I had been a member of a community choir for years when I became pregnant with the Navigator. The Navigator’s dad and I attended rehearsals together every week until the diaphragm work required for singing aggravated my morning sickness so badly that I had to drop out.
I reluctantly left Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana behind to nurture my pregnancy instead.
I started singing again after the Navigator was born, crooning lullabies as I rocked him. Once as a baby, when I had finished a song, he lifted his head off my shoulder as if to say “don’t stop.” I started singing again, and he laid his head back down, satisfied.
He was happiest in a swing that played a sweet tune; so much so that when we moved him to a crib, we found a device from the same company which played the same tune and played it in his room every night. Music soothed him.
Music is at the heart of the novel “The Record Player” by Bryan Jepson. Brought together by Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, characters Beth and John marry and start their family together.
Soon they begin to notice that their son’s development is very different from other children his age. As a toddler, young Gabe, named after the composer who brought them together, is diagnosed with autism.
The family is shocked as the doctor who diagnoses their son advises them to place him in an institution. Searching for other alternatives, they learn about a new therapy out of U.C.L.A. which requires a huge time and monetary commitment because insurance will not cover it.
Undeterred, they plunge into this new world for the sake of their son, with music at the heart of their care for him. The story takes the reader to an important event in Gabe’s adulthood, and finishes on a satisfying note.
Some elements on their road to the diagnosis were recognizable, like the parental self-doubt, wondering if they had missed something or caused the autism; and the colicky baby responding well to music, especially.
Other things were profoundly unfamiliar. Set in the 1990’s, the difference in diagnostic processes, the lack of knowledge and understanding of autism, and the dearth of therapies and resources described in the story is startling.
Author Jepson, himself the parent of two children on the autism spectrum, writes with experience and understanding. Through his voice, one realizes that while there is a long way to go in support of autism awareness, understanding, acceptance, and respect, the story is also a reminder of how far we have come.
An enjoyable afternoon read, I would recommend this story to anyone who prefers reading novels as a way to be introduced to autism, perhaps before moving into more technical autism materials.
I can see it being valuable as an introduction to autism for those unfamiliar with it, such as family or friends, shortly after an initial diagnosis.
The book is “The Record Player” by Bryan Jepson and it is available on Amazon.
This review is my honest personal opinion. I received no compensation for this review, and received a courtesy copy of the book to review.
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