Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

It is an exceptional read, perhaps because Stuart doesn't try to romanticize the subject of autism or the relationships between father and son or wife and husband.

The story is about a father finding a way to connect to his autistic son. In the midst of the breakdown of his marriage and the mind-blowing mediocrity of his job, Alex seems to blame everything on how difficult Sam is.

This is an aspect of the book that I really enjoyed, the authenticity and frank open discussion about having a child on the autism spectrum. The author doesn't pull any punches either. He describes the frustration, the anger, the guilt and the feelings of inadequacy parents are consumed by. He also gives a clear picture of the inner walls in the education system that often do not have a compass, guidelines or enough trained staff to deal with the intricate difficulties of autism.

A lot of things the author wrote resonated with me, especially on the topic of video games and certainly when it comes to Minecraft. Video games get an awfully bad rap and it seems to be the easy solution to point in their direction when it comes to looking for reasons for bad and excessive behaviour. Yes the majority contain gore, blood, violence, death, bad language and inappropriate behaviour, however there are quite a lot of games that don't. Minecraft is the video game equivalent of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. 'Come with me and you'll be, In a world of pure imagination'

When my son first started playing it I just couldn't understand the appeal. From a graphics point of view it looks very much like the first video games that came out. Dodgy unclear graphics, figures moving like small robots and everything, and I mean everything, is a square or square-shaped.

My son isn't autistic, but he does hate to read and write. Emerging himself into the creative world of Minecraft has also meant buying books on the subject. His reading and writing improved tenfold, because he was immersed in a subject that interested him. Solving complex puzzles and looking for solutions makes this game a huge brain gym for pint sized humans.

The planning, the creating, having to make logical connections to grow and harvest, and learning while doing it all. All of this makes Minecraft one of the most popular and yet educationally underrated games of the last few decades.

Anyway I digress, my point was I really understood how Alex and Sam connected through the common interest of the game, and that it can be a teaching tool. In fact I think Stuart has been able to describe the relationship between father and son in a very realistic and compassionate way. Obviously his own personal experience with his son have played a huge role in this. Saying that, you have to be really self-aware to be able to analyse a relationship on this level.

It is an emotional read and a very good one.

Buy A Boy Made of Blocks at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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