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By sandy howarth

A Review by Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne

This is a book of dedication and wholehearted commitment; a mother’s singleminded devotion to an autistic son. Sandy’s journey through her discovery of her son’s condition and her method of dealing with it right from the beginning will help others with children who are autistic. Sandy overcame the initial trauma and stress by changing her entire life; forsaking her own interest in art, painting and interior design to teach her son to find his own niche in life despite his disability. It tells of a mother’s love bringing to mind the words of a hymn ‘A mother’s tender care never ceases for the child she bare’.

Sandy dedicates the book to both her children; Steven who is autistic and Riana who is not; who by their very presence in her life helped her to find the inner strength to face the challenges in bring up two children with varying needs. Steven she says helped her to understand the true meaning of life; we tend to take so much for granted when all is well. Riana, while giving her the joys and rewards of a normally developing child, recognized her brother’s needs and from early childhood was her mother’s helpmate in dealing with all his needs.

Sandy as the daughter of a privileged family,born with a silver spoon, lacked nothing and was isolated from the hardships of life. She first worked in the family furniture business; then moved to London and later, New York to study interior design and design. She met her future husband in Sri Lanka, married and moved to London and then to Dubai. She continued her work in Interior Design in Dubai and spent some time in Oman too. It was when Steven was two and a half years old that he was diagnosed as being autistic; from this moment on her entire life changed. Her life revolved round him ,his needs and how best she could help him. At this stage she gave up her work and concentrated on her child who was her priority.

In her book, she has taken us through the onset of autism, detecting the difference before the diagnosis, the actual diagnosis, how parents feel at this point, all the medical tests including hearing, EEG, metabolic screening, MRI, cat scan. Later on the confirmation of the diagnosis, learning that your child is autistic and dealing with the stress involved. She delves into what this label really means, creating public awareness and help for parents. The changes in family life,what autism means. In fact every issue involving life with an autistic child including what one can learn from them is gone into thouroughly. She shares her own experiences with the reader. Treatments, their development and education. In this country, we have absolutely no facilities for dealing with autism. This book will help both parents and teachers and others interested in helping children who are autistic.Sandy’s journey through it all has been an arduous but remarkable one, bringing out the best in her, probably qualities she was unaware that she possessed. Her relentless courage through it all strikes one again and again.

The title of her book was inspired by the song ‘No Matter What’, sung by one of Britain’s popular pop group Boyzone.  Keith Duffy, who is member of the band incidentally also has an autistic daughter. Sandy interprets No matter what as brain matter; her research has taught her that the autistic brain is larger than the normal brain. She wrote to Keith Duffy to invite him to the launch of the book in London. To her surprise he arrived unannounced.

This is a book worth reading not only for those with autistic children but for all lovers of children, who want to make this world a better one for them. .

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