Reviewed by Baila Weinberg
To truly understand a special child, one must seek to understand the perspective of the child himself, as well as that of his parents, siblings, neighbors and educators. All Hashem’s Children, compiled by Leah Grangewood and Zeisel Blumenfeld, the mother of a developmentally delayed child, helps the reader do just that. While writing styles vary from essay to essay and the quality of the writing is somewhat uneven, the book is essentially an anthology of short stories about the ups and the downs, the impossibly challenging days and the moments of pure joy that accompany raising such a child.
A mother living overseas, far from family, describes how she overcame depression and learned to stay afloat while caring for five children with Fragile-X Syndrome (a genetic condition which causes a range of developmental problems including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment).
Another essay tells of the complex and heartrending decision a couple made to move their son Nachman to a special living facility. Diagnosed with Pediatric Disability Disorder (PDD), Nachman often experienced fits of destructive behavior. As Nachman’s symptoms worsened, his behavior began to affect the family’s stability. “One day my then eight year old daughter announced that she wasn’t coming home from school anymore. She was going to move in with a friend,” writes Nachman’s mother. Nevertheless, the pain in making
such a decision is apparent: when the decision was finally made to move Nachman to a group home, these same children reacted with a measure of indignation, “You don’t love Nachman anymore . . . ’cause you sent him away.” While the book depicts the strong and complex emotions that accompany raising a special child, it is inspiring and upbeat.
Ms. Weinberg is a writer living in Lakewood, New Jersey.