Like Sound Through Water:
A Mother's Journey Through Auditory Processing Disorder

By Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

In the field of writing about the mind and brain, books intended for a lay audience usually are either a) accurate in the information they contain but so boring and poorly written as to be unreadable, or b) well-written and moving but full of inaccuracies and/or strident polemics.

This book is neither.

No, this book is from heaven. This book is both carefully written and written from the heart. This book is both informative and gripping. This book both taught me and made me lay it down as I paused to gather my emotions before I could read on.

You are about to enter into the private world of a mother, her son, her husband, and her two other children. You are about to sail on the waters of their lives, waters that are colored differently on different days, as you will see. You are about to encounter a parent's worst fears, and you are about to sit next to one mom as she becomes a hero, right along with the rest of her true-to-life family.

Save an hour or two for savoring this book. Don't read this book merely as a resource book about Auditory Processing Disorder (although it is the best such book I have ever read). Read this book as you would a novel, a story about discovery and disappointment, understanding and misunderstanding, learning and not learning, hope and despair, and love in the face of difficult times, love that never, never quits.

In this book you will see Karen and her husband, John, struggle to understand their first child, Ben. You will see them wince as they realize that Ben is not like every other child. You will see them wince again as professionals fail to get the point. You will feel their emotions as the child they love receives mistreatment purported to be help. You will see a mom, trying her best to work within an uncomprehending system of educators and healthcare professionals, refuse to give up on her son or relinquish her sense of who she knows her child truly to be.

There is a lonely, largely unrecognized crisis in many lives that this book brilliantly details. It is the crisis that results when you do not have correct understanding of your mind, or the mind of a person who is close to you, such as your child, or sibling, or parent, or spouse. Tens of millions of people in America today and hundreds of millions of people around the world lead lives full of wrenching, unnecessary pain simply because they have not yet found the correct understanding, or diagnosis, of the mind that they have. In this book, the elusive, correct diagnosis is auditory processing disorder, or APD. But what Karen Foli more generally recounts is not merely the journey toward the diagnosis of APD, but the twisting, turning road from a misunderstanding to an understanding of a mind, period.

Imagine if you had a child whose learning or behavior or emotions-or all three-caused your child and you and your family to suffer deeply every day. This is the case for many millions of children and families in America right now. And imagine if you, as the child's mother, had to go from misunderstanding to misunderstanding day in and day out, from "expert" to "expert," each with his or her own set of forms to fill out, tests to take, and jargon-filled explanations to listen to. Imagine if each time the expert missed the true nature of your child you had to choose between disagreeing and being told you were in denial, or agreeing and knowing you were not going to get the kind of help you so desperately needed. What would you do?

Science knows so much about the mind today. But we are using precious little of what is known. There are two major reasons for this. The most obvious reason is that so much is known now that no one, not even the experts in any given field, can keep up with it all. The subject of this book, APD, provides an excellent example. To provide proper diagnosis and treatment of APD, the expert needs the training and knowledge of child psychiatry, audiology, speech-language pathology, and occupational therapy. Rare is the clinician who combines the knowledge of all four; and even with a team that includes experts in these disciplines, the correct diagnosis may still get buried by the forces of rhetoric, status, or seniority in the clinic.

But a deeper reason for the nonuse of the knowledge we have about the brain is stigma. The fact is that most people are still afraid of diagnoses of the mind. It is acceptable to diagnose the kidney or the knee, but don't go near the mind! That is reserved for "crazy" people. This stigma perpetuates the forces of bias and ignorance, and denies the many millions of people who could get life-changing or lifesaving help for depression or anxiety or a learning problem from ever getting it.

But Karen Foli would not allow her son Ben to be denied. In this book you will watch one woman, her heart nearly breaking, persist in loving her son, staying loyal to what she knew in her gut were his strengths, even as she rejected incomplete or incorrect explanations for what was going wrong in his efforts to learn and grow. You will watch one quiet, brave dad, who sees himself in his son, hang in there for him, helping his wife in his own special way, and helping his son with his own special love. You will see some professionals behave like bureaucratic fools, offering paperwork instead of empathy or knowledge; but you will also see some professionals come to the rescue, with knowledge and skill and caring hearts.

This book will teach you what you need to know about APD. But it will do so much more than that. It will give you hope, especially if you, or your child, or someone else close to you is struggling, not knowing exactly how to manage their behavior, learning, or emotions. This book will give you hope by showing you the example of one mother who at first had no idea what was going on, but with patience and determination finally found out. It will show you how one woman struggled to find a proper understanding of her child's mind, before too much damage was done. And she did.

What an act of love. What a lifesaving, determined act of love.

Someday, Ben, when you read this book, I am sure you will fill up with pride and admiration for this wonderful woman, Karen, who you are lucky enough to call Mom. Many millions of people will have learned and benefited from this book by then!

© 2004 Karen J. Foli   Contact Karen