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At Home in the Land of Oz: Autism, My Sister, and Me [Paperback]

Anne Clinard Barnhill
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 15, 2007 1843108593 978-1843108597 1
Anne Clinard Barnhill's sister Becky was born in 1958, long before most people had even heard the term autism. Diagnosed with "emotional disturbance," Becky was subjected for much of her childhood to well-meaning but futile efforts at "rehabilitation" or "cure," as well as prolonged spells in institutions away from her family. Painting a vivid picture of growing up in small-town America during the Sixties, Barnhill describes her sister's and her own painful childhood experiences with compassion and honesty. Struggling with the separation from her sister, the awkwardness of boyfriends' reactions to her sister's erratic behaviour and the emotional and financial hardships the family experienced as a result of Becky's condition, Anne nevertheless found that her sister had something that "normal" people were unable to offer. Today, she is accepting of her sister's autism and the impact, both painful and positive, it has had on both their lives. This bittersweet memoir will resonate with families affected by autism and other developmental disorders and will appeal to everyone interested in the condition.


Editorial Reviews

Review

Anne's sister Becky was born in 1958, long before most people had even heard of autism. Diagnosed with "emotional disturbance," Becky was subjected for much of her childhood to well-meaning but futile efforts at "rehabilitation" or "cure," as well as prolonged spells in institutions away from her family.Painting a vivid picture of growing up in small-town America during the Sixties, Anne describes her sister's and her own painful childhood experiences with compassion and honesty. Struggling with the separation from her sister and the emotional and financial hardships the family experienced as a result of Becky's condition, Anne nevertheless found that her sister had something that "normal" people were unable to offer. Today she is accepting of her sister's autism and the impact, both painful and positive, it has had on both their lives.This bittersweet memoir will resonate with families affected by autism and other developmental disorders and will appeal to everyone interested in the condition.

'This is a gripping book about a family's survival to get their daughter disgnosed. When they finally receive a disgnosis they are told it is autism. It takes you through the journey from when Becky was a baby until she was in her forties. It covers all the challenges the family encounter just to survive and some of the rewards they receive for being persistent. Readers will be won over by the herat-warming story of this family, who have usually encountered some of the same roadblocks as other families coping with autism.'- Good Autism Practice'The journey from early childhood through puberty and into adulthood is movingly documanted in a frank and critical way... This book shows how autism can have an impact on siblings and their efforts to reconcile their own developmental needs with the challengeing demands of a sister with autism.'- Debate

About the Author

Anne Clinard Barnhill lives in North Carolina. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has published hundreds of short stories, features and reviews in a variety of newspapers and magazines.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Pub; 1 edition (June 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843108593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843108597
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I've been writing since I was a kid and in love with Tudor England since my early teens when I discovered I have ancestors (The Sheltons) who were very active in Tudor times. I love to daydream, listen to music, play piano, read, walk in the woods and meet new people. I absolutely adore going about in my Tudor underwear to talk about clothes in Tudor times. Next year, I hope to have the outer garments as well. I enjoy speaking at book clubs, libraries, schools, just anywhere I can talk about life in the 16th century.
I also admire Southern literature and especially books about Appalachia, where I grew up. It is my dream to visit England, the sooner the better!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somewhere Over the Rainbow September 29, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anne Clinard Barnhill, born in 1952 relates the story of her life as sister to Becky, who was born 1/31/58. Becky displayed autistic behavior almost from infancy. She became continent at 4; was marginally verbal for the first few years of her life; communicated by phrasing her statements as questions, e.g. "Does the Becky want to eat? Why can't the Becky learn at home?" Anne, 6 years her sister's senior took Becky under her wing and was lovingly protective of her. She even spent her summers working with Becky on cognitive skills.

Sadly, precious little was known about autism in those days. Becky was erroneously labled as "emotionally disturbed" and even retarded. Sadly, this was not uncommon back then. Becky's schooling was also a problem - in 1965, she was expelled for disruptive behavior from one special needs class in West Virginia and saw a therapist. One group home refused to take her until she became fully self-sufficient in toileting. Although continent and reliable, Becky still needed help cleaning up. Once she mastered that skill, Pressley House, a group home/school was willing to accept her after placing her on a waiting list.

On October 1, 1966 the Clinards took Becky to Amos Cottage, which was an interim placement. Becky served 9 months in Amos Cottage which sounded like a genuine hellhole. Nurses ran the place and the lowest functioning children were kept in crib-cages with bars across the top. Becky talked of the "water babies in the basement," which sounded like she meant children with hydrocephalus. She was able to describe Amos Cottage, which sounded horrible. The Clinards were horrified by the place as anyone would be, but sadly there was no other place forthcoming for Becky.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other 'Other Sister' August 19, 2007
Format:Paperback
This book explores the often unnoticed side of being a so-called 'normal' (or 'neurotypical') person who loves someone with a mental disorder, namely autism. I found this memoir refreshing in the way that it unapologetically gives voice to those of us on the other side of the coin--those of us who have done our best to stretch our love outside of the box by often putting our own needs on hold to be good family. This book will especially appeal to baby boomers who have grown up with autistic siblings during a time when the disorder was still unnamed, as it addresses the historically inaccurate 'parental blame' theory of the disorder's etiology. I would recommend this book to anyone who has been touched by someone with a mental disorder, and anyone who considers themselves an advocate for the mentally ill.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding the Red Slipper January 6, 2009
Format:Paperback
In this poignant memoir, Anne Barnhill explores the importance of home and family. Despite living with a sister who is considered to be "different" by society, the author reveals how she and her family grew closer through caring for and mentoring "different" Becky. As society dictated at the time (during the 1960's), at first the autistic little girl was put away in a home, as her sister watched and cried. Later, fortunately, Becky, came home again. She didn't need the aid of chicking her heels. The love of family gave her the rainbow she needed.

In the author's lyrical account, the Barnhill family learns to value Becky for herself, rejoicing in her accomplishments. The possibilities for Becky, as well as others with autism, are now limitless.

Everyone with a family member who is considered "different" should read this lyrical tale. The lesson here is that loving someone "different" touches the heart in new and extraordinary ways. Once you complete this fine book, filled with humor and pathos, you'll become a fan of author Barnhill and root for her sister Becky.
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Format:Paperback
Anne Barnhill's memoir, At Home in the Land of Oz, deserves far more press than it has received. The book describes in unusual detail the trials, tribulations and warm, loving times that her family experienced as they helped to understand her unusual sister. Only in recent years was an accurate diagnosis of autism given. Saddled with the feeling that somehow they weren't doing enough for their "emotionally disturbed" daughter, Anne describes how the family adjusted, worked, and strived to help her sister be normal. At times embarrassed by inappropriate behavior and at other times protective and outraged at inappropriate reactions to her sister from others, Anne tells us how she always wanted a family that was "just normal." The underlying question evolves, just what is "normal" after all. I give this book five stars and recommend it highly, not only to families struggling with members who live outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior, but for those of us who want to understand how we can be better neighbors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking memoir April 7, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This memoir of a sister of an autistic is a good read for anyone touched in anyway by autism or by a family member with differences. Anne Barnhill's sister was born in the 50's when autism was a mysterious ailment and families were left to flounder helplessly. The author's perspective of growing up with a sister who was so "different" touched my heart. She is ruthlessly honest about her moments of wanting to belong with the cool kids at school and having to cope with them finding out or seeing her sister with her odd way of talking and hand-flipping. Her anguish when her sister had "melt-downs" in public can be felt by everyone. The parts of the memoir where the author believes she herself might start doing odd things is something seen in families of anyone with a so-called mental problem. And the quotes from letters her proud father wrote trying to get public financial support when her sister needed to be in an institution for training are heart-breaking. But the most touching parts are when the author realizes that her love for her sister triumphs over everything else. Her sister is currently in an adult program and doing well. I can recommend this book as a read for families with autism or mental illness.
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