Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: My Picture Perfect Family by Marguerite Elisofon

What Happens When One Twin has Autism
Marguerite Elisofon
Central Park Publishers; April 4, 2016
$14.95; 276 pages
ISBN: 978-1-938595-04-2 

I was recently sent an advance copy of this book and I was so eager to read it! Although neither of my children are on the autism spectrum, both have dealt with one of the challenges that children on the spectrum sometimes deal with- Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as the resulting learning delays/disabilities. As I got further into the book, I also found that Elisofon's daughter Samantha, the twin on the spectrum, was also diagnosed with Exotropia- the same visual condition my son had.

In their family photos, the Elisofons look like they stepped out of a Hollywood movie—handsome father, beautiful mother, adorable son hugging his twin sister as she beams a radiant smile. The reality was quite different.

Out of the 11,600 children who were born today, some 171 will be diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Receiving this news can be heartbreaking for parents whose fondest wish is to have a healthy child. Marguerite and Howard Elisofon were first alarmed, and then overwhelmed, when their daughter Samantha was diagnosed as being on the Spectrum. The family’s struggle to understand ASDs and find the optimal interventions—in the days before internet resources and autism parenting groups—are at the heart of the compelling memoir MY PICTURE PERFECT FAMILY: What Happens When One Twin has Autism by Marguerite Elisofon (Central Park Publishers; April 4, 2016).

Marguerite and Howard Elisofon eagerly anticipated starting a family. After receiving medical help to conceive, Marguerite joyfully found herself pregnant with twins. Born after only 33 weeks, Samantha’s introduction to the world was much more challenging than her brother’s. The differences between the twins continued to escalate after they left the hospital. The Elisofon’s overly sensitive infant daughter grew into a toddler who fell further and further behind her twin in language and cognitive development. Finally, at the urging of family members, they sought professional help and received the diagnosis they feared—their daughter was on the Autistic Spectrum.

MY PICTURE PERFECT FAMILY paints an engaging and at times heart-wrenching picture of the courage it takes to raise and advocate for a child who is far more than the sum of her ever-shifting diagnosis. Elisofon details the therapies, treatments, school searches and day-to-day victories of a little girl who so desperately wanted to fit into a world that didn’t understand her. She shares the considerable challenges met by the entire family including Samantha’s twin brother, Matthew. And she reveals the eventual triumphs as Samantha grows into a young woman who discovers a hidden gift for singing and pursues a college degree.

ASDs are the fastest growing developmental disabilities in the United States with an increase in diagnoses from 1 in 150 in 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2016 (1 in 42 for boys). Elisofon’s memoir is a stark reminder of the human being behind the diagnosis and the important work we must do in order to offer these children and young adults their best and brightest future.

My Picture Perfect Family is the story of a family’s dedication to helping their daughter succeed against all odds. The explosive 10-year-old who made no eye contact, talked to imaginary friends and turned out the lights in my office, blossomed into a beautiful 18-year-old who was able to go to college.”
Dr. Harry Wachs,
Founder of the Vision & Conceptual Development Center,
co-author, Thinking Goes to School

For any parent who has dealt with parenting challenges, or any parent who know someone who has gone through a journey like the Elisofon family, this is an excellent and inspiring read. Interspersed with family pictures, Elisofon's story about Samantha's journey was touching and I absolutely cheered for Samantha's accomplishments after reading about her early difficulties. This is a must read!

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