David Burns opens a window into the life and mind of a person with autism in his new book Do Lemons Have Feathers? Burns has autism, as do some of his children. He also consults with parents and educators, helping with the education and training of people with autism. Do Lemons Have Feathers? is a very personal book, in which Burns writes openly about his own experiences. His insights address both people with autism as well as those who live with, work with, or teach people with autism.
Burns's major point is that autism is a gift. He's definitely realistic that autism comes with some difficulties, but he wants the reader to embrace the positive. "I was able to do certain things because of autism and not in spite of autism. I began to see autism as a gift to be used." School and work environments, by their nature, tend to demand behavioral conformity. This leads to people with autism getting into trouble or simply not fitting in. But people "should not be expected to leave their autism at the door. After all, we wouldn't expect someone who used a wheelchair to leave it at the school gates and walk in like everyone else. The miracle comes when we change our attitude."
Changing attitudes is Burns's mission. Sometimes people with autism are said to have a "learning disability." Burns writes that "society has a teaching disability; most of us can learn--we just have to be taught in a way we can understand." Well said, Mr. Burns! By changing attitudes and figuring out how to teach, society will be better placed to receive and enjoy the amazing contributions of people with autism, whose "intelligence, perseverance and single-mindedness have caused breakthroughs and progress down the ages."
Burns's positive message and helpful suggestions for people with autism, especially regarding social interactions, are welcome. He writes that he has "made the decision to accept the condition [of autism] as a gift and advantage." Do Lemons Have Feathers? will help the rest of us to the same conclusion.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publishers for the complimentary electronic review copy!