Exiting Nirvana

Exiting Nirvana is the second part of the book The Seige written by Clara Claiborne Park who is a mother of a child with autism. Park personally wrote these two books to share her daughter’s life having autism from toddler until her daughter turned 40 years old. Park perfectly described the story of her daughter in a deeply moving account of the experiences of autistic person’s journey. The word Nirvana on the title says that it is the freedom from the consequent suffering, as a result of the extinction of individual passion, hatred, and delusion. Exiting Nirvana as what Parks describes is that it is about Jessica’s or Jessy’s progress through adult life’s journey, a journey with many ups and downs, but one that has also led her to a relatively productive, satisfying life, and having a full-time job. Jessy rise from this Nirvana is largely the result of countless hours of time and patience from parents, siblings, friends, neighbors and others to let her experience what normal people do and let her experience that she is also like the other people who can have contribution in the society.

When Jessy was born in the late 1950s, autism was not well understood, and the current thinking was that autistic children were withdrawn in response to fear of not getting their needs met. To blame, according to this theory, were “refrigerator mothers.” When Jessy was young, her speech is always by no means typical. When she was 12 years old, she was stuck by the gap between her nonverbal competencies and her speech. Park concluded that her daughter’s autism was complicated by another handicap which is aphasia wherein it affects the ability to acquire and use words. Jessy has difficulty in her language that she wasn’t able to understand and use the proper pronouns. Ex. she still not yet able to refer the pronoun “I” and she even have more trouble with the use of “we”, “our” and “us”. However, with the helped and patience of her family especially her mother, Jessy were able to learn little by little and understand more of the context like values wherein she already learn how to emphatize. One day, Park discovered that Jessy has a special interest particularly in terms of drawing and that was the time when she found out that Jessy has the skill and the whole family supported and managed to helped Jessy in showcasing her talent. Jessy is now a 40 years old woman who works a real job, saves her money, cleans the house, and do a lot of activities that is far from ordinary for someone with such severe autism. She paints, and has had a number of shows where it exhibits the different paintings of her. Her paintings are mostly buildings and not so ordinary work of arts.

From the very beginning, I already saw and felt how Clara Clairborne Park and her whole family gave their full support to help Jessy to exit in her own nirvana. Her family has learned based from the different experiences that they had in teaching and guiding Jessy throughout her life. Some experiences are painful like how Jessy thinks and respond but as a family they worked and helped each other in order to give what are the needs of Jessy. Park has been carefully classify Jessy’s slow steps toward a social life.

I salute and impressed on how the efforts of the whole family had a great impact in helping Jessy to achieve her dreams and to give her the needs she needed like providing her the proper education and exposing her to different social situations. I was also amazed how they helped Jessy to have a normal life jobs and teaching Jessy that she can also make a big contribution in the society. They also raised Jessy to become an extremely bright woman who no doubt made progress in spite of autism because of her family’s full support, guidance and their involvement in her life. To sum up, this book was a good book to read wherein it will provide you a lot of information about autism. I admit that for me I just always think of how is the life of a child with autism but now after I read this book Exiting Nirvana, it comes on my mind that this book was right. It made me think of how about what will happen to the person with autism when they turn 40 years old like Jessy. Are they going to be successful? And how about the support of the family, can the family still show their full support until their children were old? These are just some of the thoughts that pop up on my mind and this book gives me another side to the life of a person with autism and the importance of the family support. Park’s account of her daughter’s life is a wonderful first step to changing the image of autism in a similar way. The story of Jessy Park makes a clear case for the value of special education and what a family can do to helped their children with autism until they turn into the older stage of their life.


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