Sometimes you'll read a book simply in order to escape the cares of the everyday world. "All Because of Henry" by Nuala Gardner is about as far from escapism as it is possible to get. It is the remarkable true story of the last seven years in the life of the author's family; the story of helping her two autistic children overcome the obstacles placed in their way by a largely uncomprehending and all too often uncaring world; and the story of the part played in the family's life by their dogs.
Nuala Gardner first wrote about her family in her 2007 bestseller "A Friend Like Henry". This focused on the story of her severely autistic son Dale, and the central role played by their golden retriever Henry, whose love and empathy helped Dale communicate with those around him. The current volume picks up the story on 17 April 2006, the night that Henry died, and begins with the way Dale coped with his loss, which fortuitously followed the introduction into the family of a second dog, also called Henry. Later on we meet Thomas, another young dog, whose arrival is less uniformly successful.
Dale is by now a young man, and Nuala's daughter Amy is working her way through school, often expressing her emotions in terms of her love of horses. What you find between the covers feels like a very honest "warts and all" account of the trials, tribulations, and all too occasional triumphs of helping two very different individuals with autism come to terms with, and carve out a fulfilling life from, the world around them. The sheer frustration of dealing with potential employers and bureaucratic officialdom comes through clearly, as does the importance of Nuala's work with her Autism Therapy Dog programme, and its Spanish counterpart.
This is a book that simply must be read by anyone who knows anyone with autism; and that should be read by the rest of us. No, you'll not find escape between its covers: but you will certainly find understanding and insight, and a real sense of hope arising from the way that one individual's determination and her love for her children has made a real difference to the quality of their lives.