Seeing Ezra: A Mother's Story of Autism, Unconditional Love, and the Meaning of Normal

Overview

Seeing Ezra is the soulful, beautifully written memoir of a mother’s fierce love for her autistic son, and a poignant examination of what it means to be “normal.” When Kerry Cohen’s son Ezra turns one, a babysitter suggests he may be “different,” setting her family on a path in which autism dominates their world. As he becomes a toddler and they navigate the often rigid and prescriptive world of therapy, Cohen is unsettled by the evaluations they undergo: At home, Ezra is playfully expressive, sharing profound, ...

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Seeing Ezra: A Mother's Story of Autism, Unconditional Love, and the Meaning of Normal

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Overview

Seeing Ezra is the soulful, beautifully written memoir of a mother’s fierce love for her autistic son, and a poignant examination of what it means to be “normal.” When Kerry Cohen’s son Ezra turns one, a babysitter suggests he may be “different,” setting her family on a path in which autism dominates their world. As he becomes a toddler and they navigate the often rigid and prescriptive world of therapy, Cohen is unsettled by the evaluations they undergo: At home, Ezra is playfully expressive, sharing profound, touching moments of connection and intimacy with his mother and other family members, but in therapy he is pathologized, prodded to behave in ways that undermine his unique expression of autism.

It soon becomes clear that more is at stake than just Ezra’s well-being; Cohen and her marriage are suffering as well. Ezra’s differentness, and the strain of pursuing varied therapies, takes a toll on the family—Cohen’s husband grows depressed and she pursues an affair—all as she tries to help others recognize and embrace Ezra’s uniqueness rather than force him to behave outside his comfort level. It isn’t until they abandon the expected, prescriptive notions about love, marriage, and individuality that they are able to come back together as two parents who fiercely love their little boy.

Powerful and eye-opening, Seeing Ezra is an inspirational chronicle of a mother’s struggle to protect her son from a system that seeks to compartmentalize and “fix” him, and of her journey toward accepting and valuing him for who he is—just as he is.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Cohen (Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, 2008, etc.) wants her readers to understand the process of raising an autistic child. Despite her good intentions, she has trouble adhering to her topic and including relevant details.

The author relates the many challenges unique to parenting a child with autism, but most readers will be less interested in the Cohen's mundanely unraveling marriage, her exhaustively catalogued emotional needs (which she feels freer to share with readers than with her husband) or the various kinds of "energy" other people put out that she picks up on. The book reads more like a series of confessional journal entries than a well-structured memoir. Presumably because she is a trained psychotherapist, as well as a longtime recipient of psychotherapy, Cohen's writing often assumes an irritatingly clinical tone. The author is at her best when she ponders crucial questions related to the diagnosis and treatment of her son's condition—What is autism? Should autistic children be forced to behave in more "normal" ways? What is "normal"?—but she strains readers' patience with constant diatribes directed at well-meaning therapists, doctors, teachers, babysitters, "ex" friends and strangers she believes wronged her son, as well as gratuitous descriptions of her own parents' flaws and her not-quite-an-affair with a married friend. Cohen could have written a compelling essay about her son's autism for a parenting magazine; she does not have enough cohesive, original material to sustain an entire book.

Repetitive, strained and gratingly self-righteous.

From the Publisher
Praise for Loose Girl:
"Compelling . . . Cohen is a fine writer. She is introspective, and there’s a wry humor that penetrates Loose Girl." — The Oregonian
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580053693
  • Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,003,986
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Kerry Cohen grew up in northern New Jersey, right across the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan. She has two master’s degrees, one in writing from the University of Oregon, and one in counseling psychology from Pacific University.

After publishing her first memoir, Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, Cohen received thousands of messages from girls and women who felt that in telling her story, she had told their own shameful, unspoken story as well. Following that experience, her work as a counselor has primarily concerned adolescent girls and sexuality, relationship issues, and addictions. Her next book on the “loose” issue, Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity, is forthcoming in September 2011.

Cohen’s writing has been featured in The New York Times’ “Modern Love” series and the Washington Post, as well as numerous anthologies, literary journals, and periodicals. She has appeared on Dr. Phil, Secret Lives of Women, The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, and the BBC, as well as in Marie Claire, the UK's Daily Mail, South African People Magazine. She currently maintains a blog for Psychology Today.

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Table of Contents

A Note About Terminology 7

Preface 11

Fall in Oregon 15

Two Years Old

Mind Blindness 16

Early Intervention 24

Genetic Markers 40

Defining Normal 45

Spring in Massachusetts 61

Four Years Old

Adaptive Behavior 62

First Steps 76

Young Frankenmilk 88

Facilitated Communication 98

Visual Spatial Skills 109

Tactile Defensiveness 117

Broken-Mirror Theory 129

Least Restrictive Environment 139

Difficulty with Transitions 150

(Un)cooperative Play 157

Not Otherwise Specified 168

Summer in Oregon 179

Seven Years Old

Parallel Play 180

Augmentative Communication 198

Joint Attention 210

Literal Thinking 218

Central Coherence 239

Emotion Recognition 244

Visual Learning 259

Theory of Mind 278

Reader's Guide 281

Acknowledgments 283

About the Author 285

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Open and emotional book

    I'm learning that the more personal a book is to me, the harder it is to review it. Seems like it should make it easier, but it doesn't. I don't totally agree with Ms. Cohen on some things, but that doesn't make the book any less impactful. I finished this book four days ago, but I couldn't find the words to write a review.

    At first, I found it hard to relate to her because when she first started seeking help for her son, she didn't want anyone to think badly of him, so she didn't tell the doctors and therapists everything they needed to know to properly evaluate him. I'm a straight-up kind of gal, and I figure that even if the "experts" don't have all the answers, they can't help us if they don't know what's going on. Eventually, though, she moved past that. She came to a point at which she could tell the doctors everything, but she didn't hesitate to get up and walk out if their needs weren't being met. That's my kind of mom.

    The question Ms. Cohen keeps repeating in her book is one that I think every parent of a special-needs child faces. It doesn't matter what your opinion is on alternative therapies, or curing autism. The most important thing is: Where is the line between helping him with the areas where the world feels hard for him and negating who he is?

    There is some foul language in this book, but don't let that stop you. It always helps me to read about how other moms are dealing with challenges. Not only do I usually learn something, it helps me to not feel so alone. (No matter how much support we have, I think sometimes we all feel like no one else knows what it's like.)

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    Autism Mother Follows Her Heart

    Honest, real, tenacious. I feel the raw emotion, worry and frustration plucked straight out of my soul and heart and onto the pages. Autism's rippling effect of disability dis-ables every aspect of family life. Motherhood: protect, serve, anticipate, support, love, research, counsel EVERYONE surrounding the child. Right now, right now, right NOW. Feel guilty for needing, frustrated for wanting, desperate for hope.
    Absolutely loved it! Cohen's story and writing resonates to my core.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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