A parent of a child with autism’s review of Rules, by Cynthia Lord – SOL 1/6/15

When I present on literacy and autism, I often share excerpts from books such as Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, because of how authentic the description of the thoughts and feelings of a child with autism can be. Also, I love reading aloud something compelling or touching that will stick in the minds of the listener, in this case teachers, so that they can reflect on an experience from their own practice with this special group of students.

I will absolutely be adding Cynthia Lord’s Rules to the books that I will share, because of how powerful it was to read, as a parent and teacher of students with autism. More importantly, I will be having my son and daughter read this book when they are older; I think that it will allow us to start very important conversations about how they feel about being the sibling of a child with autism. Of course, its wonderfulness is no surprise, as Cynthia Lord writes from a completely authentic experience. Her ability to convey this to her readers is truly a treasure.

Over the break, I had someone accuse me of not being a good enough parent. They said, if I was more strict, my son would not act the way he does. I like to think that Catherine, the narrator in Rules, would understand why I push my son sometimes, and when I choose not to: “But those words don’t help. So I reach over, wipe away his tear with the side of my thumb, and say the only words I know will calm him: ”Frog, you are looking quite green.”” “Tomorrow I’m going to tell Mom she has a point about David needing his own words, but other things matter, too. Like sharing something small and special, just my brother and me.” For my son, it’s video games. I have read all of the same articles that everyone else has, about how they are not good for children, and how they may even be keeping him from developing his social skills further. However, when he is really upset, or feeling stressed, I know that video games will be his safe place to escape to – they will make him happy. I think it’s more complicated than whether or not I am a good parent.

I have always adhered to “rules” to help my son navigate society. It reinforced what I do to read some of the same rules in Lord’s book: “If someone says ‘hi,’ you say ‘hi’ back. Don’t stand in front of the TV when other people are watching it. Flush! A boy can take off his shirt to swim, but not his shorts. It’s fine to hug Mom, but not the clerk at the video store. If it’s too loud, cover your ears or as the other person to be quiet. Saying you’ll do something means you have to do it – unless you have a very good excuse.” Some of the rules even made me laugh that we need to have a rule for these sorts of things. Of course, now that he’s older, it’s more complicated: “Sometimes people laugh when they like you. But sometimes they laugh to hurt you.” But rules help him make sense of the world on most days.

I am very grateful to Cynthia Lord for writing this book. I recommend it, especially for those who work with students on the spectrum. I was encouraged by the book. It helped me know that I am not alone in my love for my son, or the things we do a little differently than others do. Rules was a gift to me and my family. I’m very grateful for all of the authors who write about these seemingly small, but important issues and individuals.

14 thoughts on “A parent of a child with autism’s review of Rules, by Cynthia Lord – SOL 1/6/15

  1. I love Rules. Saw Cynthia Lord at NCTE and had her autograph a copy for me. Unfortunately I lent to a student who left it our in the rain. Ruined… But that’s life, right? Not the important stuff that you attend to daily with your family. I am so awed as to how you deal with others who don’t understand and pass judgement. You are amazing and I love reading your posts. We all need those rules spelled out for us sometimes… perhaps those “authorities” on parenting need something like don’t comment until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes.:)

    have you read Rain, Reign yet? I recommend it. Lovely story about a girl with autism.

  2. We all need rules to help us make sense of things and we all need a safe place to go to when we become overwhelmed. For me it is into a book. As far as parenting advice from others, it is just like being an arm chair quarterback. It is easy to say what ought to be done when you are looking on and not in the game.

  3. Really enjoyed your slice today. Rules is one of my favorites, and I appreciate this reminder to booktalk it in my classes soon! I am the mom of two boys adopted at older ages who came to us with lots of trauma and attachment difficulties. We have learned so much about parenting them well, and much of what we do doesn’t align with what a parent might do or say with neurotypical children. Video games are the safe space for my son too. Sometimes I wish we had less screen time, but when he’s super stressed, it’s the one way he can calm down and regulate himself again.

    1. Thank you for sharing about your son and video games. It’s always a guilty topic for us. Our daughter is adopted. All children are a unique parenting journey. Thank you for you thoughtful comments!

  4. Thanks for sharing your opinion of this book from your personal perspective. I’ve heard great things about this book, and your blog just cemented my desire to read it.

    BTW, you make the rules for your son, you know what’s best for him, and you are the mom so foo-ey on what anyone else thinks!

  5. Love Rules — it is a great book. Your son has you as his Mom because you are the person you. This other person truly does not understand perspective, point of view and true understanding. Life is a balance … it is clear you understand this and your son.


  6. Thanks for reminding me that I want to read this book. So many books to read and so little time! As parents we know and want what’s best for our children even if others may not understand. Glad the book was very comforting for you.

  7. I can’t believe someone had the audacity to critique your parenting! You, and only you, know what is best for your son.

    I’ve had Rules in my bookshelf for years. It has been unread. As soon as I get home, it’s going into my TBR because of this post, Aileen.

  8. Also a mom of a wonderfully fun son with Autism. It takes lots of practice to know when to push and when to let it go. You know best 🙂
    I read Rules the same time as a fourth grade class in our school. We had some great discussions.

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