Healing High Fives  

At Healing, we’re always looking for new resources of information that would be useful to those who care for, treat and teach kids. This section gives “high fives” to sources that we feel would be beneficial to kids and those who care for them. 

Three Little Words, A Memoir
 by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

This story of how the foster care system moved a little girl from one bad foster home to another for 9 years is both disturbing and inspiring. Ashley and her younger brother were taken from their mother when Ashley was three and a half, and thus began an unbelievable story of neglect, abuse, fear and resilience. She was placed with 19 different foster parents during her journey and spent time in a children’s home before finally being adopted by a loving family as she entered adolescence. Although many of her foster homes were crowded and unpleasant, one haunted her for many years. The foster mother was abusive and would force her foster children to drink hot sauce, hit them with wooden spoons and make them stand or squat in corners for hours at a time.

Throughout the years, Ashley had occasional visits with her mother who was in and out of jail and had substance abuse issues. But Ashley loved her deeply and clung to the promise that they soon be reunited as a family. By the time that a loving couple decided to adopt Ashley, she was extremely distrustful and felt incapable of returning their affection and love, fearing that they too would send her back into the foster care system. It took years, but Ashley finally learned to trust and love her adoptive parents and brothers, and she excelled academically. She saw on television that the cruel foster parents had been arrested and insisted on filing a lawsuit against them and giving depositions about her abuse on behalf of her brother and other children who had suffered her severe punishments. Being able to face these people who represented all the terrible things that had happened to Ashley during her childhood gave her new confidence, and she spoke about the need to reform the foster care system in many venues while still a teen, and even met President Clinton.

Now a young woman and college graduate, Ashley turned an award-winning essay into this book to reach as many people as possible and educate the public about the horrors that can exist in the foster care system and the need for more adoption of children who become lost in the system. She spent many years researching her past and finding records of all of her placements and the caseworkers, judges, child welfare staff, attorneys and one very special Guardian ad Litem who volunteered to help Ashley find a loving adoptive family. It is difficult to comprehend what this young woman suffered as a child, and reading the book is a heart-wrenching experience that stays with the reader for a long time. Her triumph is amazing and speaks to the resilience in all children.

This book was brought to our attention thanks to a working partnership between Simon Pulse, the youth publishing division of Simon & Shuster, and KidsPeace’s TeenCentral.Net, a safe, anonymous Web site that helps teens work out their problems and receive free counseling from Master’s level clinicians. Members can register to win a free Simon Pulse book each month. - PS

Published 2008 | Atheneum | An imprint of Simon & Shuster Publishing | 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

The Autism Trail Guide: Postcards from the road less traveled
by Ellen Notbohm

This marvelous collection of essays and columns Ellen has written over the years gives sage advice not only to parents of autistic children, but also to parents of all children. Each chapter contains pearls of wisdom Ellen has accumulated as she has traveled the trail as the parent of an autistic child and another child with ADHD. She quotes physicians, teachers, her family members and other parents who have been on the path with her, and she brings her wonderful sense of humor and depth of understanding of the obstacles faced by parents of special needs children. Her essays follow her sons from birth to the graduation of the elder and the first trip to the other side of the country by her autistic son with a group of friends and teachers.

The stories of the years of parenting and advocacy and volunteering and jumping in and holding back and smiles and tears are enthralling and relevant to all parents. She humorously presents elementary math word problems that college graduates would be hard pressed to understand and lauds the wonderful teachers she has come to greatly respect and call friends. She discusses how to select a good pediatrician, an enabling school, activities that will not be triggers and giving her sons the freedom to try new things while still being there for them if they need strong arms to fall back into. Telling stories of her younger son’s learning how to ride a bicycle in 45 minutes with the assistance of an adapted PE teacher or his winning a race at a swim meet, smiling as he crossed the entire pool, Ellen shares funny, sad, intimate and very public events in the lives of her family and even discusses the toll it may take on the husband/wife relationship. Her support system is strong, and Ellen has managed to reach out to thousands of parents of autistic and other special needs children to show that humor and joy can be found in any situation. This book is a joy to read and teaches without being pedantic. Another hit by the indomitable Ellen Notbohm. - PS

Published 2007 | Future Horizons, Inc.| 721 W. Abram Street, Arlington, TX 76013