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Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free

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Meet a remarkable young man. Max doesn’t communicate like we do. But he communicates better than we do about the most important things. Max doesn’t think like we do. But his actions reflect deep spiritual truths. With candor and wit, Emily Colson shares about her personal battles and heartbreak when, as a suddenly single mother, she discovers her only child has autism. Emi Meet a remarkable young man. Max doesn’t communicate like we do. But he communicates better than we do about the most important things. Max doesn’t think like we do. But his actions reflect deep spiritual truths. With candor and wit, Emily Colson shares about her personal battles and heartbreak when, as a suddenly single mother, she discovers her only child has autism. Emily illuminates the page with imagery—making you laugh, making you cry, inspiring you to face your own challenges. Chuck Colson, in his most personal writing since Born Again, speaks as a father and grandfather. It is a tender side Max brings out of his grandfather, a side some haven’t seen. As Emily recalls her experiences, we discover that Max’s disability does not so much define who he is, but reveals who we are. Dancing with Max is not a fairy tale with a magical ending. It’s a real life story of grace and second chances and fresh starts in spite of life’s hardest problems. And Max? Max will make you fall in love with life all over again, leaving you dancing with joy.


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Meet a remarkable young man. Max doesn’t communicate like we do. But he communicates better than we do about the most important things. Max doesn’t think like we do. But his actions reflect deep spiritual truths. With candor and wit, Emily Colson shares about her personal battles and heartbreak when, as a suddenly single mother, she discovers her only child has autism. Emi Meet a remarkable young man. Max doesn’t communicate like we do. But he communicates better than we do about the most important things. Max doesn’t think like we do. But his actions reflect deep spiritual truths. With candor and wit, Emily Colson shares about her personal battles and heartbreak when, as a suddenly single mother, she discovers her only child has autism. Emily illuminates the page with imagery—making you laugh, making you cry, inspiring you to face your own challenges. Chuck Colson, in his most personal writing since Born Again, speaks as a father and grandfather. It is a tender side Max brings out of his grandfather, a side some haven’t seen. As Emily recalls her experiences, we discover that Max’s disability does not so much define who he is, but reveals who we are. Dancing with Max is not a fairy tale with a magical ending. It’s a real life story of grace and second chances and fresh starts in spite of life’s hardest problems. And Max? Max will make you fall in love with life all over again, leaving you dancing with joy.

30 review for Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fergus

    Have you ever had, within your circle of friends or even family, someone “special” - someone who “you can dress up but can’t take out” - Someone who would melt you right through the FLOOR with embarrassment if he or she showed up unannounced at your private button-down workplace? That‘s Max. Or was, before his gorgeously understanding mother Emily had got so... accustomed to his face - Accustomed to the tune He whistles night and noon, His smiles; his frowns His ups His downs - And decided she would t Have you ever had, within your circle of friends or even family, someone “special” - someone who “you can dress up but can’t take out” - Someone who would melt you right through the FLOOR with embarrassment if he or she showed up unannounced at your private button-down workplace? That‘s Max. Or was, before his gorgeously understanding mother Emily had got so... accustomed to his face - Accustomed to the tune He whistles night and noon, His smiles; his frowns His ups His downs - And decided she would take Max out into her phony button-down world NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE ELSE SAID ABOUT IT. She was Proud of her boy, as was his late granddad, the famed Charles Colson. He was, and is, someone who dances to a different drummer. What he is NOT: is a Child of Mammon or Baal. His emotions are Real, and not Contrived. His headspace is Heaven-based, not Earthbound in Drudgery. He’s Alive in a Dead World. And he’s autistic. And I, too, became autistic at the age of three, in a mild form: Asperger’s Syndrome. I was thenceforth a withdrawn kid, with a quirky jumpiness. And I developed a deaf ear to things I shouldn’t be hearing. All for the better in an outré world, I think now. Like Max, I’ll always be a kid at heart. You see, Max and I never MEANT badly. But before advanced pharmaceuticals I often acted on my impulses. But behaviour modification worked wonders. As it NEVER, please God, may for Max... For Emily’s warm Compassion is teaching Max to ACCEPT the world’s harsh reactions to them both. Something Max is facing head-on far earlier than I did. And I think the world would be a Far Better Place if we all would do like Emily & Max - And accept Ourselves, And this Cruelly Beautiful World - For better or for worse - With LOVE.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Vellacott

    This was a really great story about Max, a young boy with severe autism and the relationship his mother Emily develops with him after her husband leaves her. Max is actually the grandson of the late Charles Colson who has written the forward and epilogue. I enjoyed this book because it was so real and gives an outsider a glimpse into the daily struggles of life with a child like Max. Emily tirelessly seeks to find ways to communicate with him and improve his quality of life. Her example is one of This was a really great story about Max, a young boy with severe autism and the relationship his mother Emily develops with him after her husband leaves her. Max is actually the grandson of the late Charles Colson who has written the forward and epilogue. I enjoyed this book because it was so real and gives an outsider a glimpse into the daily struggles of life with a child like Max. Emily tirelessly seeks to find ways to communicate with him and improve his quality of life. Her example is one of complete selflessness, she obviously adores him and has sacrificed her life that he might experience some joy here on earth. They are Christians. This book is actually pretty funny--Emily uses a lot of amusing metaphors and similes to try and help people understand exactly how she felt and how other people responded to Max's behaviour. There were many people who sought to connect with Max, others who didn't know what to do and still others who really should be ashamed of themselves. Emily perseveres through the ups and downs. The writing style is creatively unique, it's difficult to explain but I haven't read a book quite like this before. An ideal gift for someone dealing with a child with disabilities or just for those who enjoy true stories of Christian hope in the midst of trials. There is no bad language, sexual content or violence.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Dressner

    This book is a gem. The author describes facing adversity without a sense of triumphalism or degrading into a tale of woe. The challenges are described realistically, and, unexpectedly, joy comes through the hardships, rather than by overcoming the hardships. The author's friend, Patti, says early on: "It might not seem true now, ...but God works through these children. They are a gift. Max is a gift." I reacted skeptically, but by the end of the book, I was convinced that Max was indeed a gift. This book is a gem. The author describes facing adversity without a sense of triumphalism or degrading into a tale of woe. The challenges are described realistically, and, unexpectedly, joy comes through the hardships, rather than by overcoming the hardships. The author's friend, Patti, says early on: "It might not seem true now, ...but God works through these children. They are a gift. Max is a gift." I reacted skeptically, but by the end of the book, I was convinced that Max was indeed a gift.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sheryl

    Beautiful story. This book was recommended to me and I’m glad I read it. It’s a story about a mother who relentlessly pursue to find ways to help his beloved son Mas who is autistic. While reading this book you can relate to the author and see her daily struggles and challenges with her son. I also learned so many things about autism and gained more understanding about it. A heartwarming story, it will make you cry, laughed and sad. So many lessons to learn from this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ernie

    A truly amazing, heartwarming story. I recommend this book not only to those with children and loved ones with autism, but to every person with a pulse.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    I loved this book. It was an interesting and engaging story of a mother's sacrifices and efforts to reach her autistic son. Ms Colson's story reveals the depth of pain and even more, the isolation of a family suddenly thrust into the world of autism. Her path was made all the harder by Max's father, who abandoned the family in a familiar response to this kind of stress. I was right there through the long, sleepless nights, feeling the despair but also the intense love. I marveled at her tenacit I loved this book. It was an interesting and engaging story of a mother's sacrifices and efforts to reach her autistic son. Ms Colson's story reveals the depth of pain and even more, the isolation of a family suddenly thrust into the world of autism. Her path was made all the harder by Max's father, who abandoned the family in a familiar response to this kind of stress. I was right there through the long, sleepless nights, feeling the despair but also the intense love. I marveled at her tenacity in finding the right help for her son. The book is meaningful for all parents and enlightening for those of us who have not known an autistic child. There is much more here than one mother's story. Colson makes it deeper than that, more universal, encouraging and challenging both.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa (ladybug)

    How would I feel if my child was born with Autism? I don't know how to answer that, but I know that took pioneers like Emily Colson and her son to show that coping with it is possible. I learned that people need to be understanding when they see a child throwing a rip roaring tantrum in a store or school and that we need to not stare. The child may not be a "spoiled rotten brat" they may just not understand how to handle emotions such as Autism. How would I feel if my child was born with Autism? I don't know how to answer that, but I know that took pioneers like Emily Colson and her son to show that coping with it is possible. I learned that people need to be understanding when they see a child throwing a rip roaring tantrum in a store or school and that we need to not stare. The child may not be a "spoiled rotten brat" they may just not understand how to handle emotions such as Autism.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kara Rull

    Dancing with Max is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Living with an autistic child must be an unbelievable challenge. This book shows the realities and difficulties of raising an autistic child while still showing the tremendous blessings God sends in these children that can be so difficult to understand. Your compassion for the struggles of others will increase greatly.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I clearly have found a new "genre". Enter autism and asperger's syndrome. Dancing with Max takes us on a mother's journey with her autistic son. They both grow through their trials and tribulations as mom never gives up on Max. I clearly have found a new "genre". Enter autism and asperger's syndrome. Dancing with Max takes us on a mother's journey with her autistic son. They both grow through their trials and tribulations as mom never gives up on Max.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda Madden

    So thankful to have read Emily Colson's story of raising her autistic son, Max! She truly gave her heart and soul to meet him where he was and to seek every opportunity to maximize his potential. The opening and closing comments and insights by Chuck Colson, Max's grandfather, celebrated Emily as a devoted mother of a special needs child and Max as one who lived life with joy. So thankful to have read Emily Colson's story of raising her autistic son, Max! She truly gave her heart and soul to meet him where he was and to seek every opportunity to maximize his potential. The opening and closing comments and insights by Chuck Colson, Max's grandfather, celebrated Emily as a devoted mother of a special needs child and Max as one who lived life with joy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Menke

    Admirable story by Emily Colson with introduction and prologue by her father, Charles. Charles discusses his relationship with Emily in her early years when he was very busy climbing the Washington ladder and ultimately snagged by Watergate and spent time in prison. Emily marries and has Max, soon diagnosed to have autism. Shortly after her husband divorces her and she is on her own to work her magic with her beautiful son. Emily was absolutely incredible in her determination and powerful ways t Admirable story by Emily Colson with introduction and prologue by her father, Charles. Charles discusses his relationship with Emily in her early years when he was very busy climbing the Washington ladder and ultimately snagged by Watergate and spent time in prison. Emily marries and has Max, soon diagnosed to have autism. Shortly after her husband divorces her and she is on her own to work her magic with her beautiful son. Emily was absolutely incredible in her determination and powerful ways to connect with Max and celebrate all his awkward moments with joy and laughter. This she has done only with the help of God and her unwavering faith. A true testimony of "being thankful in all things".

  12. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    A wonderful read! I read it for two reasons, to gain insight and sensitivity to those with Autistic loved ones and because of my admiration for Chuck Colson, the author's father. He does a beautiful job on the prologue and epilogue. It is easy to see where his daughter, Emily, gets her story-telling skills. I highly recommend this book. A little sad in the beginning but lots of giggles in the second half. A wonderful read! I read it for two reasons, to gain insight and sensitivity to those with Autistic loved ones and because of my admiration for Chuck Colson, the author's father. He does a beautiful job on the prologue and epilogue. It is easy to see where his daughter, Emily, gets her story-telling skills. I highly recommend this book. A little sad in the beginning but lots of giggles in the second half.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cleo

    Loved the metaphors and similes used. Very appropriate and carried the language image into a visual one. Learned a lot about autism and the effect on a parent's life. Emily kept calling Max's condition a gift. I can see why at the end of the book. Cudo's to the churches who put their arms around Max and Emily to see that both realized the love of God. A lesson for all of us in the pages of this book. Loved the metaphors and similes used. Very appropriate and carried the language image into a visual one. Learned a lot about autism and the effect on a parent's life. Emily kept calling Max's condition a gift. I can see why at the end of the book. Cudo's to the churches who put their arms around Max and Emily to see that both realized the love of God. A lesson for all of us in the pages of this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim Chavel

    Emily Colson is the daughter of the late Chuck Colson of Watergate fame. Emily's son, Max, has autism. This is a story about Emily and her son Max and their life dealing with autism. It is also a great story of unconditional love a mother has for her son. A highly recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in autism, unconditional love, or Chuck Colson. Emily Colson is the daughter of the late Chuck Colson of Watergate fame. Emily's son, Max, has autism. This is a story about Emily and her son Max and their life dealing with autism. It is also a great story of unconditional love a mother has for her son. A highly recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in autism, unconditional love, or Chuck Colson.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Homeschoolmama

    Endearing account of a single mother raising her autistic son. Riveting, the kind of book you don't want to put down. Not A+ writing, and the title was off, I thought. Raising Max would have been more appropriate. Endearing account of a single mother raising her autistic son. Riveting, the kind of book you don't want to put down. Not A+ writing, and the title was off, I thought. Raising Max would have been more appropriate.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I enjoyed it; some of it was wonderful. I am glad that I read it. But I'm mixed about this book because I wanted more details about their experiences. Emily's breakthrough with Max using Picture Talks to work through his traumatic experiences was genius. Something like this could help a lot of people who could use a healthy coping mechanism. Too bad the process was not elaborated on more fully. Backwards church: the decision to go to the ending part of the church service where Max had successful I enjoyed it; some of it was wonderful. I am glad that I read it. But I'm mixed about this book because I wanted more details about their experiences. Emily's breakthrough with Max using Picture Talks to work through his traumatic experiences was genius. Something like this could help a lot of people who could use a healthy coping mechanism. Too bad the process was not elaborated on more fully. Backwards church: the decision to go to the ending part of the church service where Max had successful experiences was a brilliant idea. Giving Max responsibilities was a capital move. I know other special needs adults who struggle with self worth and related issues because well meaning people want to shelter them and/or do everything for them. Even many "healthy" children experience similar frustrations because they are considered to be too young to "work". Independence is healthy! Max's obsession with The Chaplet of Divine Mercy broadcasts underscores the rather common need many people have for structure, schedule, and predictability. Dislike of change is everywhere and it intriguing to see how crippling it can be for some people. Insert more compassion and thinking of others here! It is also astounding to see how some people look upon others' difficulties with disdain, while others look upon them with compassion - even if it is bewildered compassion. And, as illustrated repeatedly in this story, it's complicated. What works this time may not work next time, which is exactly why many good hearted people are afraid to try to help or make bumbling, even offensive, attempts to do something. One of the best parts of the book is that Emily, and others, see how Max is a gift. Because of Max, they see things in a new way or see things they may not have ever seen had it not been for Max. On the downside, this book is like a few other books I have read by authors who have an interesting story to tell. It seems that in their effort to recreate the events from memory and have enough material for a book, they fill in the blanks with other information that is not particularly pertinent to the story (i.e. I Will Always Write Back, A Long Way Home, An Invisible Thread). In my opinion, it detracts from the "real" story. The battles between the educational "professionals" and Emily were terribly unfortunate. I'm glad that even though Emily did not have a instantaneous perfect solution, she did not allow those people to do with Max as they wished. We all know there are no perfect parents or educators or education systems. But it seems like "professionals" ought to be able to work with parents who are willingly involved with their children's' education. We should all be on the same team. But, alas, that is another story in itself.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I usually give high reviews for books I actually finish...yep, one of “those” readers. But this book...THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ OR LISTEN!!! I cried, I laughed, I learned so much I didn’t know and I had a huge paradigm shift concerning crying “spoiled” children. My faith soared. My love for others grew. I am, in short, a better person for listening to this book. The last few seconds of the book after listening are so precious. Wow. I feel as if I know how wonderful heaven will be and you know wh I usually give high reviews for books I actually finish...yep, one of “those” readers. But this book...THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ OR LISTEN!!! I cried, I laughed, I learned so much I didn’t know and I had a huge paradigm shift concerning crying “spoiled” children. My faith soared. My love for others grew. I am, in short, a better person for listening to this book. The last few seconds of the book after listening are so precious. Wow. I feel as if I know how wonderful heaven will be and you know what I feel like doing more? I want to dance...wildly, not according to some prescribed acceptable way. I want to dance the way I feel. Thank you, Emily. Thank you, Max. Thank You, Lord.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kaylin Worthington

    This is a beautiful story, incredibly well written, of unconditional love between mother and son and Max’s journey. It broke my heart that her husband left her upon the knowledge of an autistic son and that that happens to so many couples. But as her dad shares in the epilogue, these children are gifts. They teach unconditional, sacrificial love. We grow more empathetic and loving as a society when we love these children. They are the weakest in social Darwinism, yet they have a purity about the This is a beautiful story, incredibly well written, of unconditional love between mother and son and Max’s journey. It broke my heart that her husband left her upon the knowledge of an autistic son and that that happens to so many couples. But as her dad shares in the epilogue, these children are gifts. They teach unconditional, sacrificial love. We grow more empathetic and loving as a society when we love these children. They are the weakest in social Darwinism, yet they have a purity about them thst draws people near and draws others closer to God. The authenticity pulls people in and changes lives. May we all learn to love like Emily and Max.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Camy An

    This beautiful story is one that we all should read....actually, we should listen to it read in audio form by the author. But it is the epilogue by Chuck Colson, Emily's father, that should be read by everyone. To hear Nixon's henchman, Chuck Colson, describe the beauty he has seen and experienced through having an autistic grandson, is just...well, I will let you hear it for yourself. Emily narrates the audiobook (and isn't it the best when we hear a book in the author's own voice?), and Chuck This beautiful story is one that we all should read....actually, we should listen to it read in audio form by the author. But it is the epilogue by Chuck Colson, Emily's father, that should be read by everyone. To hear Nixon's henchman, Chuck Colson, describe the beauty he has seen and experienced through having an autistic grandson, is just...well, I will let you hear it for yourself. Emily narrates the audiobook (and isn't it the best when we hear a book in the author's own voice?), and Chuck narrates the introduction and epilogue. The epilogue is a crash course in human ethics.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tqburns9

    Just as Max himself is gift, this book is a gift to all who read it. It is a story of perseverance, patience, character and hope. Above all, it is a story of love -- a mother's unconditional, sacrificial, ever-present love for her son. Oh how wonderful it would be if a sequel was written someday - "Soaring with Mom" by Max --from his perspective, on how his Mom changed his world for God's glory. Emily Colson, thank you for sharing your story so boldly, poignantly, and faithfully! Just as Max himself is gift, this book is a gift to all who read it. It is a story of perseverance, patience, character and hope. Above all, it is a story of love -- a mother's unconditional, sacrificial, ever-present love for her son. Oh how wonderful it would be if a sequel was written someday - "Soaring with Mom" by Max --from his perspective, on how his Mom changed his world for God's glory. Emily Colson, thank you for sharing your story so boldly, poignantly, and faithfully!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Ule

    I've heard about this book for years and appreciated finally getting a chance to read it. Beautifully written by an artist, Emily Colson shares her love for her son with Asperger's and the creative ways she came up with to communicate with him. I had several questions as I went along--was she able to work to support herself and her son?--and I thought the story ended abruptly, but I enjoyed it. I've heard about this book for years and appreciated finally getting a chance to read it. Beautifully written by an artist, Emily Colson shares her love for her son with Asperger's and the creative ways she came up with to communicate with him. I had several questions as I went along--was she able to work to support herself and her son?--and I thought the story ended abruptly, but I enjoyed it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Good book. The author read the version I listened to and it was a little intense at times because she really knew how she was feeling when she wrote it! I can't imagine what her days are like. She sounds, when she reads, like she has boundless energy. She is an amazing woman. (As I'm sure all moms with special needs children are!) Good book. The author read the version I listened to and it was a little intense at times because she really knew how she was feeling when she wrote it! I can't imagine what her days are like. She sounds, when she reads, like she has boundless energy. She is an amazing woman. (As I'm sure all moms with special needs children are!)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    This book was so heartwarming and really touched me deeply. With having two kids with autism I could relate to a lot of what this woman went through. It was such a great personal story and I loved how she brought her faith into it. This book came at just the right time. I highly recommend it especially for those with special needs kids.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike He

    "Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free" tells about an unconditional love story, a story that touches whoever reads it and relates to parents caring autistic children. I am fortunate to be a part of the audience listening to author Emily Colson's inspiring speech about perseverance, hope and eventual triumph this summer at a church in Texas, and I am also grateful about receiving this book at the speaking event and having the opportunity of reading it with great interest. "Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free" tells about an unconditional love story, a story that touches whoever reads it and relates to parents caring autistic children. I am fortunate to be a part of the audience listening to author Emily Colson's inspiring speech about perseverance, hope and eventual triumph this summer at a church in Texas, and I am also grateful about receiving this book at the speaking event and having the opportunity of reading it with great interest.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Smith

    Slow to start. But such a beautiful, worthwhile read. Loved how the Mom, Emily, really comes down to her son, Max's needs, sacrificing much for his thriving. Beautiful how those in his community -school, church and people they meet, do the same thing and in so doing draw out God's beauty in giving us Max, and others like him. "Love is the mark of the Christian." Slow to start. But such a beautiful, worthwhile read. Loved how the Mom, Emily, really comes down to her son, Max's needs, sacrificing much for his thriving. Beautiful how those in his community -school, church and people they meet, do the same thing and in so doing draw out God's beauty in giving us Max, and others like him. "Love is the mark of the Christian."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gail Moore

    A Must Read This is the lovely and hilarious true story of a family with an autistic child who all come to realize what a blessing he is, and how they are better because of him. I hope this book is read by everyone who has a person with autism in their lives. This is a very touching and beautifully written book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julia Hunter

    The author did a great job explaining her life with her son. So much that it brought up many experiences I have had. I could’ve written this book. Sigh... a sad and painful reminder that no matter what you do, for some people it’s never good enough and they have all the answers. Kudos to her and to her supportive family. That support makes all the difference. Keep on dancing Max!🧩

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pen

    A wonderful story of a mother's care and concern for her autistic son. Very inspiring story that will have you in tears and also cheering her and her son on. I have an autistic nephew and her story helped me. A wonderful story of a mother's care and concern for her autistic son. Very inspiring story that will have you in tears and also cheering her and her son on. I have an autistic nephew and her story helped me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Weaver

    Picked up this book on a whim...very beautiful, very sweet. I'm amazed at the God-given gifts autistic children possess and how they can teach us so much about joy and about ourselves. It's heartbreaking to think they are often snubbed or overlooked. Picked up this book on a whim...very beautiful, very sweet. I'm amazed at the God-given gifts autistic children possess and how they can teach us so much about joy and about ourselves. It's heartbreaking to think they are often snubbed or overlooked.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Holcomb

    A beautiful story of Max, who is autistic and his mother, Emily Colson, a single mother, sharing personal battles and heartbreak. Emily illuminates the page with imagery—making you laugh, making you cry, inspiring you to face your own challenges.

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