Title: 3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White
Author: Ron Miles
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Publisher: Ron Miles
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the author
First line: Benjamin was a genuine Christmas gift, albeit one that took nearly forty hours to unwrap.
Goodreads blurb: Benjamin, a nine-year-old autistic boy with a love of Disney, was taking his first trip to Walt Disney World. The last thing his parents expected was to see him come alive.
What followed was a remarkable tale of inspiration, heartbreak, dedication and joy as Benjamin’s family relocated from Seattle to Orlando in order to capture that magic and put it to practical use. Amidst the daily challenges of life for an autistic child, Benjamin’s passion for one particular theme park attraction would lead his family on a breathtaking journey of hope and discovery.
How many rides does it take for an ending to become a new beginning?
Facebook is a strange monster. It has it’s drawbacks, most of which were glaringly evident during last year’s election season. But whenever I think of giving it up altogether, I remember the best thing Facebook has done, which is to make it easy to reconnect with old friends I have lost touch with. The author of this book, Ron Miles, is one of those people.
In the fall of 1990, I entered community college and auditioned for a role in Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors. Through that production, I met Ron. I had watched him perform in several community theater productions while I was in high school, and was a bit in awe of him at first. We ended up dating for a while, and that morphed into a good friendship founded on our love of theater. I will always be grateful to him for introducing me to the musical Chess, which is one of my favorites to this day.
Ron and I lost touch when I transferred to Washington State University and moved out of the area. A couple of years ago, we reconnected on Facebook, and as we got caught up, I began to hear about his son, Ben. I started reading Shmoolok, where Ron blogs about parenting an autistic child. Ben’s story fascinated me, as did the fact that this person I remembered from college days had morphed into a fantastic parent.
When Ron decided to write a book about Ben’s love affair with Snow White’s Scary Adventures, I agreed to review it for him. Reviewing a friend’s book can be a sticky proposition, but I already knew from reading his blog that Ron writes very well. As I started the book, it felt a bit strange. Who wouldn’t want to read a book that chronicles an ex’s life after you had lost touch? But Ron’s writing quickly pulled me in and I became lost in Ben’s story.
Ron tells the story of Ben’s initial diagnosis of autism, and the struggle it was to parent this mostly nonverbal child. One of the few things that Ben loved and concentrated on was his Disney movies, which prompted Ron and Ben’s Mom, Sara, to take Ben to Disney World. What happened on that trip was truly magical, and prompted Ron and Sara to move both of their households to Florida, where Disney World became a weekly occupational therapy session for Ben. They watched him come alive and begin to learn verbal and life skills that most of us take for granted.
The story of Ben’s love affair with the park, and with the Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride in particular, is in turns poignant and hilarious. Ron writes honestly of the challenges – and pure joys – of parenting an autistic child, and I was fully engaged in the story. The last two chapters and the epilogue were read with many tears and smiles, and I believe Ron has much to be proud of in his book.
What has happened since Ron finished writing Ben’s story has been simply astounding. He was able to get a copy in the hands of science fiction author Cory Doctorow, who had this to say: “Brimming with heart and tragedy overcome, this is a book that captures the tribulations of parenthood, the magic of Disney World, and the wonderful online communities that allow us to lend aid and comfort to strangers around the world.” Ron was interviewed on Good Morning Sacramento about his book, and more and more favorable reviews are coming in every day.
3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White is available now to purchase on Ron’s web site or on Amazon, and the proceeds are going into a trust for Ben’s long-term care.