"Mama, Mama, he's hitting himself! His HEAD, Mama, Jeff is HITTING HIMSELF-..." Whirling so fast the skillet skidded noisily to the edge of the stove, I looked toward the dinette and...froze. My beautiful two-year- old was slamming his head against the hard- wood, again and again -...
So Patricia Apple, in the early pages of Spinning Straw, describes her son's first episode of life-long self injury (SIB). Spinning Straw chronicles the life and heart of Jeff, who couldn't stop hurting himself. Diagnosed by various medical experts as autistic, developmentally disabled, severely retarded and suffering from extreme SIB - Jeff's family was able to see the beautiful, happy, loving child that existed behind all these disabilities. This is the story of a family in crisis as they struggled to cope with Jeff's attacks, and find help for this otherwise incredibly happy, loving child.
At times, the story-telling is almost clinical in detail, but this is tempered by first hand accounts of Jeff's SIB attacks, which are written in seemingly scattered thoughts and sentence fragments that place the reader right in the middle of the action. Patricia Apple tells the story, but Phyllis Green's writing has moved this telling into the realm of literature.
Once I started reading, I couldn't put Spinning Straw down. I read the entire book in two sittings - in the midst of the madness of preparations for Christmas and a houseful of out-of-town family.
The story of the Apple family's life with Jeff, as told by Patricia Apple to Phyllis Green, is a sensitive, yet not at all sentimental account. This book goes way beyond the message thing. I think it forces the reader to begin to look at people with special needs in a different light - to see them as human beings capable of giving so much: love, happiness and their own special way of looking at a world that the rest of us tend to take for granted. This book should be mandatory reading for those in decision-making positions, to help them treat children and adults facing extraordinary challenges with compassion, understanding, and love.
The Jeff Apple Story
Before that storm passed, blood dotted Jane's scalp. The other kids had wisely hung back, frozen to whatever temporary shelter each had dived to. . . Grandpa Apple had said to stay in the trailer! "STOP! You're HURTING YOUR SISTER!" someone managed to scream. Suddenly, Jeff seemed to realize what he was doing. He dropped his hands, staring expressionlessly. Jane was almost in too much pain to notice. Within a few seconds, Jeff "went out" again. But this time Jane was able, woozy as she was, to work free. . .Before another explosion could erupt, she raced to the house to phone Mama. . . [Then she] raced back to the RV as I flew for the driveway, carkeys clutched in my sweating palm.
Jeff had calmed down and was now in the house with his grandmother. . .But the scenes I had conjured to the tune of blaring horns and screeching tires were nothing to what I found in that RV. Poor Jane, bloody and half-bald, sobbed in my arms as I surveyed a soggy mishmash...
If you liked Spinning Straw, try these:
Clara Claiborne Park continues the story of her autistic daughter Jessy. In this moving, eloquent memoir, we see Jessy's progressive journey out of her isolated "Nirvana" into the world we all share. An honest and captivating story of emergence, perseverance, and love.
In this story of a woman's devotion to the child who is both her burden and God's singular way of smiling on her, Bret Lott has created a mother-daughter relationship of matchless intensity and beauty.
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