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Dancing With Max : A Mother and Son Who Broke Free by Emily Colson

I’ve sat down to write this review a number of times but have found myself struggling to find words. So much of my story is this story and it’s hard to put your heart on paper. You see, like Max my son also has Autism. It has been our constant companion since our son was diagnosed eight and a half years ago. Our gorgeous, now ten year old, is classified as Severe on the Autism Spectrum. He is non-verbal, still in pull-ups and doesn’t use utensils to eat. He attends a Special Education School and mostly uses his hands and pictures to communicate.

The early years in the journey of special needs are particularly tough ones. Those dreams and thoughts of the future that crash into your mind the minute you find out you’re having a baby slowly fizzle with each missed milestone and visit to a well meaning “expert” You’re very much wedged between the unspoken hopes you hold in your heart and the facts being presented to you by the medical profession.

Even church, Christian books and faith filled friends who say all the things we used to think were the “right” things to say don’t meet the mark. You’re not looking for the quick fix answer; you’re just looking for someone to help you make sense of it all. Because it hurts and it’s scary and hope feels very far away.

That’s probably why I grabbed hold of this book and read it and re-read it in those early years of diagnosis. With words on the cover “Perseverance. Hope. Triumph.” I was in! I needed to hear how someone survived the hard yards. Telling me I was going to get there was good, but I needed the details, the tear-filled, and gut –wrenching, details. The how to… I needed HOPE!

Emily Colson, shares her story with her precious Max, so honestly and openly you feel like you’re sitting down having a cup of coffee with her. Dancing With Max is such an appropriate title because as you get to know this special pair you learn the joy they share in discovering their language together and how they dance within that throughout their every day.

There is a fierce gentleness to this woman. She loves her son with determination and stops at nothing to get him the care he needs but she holds herself in that position of gentleness throughout, truly reflecting grace. This inspired me. She realised trying to convince people of Max’s worth was futile instead she just let Max be Max and trusted their bond to be enough. Rejection from society can often come out sideways and resentment and bitterness come easily, but this family through their unshakeable love of God and each other show how you can rise above limiting expectations.

She writes, “…Autism is not going to hold the two of us hostage…it’s time to throw out my ideas of what I thought life would be, should be, and let joy fill up those brand-new vacancies.”

My heart was crying, “YES! YES! And AMEN!” to this and so much more within the pages of this book. (Even as I re-read it recently, further along the journey, my heart still resonates.)

The give and take within Emily’s relationship with her son settled in my heart that I too could find that with my son. That when she said, “being still and listening is essential, sometimes words just get in the way.” I would discover a key to the unique way my son connects with the world and therefore a way for me to connect with him. Max and Emily’s “dance” showed me not to be afraid of unique, limitless love. Just because the world sees things one way it doesn’t make it the right way or the only way.

I’m grateful for the many special people Autism has brought into my world and my son’s world. Spending time with Max and Emily was a gift. If you are just starting out on the journey or you know someone who is, this book will be valued. Janelle lives in rural Victoria with her husband and two children. As a Mum, partner in the family business and faithful member of her church she lives a full life and she wouldn't have it any other way.

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