By Gunveen Chadha:
This book is an autobiography of Daniel Tammet, a boy born in the late seventies in England with autism and savant syndrome during a period when not many people knew or understood autism and savant syndrome. Daniel’s life has been successful due to his own efforts, persistence and largely due to the contribution and support he received from his family.
Daniel Tammet says “My parents did not want to label me, to feel that they were holding me back in any way”, to illustrate how his parents wanted to provide the best for him rather than giving him away or not accepting him even though the family was poor, there were eight younger siblings Daniel had and his father suffered illness during a certain time when Daniel was young.
Kevin and Jennifer spent hours patiently dealing with their child constantly crying and his head banging behavior. Daniel liked to live a life with routines and he made efforts to make them work. Daniels parents treated him as a normal child and Daniel was able to achieve heights in his life.
When Daniel was four years old he suffered an epileptic seizure, which affected his father the most. Daniel’s grandfather has suffered seizures which had led to the breakup of the family and therefore Kevin- Daniel’s father tended to take extra care of his eldest child whereas Jennifer, the mother was upset at first to realize Daniel’s disability. Kevin is a very nurturing father who cared a lot for his children and loved them very much; he never singled Daniel out as different from the others.
Daniel had a love for numbers and was very smart when it came especially to prime numbers and found prime numbers as pebble-like. During Daniel’s formative years, his mother encouraged his love for number by getting him math puzzle books even though they did not have much money.
Daniel dedicated the book to his siblings acknowledging them for helping him grow, play games that Daniel made and for providing the comfort they did to him even though he was different.
Rehan was Daniel’s only real friend at school. Since Rehan was from India, he had to deal with some differences at school too. They both sat together at recess and Rehan taught Daniel to navigate the London subway system.
The book shows how Daniel’s parents never discouraged him from anything that he wanted to do. When Daniel decided to go to Lithuania, the parents did not discourage him knowing it would be hard for their child but instead encouraged his participation. Their support helped him in knowing who he really was as a person. Daniel grew as a person when he went to Lithuania as he had to do all his chores himself in a new world. Had his parents been over protective of him and not letting him take the opportunity to go to Lithuania, I wonder if Daniel would have turned out to be the person he did.
When Daniel realized he was gay, he was a little hesitant to tell his family but his parents were accepting of Daniel’s sexual preference and the relationship Daniel and Neil shared.
Daniel met Neil at the age of twenty-one in an online chat. Neil immediately accepted and understood Daniel and his special needs. Neil was a perfect partner Daniel could wish for as he never ridiculed him for mistakes. Neil was very understanding and encouraging. He was the extension of the supportive environment Daniel had when he was a child living at his parents’ house with his siblings.
There are very few people who accept and want to treat their child as normal when the child has a disability. If all parents, siblings and human beings treated and cared for the disabled the way Daniel received care, the world would be better off; the people with special needs would be termed as “specially-enabled”. For these people are geniuses in their own way. There are many things that they can do that we normal people cannot even dream about doing.