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Gentle Giant: The Inspiring Story of an Autistic Child Paperback – February, 1999

3.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Element Books Ltd (February 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862043043
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862043046
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,491,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I am an autistic woman that loves to read books about others of my own kind -- but "Gentle Giant" was so painful I could barely handle reading it. "Grant" is forcibly held for hours, hit, tied to chairs, drugged, you name it. There is no show of awareness that Grant has any feelings, any desires, any needs, and his efforts to communicate in a manner natural to him are totally dismissed. He is, in short, treated like nothing more than a bothersome object, and it's deeply disturbing to read.
At one point, for example, his mother decides she wants to be cuddled. She shows no awareness that her son might not WANT to cuddle her. So she wraps herself around him like a boa constrictor, holding the terrified, screaming, panicked boy down until he goes limp from sheer exhaustion and falls asleep! She is then blissfully happy that she can cuddle her little rag-doll all she wants, and *she* enjoys it so much, she does it to the poor kid every day for hours. Her older son tries to tell her that it's obviously scary and traumatic for his brother, and she understands that it is, but she doesn't care; all that matters to her is getting what *she* wants.
It is true that we autistics like deep pressure. When I am upset, my partner will lie down on top of me (at MY request) so I can feel safe and the pressure quiets my neurological system. I've also had it done against my will by force, and it was terrifying and deeply upsetting. Having it done by choice, totally under my control, is like making love; being tackled and held down is more like being emotionally raped.
Many autism books like Elijah's Cup show how, with accommodation and true acceptance, we autistics can grow up to be happy, productive adults, using our talents and interests to our advantage.
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Comment 38 of 38 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Allow me to quote from the book itself:
"My first attempt was in the lounge in an easy chair and we struggled and fought for a good twenty minutes with Grant screaming, kicking, and struggling wildly to escape the vice-like determined grasp that his mother held on him. However, I would not let him go, despite the fight he made to break away, and eventually he fell asleep utterly exhausted and I felt triumphant. Here I was cuddling my child, although asleep, and I had held him in my arms for the longest time since his hospital tests. It was exciting and a challenge... I had brief visions of taking my 'cured' little boy by the hand into the local primary school! I survived on those dreams!
He [Grant's other brother] decided that he would demonstrate how he felt 'holding' might not help his brother. He picked me up and flattened me on the floor, sitting on top of me and pinning my arms to either side of my head! 'Struggle!' he commanded. I tried, but no way could I be released from his grip. 'Now,' he said, 'what do you feel like?'
'Trapped and frustrated,' I breathlessly replied.
'Quite,' he said, and released me!
Despite this I felt we should go ahead. Surely the idea was to make the child angry and frustrated so you break down their barriers, thus producing eye contact and speech... Most of the time Grant would look in any direction but our eyes and go deep into himself, refusing to let out any angers or frustrations. He had a resigned air of patience with a 'you can try all you like but I can stay shut off from what you are doing until you are fed up' attitude. I think it let out oodles of our own emotions if nothing else. If you spent nearly two hours to get this kind of reaction, you finished up feeling frustrated and downhearted at your lack of achievement. On the other hand, there were good sessions that might have been shorter, but much more satisfactory and made you feel that it was all worthwhile."
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By A Customer on April 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
"Gentle Giant" is, in part, a loving and often funny account of a young man with autism who was clearly as gentle as the title suggests. If nothing else, it gives a very strong sense of how exhausting coping with an autistic child can be.
Yet there were also aspects of the book that I found saddening, even worrying. Wendy Robinson states at many points her faith that there was a normal child somehow "trapped" inside her autistic son, that the autistic boy was just a shell, not the real Grant. In some ways, her quest for a "miracle cure" seems to involve a rejection of the autistic son she describes so well and so affectionately. She praises a number of treatments, such as facilitated communication and holding therapy, which have been claimed to liberate the normal child supposedly trapped inside the autism, without mentioning that both of these have not only been scientifically discredited but also criticized as potentially extremely damaging to the autistic child and their family.
Many high-functioning people with autism such as Temple Grandin have made it clear that there is no normal person inside, and written movingly about their need to be accepted as they are. However difficult and sometimes frustrating living with an autistic person can be, rejecting them in favour of an imaginary normal child inside them is no solution.
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This book is just as bad as Elisabeth and Niko Tinbergen's book entitled "Autistic Children: New Hope for a Cure." They tout enforced hugging as having a 100% success rate which simply isn't true. Their works including this one by Robinson are for the birds. That term came from birds pecking seeds which horses passed in their manure. The expression "for the birds" means of minimal value and from a very questionable source.

As much as I love reading books about people with autism, this one upset me greatly. I just cringed at the parts where Grant was held forcibly; struck, tied to chairs and given inappropriate medications. Talk about abuse!

What upset me the most was the total disregard for the boy's feelings and the tired old misperception that people with autism don't feel. That is a steaming crock of horse manure. Feeling is what autism is all about! Suggesting otherwise is not only cruel, it is a blatant fallacy.

Another upsetting part was when Grant made efforts to communicate his wishes and needs and was completely disregarded. I am so sick of people expecting those on the autism/Asperger's (a/A) spectrum to make ALL the social concessions to appease the NT world! Whatever happened to meeting one another halfway? The brutality described in this book sounds like something straight out of a "How to Exacerbate Autism" to me.

As a survivor of enforced hugging, which I absolutely detest and cannot in good conscience support, the parts where Grant's mother forces him to endure punitive and restrictive hugs with NO regard for HIS needs made me wince. It was for HER and not for her child! Speaking from experience, it is terrifying; painful; upsetting and shows a COMPLETE disregard for the one being subjected to this treatment.
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