My son was born in 2002, right around the time when autism became better recognized. We had many friends whose children received a diagnosis somewhere along the spectrum, and through my reading about this condition and its symptoms, I was able to recognize the signs of sensory processing disorder in my son and acquire the appropriate therapy to help him manage the ways his body responded to certain stimuli. I’ve maintained an interest in reading about autism, its therapies, and means to manage the condition over the years, so when Kate Curry asked me to read and review To Kiss the Blarney Stone, her memoir of her son, his autism diagnosis, and how she worked to ensure he had every chance of success in life, I agreed.
Kate Curry’s story begins with her son Brenden’s adoption from Korea. Even early on, her instincts told her something was different about Brenden in the way he never responded to her voice or his name, and how he missed milestone after milestone, but since his doctors never seemed concerned, she focused on her joy in finally becoming a mother. It was only when Brenden’s little sister Emily began meeting all her milestones that Kate began to realize that Brenden needed further evaluation.
Originally misdiagnosed with ADHD, Brenden didn’t receive his autism diagnosis until age six, despite his speech, among other developmental skills, being profoundly delayed; even this diagnosis came solely because Ms. Curry pushed so hard for the evaluation in the first place. What followed ended up being a marathon-length obstacle course in the pursuit of obtaining appropriate services, therapies, accommodations, and modifications to ensure that Brenden could learn in ways that best suited his learning style. Far from being eager to help a struggling student succeed, the schools often fought against providing Brenden with even the simplest accommodations, necessitating an out-of-state move for the family to a school district better suited to students with autism. The struggle didn’t end there, though; Kate and her son had to fight every step of the way in order to make Brenden’s academic career a success.
This is the story of a mother’s continuous uphill battle to help her child carve his own unique path in the world, told in the style of a friend chatting over coffee. While the writing lacks finesse and polish, and there are sections full of legal documents and technical jargon that may not interest the casual reader, Ms. Curry’s strength and determination, combined with Brenden’s hard work, are admirable, and this wouldn’t be a bad read for parents starting out on their journey with autism, specifically to inform themselves of the fight far too many parents must go through in order to access appropriate services. Throughout the story, Mr. Curry gives advice and names resources that Brenden used that might prove useful to other parents (if, after time, these resources become obsolete, a Google search may point the searcher down the path of updated resources); occasionally, Brenden’s voice appears, adding his memories and feelings about the part of his life that his mother had been describing, and his take on things provides a colorful addition.
It’s heartening to know that Brenden, who lacked the expressive speech necessary to describe his day at school to his mother until third grade, has since graduated from college. He didn’t have an easy road, and Ms. Curry fought so hard to make his success possible. While I did find that the book could have benefited from a more thorough editing in order to better refine the writing, To Kiss the Blarney Stone gives an interesting look at how hard a parent will battle to provide their child with what they need to flourish, and I’m so proud of Brenden and all that he’s accomplished. Well done, young man. 🙂
Thanks to Kate Curry for providing me with a copy of her book to read and review.