum teaches us this about parenting, about life, in a thousand different ways.