Book Review — Sam’s Best Shot


Sam’s Best Shot: A father and son’s life-changing journey through Autism, adolescence and Africa

By Dr James Best, Allen & Unwin 2017.

For families, educators and for anyone with an interest in Autism, for those who enjoy a travelogue, especially if the road is one less travelled, this book is likely to provide a treat. It’s about taking 14 year old Sam, who has Autism, out of his comfort zone to experience the unpredictability of a very different environment.  Sam’s Dad, James, a Sydney based general practitioner, takes his son on a six month’s backpacking adventure across Africa.  The boy’s “minor obsession” with African animals, provides an impetus for the journey from Cape Town to Nairobi, making their way through ten different countries.   

Throughout the journey we meet lots of colourful characters— local and fellow travellers—along with incidents that evoke both hilarity and heartache. We are presented with some breathtaking images of landscape, wild water, wild animal encounters and Sam’s varied responses throughout. Sam’s frequent verbal ‘indiscretion’ along with Dad’s embarrassment is neatly recorded. Social skills and conversation were a prime focus of a training program implemented throughout the travels. Following the extreme highs and some lows of their adventure, the Sam that we meet at the end of the journey shows a maturity and greater life skills than those displayed before. While, for most families, to undertake such a venture would be out of the question, many families do provide valuable new experiences for their son or daughter with Autism and realise the benefits. Sam’s story provides an entertaining reminder: tap into whatever interests the person while supporting their difficulties, to help them be the best they can be and lead a contented life.

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