The Mind Tree
Author: Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay
Publishing Info: 2003
Reviewed by Maureen Bennie: Director, Autism Awareness Centre Inc.
The world was first introduced to Tito last year on a 60 Minutes segment. He wowed viewers with his remarkable talents and abilities. Tito is no ordinary boy – he has autism and is able to articulate quite well what it is like to live in the autistic world. His book The Mind Tree was just released in Canada this fall.
Tito tells his tale in the third person, describing himself as “the boy”. The reader journeys with this boy through his thoughts, which are complex. The how and why of autistic behavior is explained in great detail and clarity. Even though Tito developed no language until the age of 7, he tells us how he did have a myriad thoughts and responses to what was going on around him.
We learn that the autistic world is felt and viewed in parts and pieces. A ceiling fan rotates and makes a circular pattern, which is soothing. Numbers have a pattern to them. Tito says they bend, straighten, curl and sometimes break. His body feels scattered – he is a hand or a leg and must spin his body to bring all of the separate parts together. Tito’s illustrations throughout the book gives the reader the visual scope of his world.
One comment that rings true in the book is, “People love to take special interests in the ‘cannots’ and not the ‘cans’. Any person living or working with a child on the autism spectrum can at one time or another realize they have lived this statement. Tito urges us to rejoice in the small victories, which can be many, if one is looking carefully.
Although one may not agree with the methods of Tito’s mother, they did work for her son and he expresses his gratitude. Tito describes his mother’s method of helping him find his voice. She thumped him hard on the back to help him make his first utterances. While some people may find this cruel or too forceful, it did help Tito gain language. Throughout the book Tito praises his mother for her tenacity and innovative methods to help him improve. He does talk honestly about his anxiety around trying new things but he needed that push from his mother to tread on to new ground.
Readers are also treated to the beautiful poetry Tito writes. The verse describes his emotions and paints vivid pictures of how Tito views and feels the world. It is yet another window into his life.
This book is an excellent read for both parents and professionals who work with ASD children. Parents will feel hopeful at the progress and gains this non-verbal boy made. Professionals will have a better idea of why these children exhibit certain behaviours. Tito has a rare gift of describing puzzling behaviour and emotions. Readers can empathize and smile at the joys of life this young man has experienced in his short lifetime. You will realize autism does not have to be a deficit but a different way in which to view the world.
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