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Sam and Chester: How a Mischievous Pig Transformed the Life of My Autistic Son

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When Sam Bailey-Merritt was just two years old, almost overnight he lost the ability to communicate or function. His mother, Jo, was at a loss as to what to do as she saw her son grow increasingly isolated and begin to suffer from uncontrollable meltdowns. Eventually, Sam was diagnosed with autism. Sam's condition continued to worsen and, just when Jo had all but given up h When Sam Bailey-Merritt was just two years old, almost overnight he lost the ability to communicate or function. His mother, Jo, was at a loss as to what to do as she saw her son grow increasingly isolated and begin to suffer from uncontrollable meltdowns. Eventually, Sam was diagnosed with autism. Sam's condition continued to worsen and, just when Jo had all but given up hope of being able to help him, the family went on a day trip to a nearby miniature pig farm. Sam immediately bonded with a tiny ginger piglet called Chester, who stood sad and alone, apart from the rest of the litter. The connection between the boy and the animal was immediate and their unusual friendship blossomed from the moment the family brought Chester home. The tiny pig refused to leave Sam's side - it was as if he knew that Sam needed a friend. And, for the first time in five years, Jo saw her son really laugh. While Sam's confidence grew, Chester grew in a different way: the micro pig that was supposed to become the size of a Cocker Spaniel in fact ballooned to three times that size - with hilarious consequences for the family! Chester has turned Sam's life around. He now has the ability to communicate his feelings, make friends and is caring and kind towards others. Sam and Chester is the heart-warming story of how a teacup-sized ginger pig helped to transform the life of a boy with autism. It is the emotional story of a mother's fight to win back her son.


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When Sam Bailey-Merritt was just two years old, almost overnight he lost the ability to communicate or function. His mother, Jo, was at a loss as to what to do as she saw her son grow increasingly isolated and begin to suffer from uncontrollable meltdowns. Eventually, Sam was diagnosed with autism. Sam's condition continued to worsen and, just when Jo had all but given up h When Sam Bailey-Merritt was just two years old, almost overnight he lost the ability to communicate or function. His mother, Jo, was at a loss as to what to do as she saw her son grow increasingly isolated and begin to suffer from uncontrollable meltdowns. Eventually, Sam was diagnosed with autism. Sam's condition continued to worsen and, just when Jo had all but given up hope of being able to help him, the family went on a day trip to a nearby miniature pig farm. Sam immediately bonded with a tiny ginger piglet called Chester, who stood sad and alone, apart from the rest of the litter. The connection between the boy and the animal was immediate and their unusual friendship blossomed from the moment the family brought Chester home. The tiny pig refused to leave Sam's side - it was as if he knew that Sam needed a friend. And, for the first time in five years, Jo saw her son really laugh. While Sam's confidence grew, Chester grew in a different way: the micro pig that was supposed to become the size of a Cocker Spaniel in fact ballooned to three times that size - with hilarious consequences for the family! Chester has turned Sam's life around. He now has the ability to communicate his feelings, make friends and is caring and kind towards others. Sam and Chester is the heart-warming story of how a teacup-sized ginger pig helped to transform the life of a boy with autism. It is the emotional story of a mother's fight to win back her son.

39 review for Sam and Chester: How a Mischievous Pig Transformed the Life of My Autistic Son

  1. 5 out of 5

    Renata

    I thought it would be apt to end April by reading a subject the month is dedicated to. April is celebrated as Autism Awareness Month, to raise awareness about people with autism spectrum disorders. "Sam & Chester" is about a child, Sam, who lost the ability to speak and function properly at age two. The toddler who was seemingly growing "normally", suddenly cut off from the world, grew increasingly isolated, and often suffered meltdowns. He was officially diagnosed as autistic at age four. Chest I thought it would be apt to end April by reading a subject the month is dedicated to. April is celebrated as Autism Awareness Month, to raise awareness about people with autism spectrum disorders. "Sam & Chester" is about a child, Sam, who lost the ability to speak and function properly at age two. The toddler who was seemingly growing "normally", suddenly cut off from the world, grew increasingly isolated, and often suffered meltdowns. He was officially diagnosed as autistic at age four. Chester was a tiny ginger piglet, the only brown one in a litter of white piglets - the one that no one wanted. "Sam & Chester" is the story of two children who didn't seem to fit into their worlds, and found solace in each other. Sam's mother, Jo (the author of the book), beautifully describes the relationship between her son and his pet cum best friend, as they help each other get through life. The beauty of this book is that it is not just a book about our animal friends. Jo Bailey touches on many themes within the book. Just as autism is a spectrum disorder, Jo delves into various subjects surrounding her son's life. Ultimately it is not about a child with autism, but a family with autism - everyone in the child's immediate surroundings is affected by and responsible for the child's development. Jo describes her own divorce with her husband - touching the topic of how relationships between parents of a special child are affected, the shift of blame, or denial of the condition altogether. Striking balance when one child is autistic and one is not - how does one differentiate between a meltdown related to autism, or a regular tantrum by a child? When the autistic child is the older sibling, and the younger sibling shows faster developmental gains, how is the relationship between siblings affected? How much of a role do grandparents and cousins play? And of course, the presence of pets in the lives of special children. Autism is characterized by a lack of verbal communication, and animals seem to instinctively build a connection - they can teach communication and empathy without saying a word. Chester brings a whole new light to the narration. Pigs are considered the fifth most intelligent animals in the world - even higher than dogs. They are more trainable than dogs, have better focus than chimps, and excellent memory. A great many learnings here about an unconventional pet. Many books have been written on similar themes, but Sam & Chester strikes a chord on many levels. It is not just the story of a boy, but also the story of a mother. And Jo Bailey does a commendable job in bringing her family's story to us. You don't need to be an animal lover to read this book; it is powerful on many counts.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amy Ferns

    'Sam and Chester ' is a biographical non fiction by Jo Bailey-Merritt published on August 11th 2016. This is a true story on the life of her autistic son and the difficulties they faced as a family. This was quite a light but emotional read as it gives a heart-warming account of how a mother helped her son and how the antics of a pig had a positive impact on her son’s life. She tells of the highs and lows of bringing up a child with autism. It was an emotional read since I have a few friends on t 'Sam and Chester ' is a biographical non fiction by Jo Bailey-Merritt published on August 11th 2016. This is a true story on the life of her autistic son and the difficulties they faced as a family. This was quite a light but emotional read as it gives a heart-warming account of how a mother helped her son and how the antics of a pig had a positive impact on her son’s life. She tells of the highs and lows of bringing up a child with autism. It was an emotional read since I have a few friends on the autism spectrum. I believe loving the person as he/she is; helping them and encouraging them to overcome the situation is very important. Sam and Chester" is about a child, Sam, who lost the ability to speak and function properly at age two. His mother, Jo, was at a loss as to what to do as she saw her son grow increasingly isolated and begin to suffer from uncontrollable meltdowns and started researching into it when he was diagnosed with autism. Though his situation continued to worsen she never lost hope to help her son. Everything changed for the better, one day when they went on a day trip to a nearby miniature pig farm. Chester was a tiny ginger piglet, the only brown one in a litter of white piglets - the one that no one wanted. It was so heart warming when the two had an instant connection and their unusual friendship blossomed from the moment the family brought Chester home. Chester refused to leave Sam's side - it was as if he knew that Sam needed a friend. Sam's confidence grew and his social life changed for the better as Chester was always there for him. He now has the ability to communicate his feelings, make friends and is caring and kind towards others. This was the 2nd book relating to autism that I've read in a span of 2 months but Sam & Chester strikes a chord on many levels. It is not just the story of a boy, but also that of a mother. I loved this book a lot and I believe that animals are our good friends.You don't need to be an animal lover to read this book; it is powerful on many levels. I therefore urge anyone interested in this book to give it a go. I'm sure you won't regret it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mario

    Parents and relatives of an autistic child can identify with this book; from noticing the change in their child's behaviour to waiting for the official diagnosis, the denials, the acceptance and the many fears every parent has for their child's wellbeing and the future. There were definitely a few moments that brought a lump to my throat, both at the beginning and the end of the book. Jo Bailey does whatever she can to help her son Sam come out of his shell and by doing so they take a trip to the Parents and relatives of an autistic child can identify with this book; from noticing the change in their child's behaviour to waiting for the official diagnosis, the denials, the acceptance and the many fears every parent has for their child's wellbeing and the future. There were definitely a few moments that brought a lump to my throat, both at the beginning and the end of the book. Jo Bailey does whatever she can to help her son Sam come out of his shell and by doing so they take a trip to the farm to visit the miniature pigs. Sam immediately takes a liking to Chester, the baby micro-pig that changes the lives of their entire family. Their relationship is heartwarming (and some of Chester's antics are hilarious) and Sam's behaviour and development improves as time goes on with Chester by his side.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Louise Pay

    Sam & Chester is a heart-warming account of how a mother helped her son and how the antics of a pig had a positive impact on her son’s life. She tells of the highs and lows of bringing up a child with autism and at the same time talks the reader through her relationships. Such as divorce, family life and finding love again. I found Sam & Chester to be an uplifting account of autism and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    mr brianvobes

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ann P

  7. 5 out of 5

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  8. 5 out of 5

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  12. 4 out of 5

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  13. 5 out of 5

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  15. 5 out of 5

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  16. 4 out of 5

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  17. 5 out of 5

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  22. 5 out of 5

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  26. 4 out of 5

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  27. 4 out of 5

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  28. 4 out of 5

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  29. 5 out of 5

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  30. 5 out of 5

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  31. 4 out of 5

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  33. 5 out of 5

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  38. 5 out of 5

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  39. 5 out of 5

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