When you have a child that doesn't fit in, what do you do? Debra Ginsberg knew that her son, Blaze, was unique from the moment he was born in 1987. What she didn't know was that Blaze's differences would be regarded by the outside world not as gifts, but as impediments to social and academic success. Blaze never crawled. He just got up and walked when he turned one. He called his mother 'Zsa Zsa' until he was three. By kindergarten, he loved the music of Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald. He fears butterflies and is fascinated by garbage trucks. With the same honesty that made Waiting a success, Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World chronicles Debra's experience in raising a child who has defied definition by the host of professionals who have sought to label his differences. Ginsberg introduces us to a remarkable child and her own unusual childhood. She writes about a family which shows us the redemptive power of faith, humour and love.
Ginsberg (author of Waiting, an insider's look at the world of restaurant service) offers an extraordinary view of rearing and educating a child with special needs. Upon entering school, Ginsberg's son, Blaze, was put in a special education class because he didn't fit in smoothly with the behavioral demands of the regular classroom teacher. Required to come up with a specific diagnosis in order to place him in special ed, the school officials chose "speech and language impaired" after Blaze's first day of kindergarten. Resistant to testing, Blaze defied simple categorization and over time collected a variety of contradictory labels, including autistic, "of above-average intelligence," "eccentric," attention deficit hyperactive and "a gifted manipulator." A single parent with a large supportive family, Ginsberg spent much time and energy working with Blaze, having him tested, reading about diagnoses and treatments and helping him through elementary school with teachers ranging from helpful to hostile. She sacrificed her nascent career in publishing to spend more time with Blaze, took a job at his school, temporarily home-schooled him and even ingested a dose of his Ritalin to see how it felt. Ginsberg skillfully describes all the frustration, anger, fear, shame, worry, love and joy she's experienced in addressing her son's unique gifts and difficulties. She also describes a public school system generally more concerned with collective standardized test scores than with recognizing and serving the various innate abilities, talents and needs of its diverse students. This is an unusual and fascinating memoir that refutes many common assumptions about single mothers, special-ed kids, "experts" of all kinds and American public schools.