The Chicken Who Saved Us
The Remarkable Story of Andrew and Frightful
This true story of fierce and faithful parenting is what author and world-renowned autism spokesperson, TEMPLE GRANDIN, describes as “Heartbreakingly beautiful.”
Eight-year-old Andrew is autistic and bilingual. He speaks English and Chicken. With words limited by autism, Andrew lives in a fantasy world where chickens talk and superheroes come alive. But when he tells his pet chicken Frightful that his body is trying to kill him, it launches Andrew’s family and an entire medical community into a decade-long quest for answers. This beautiful, fierce, and refreshingly honest memoir takes readers on a mother’s journey through the complex landscape of modern medicine to discover the healing bond between a boy and Frightful, the chicken who saves them all.
My son couldn't tell me what was happening to his body—but he could tell his chicken, Frightful.
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“Emotions are raw and the anxiety is palpable, yet this remarkable story is told with such wit and grace, punctuated by her son, Andrew’s hilariously quirky commentary that it makes it impossible to put down. As a physician, I rarely have the opportunity to see the toll that complex medical challenges take on individuals and on relationships. Kristin provides a beautiful reminder of the strength gathered from unique animal companions and tender mercies offered by human friends and strangers alike.”
Troy R. Torgerson, MD PhD
Pediatric Immunology/Rheumatology, University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital
“A mother’s heart-wrenching and heart-warming story of her son’s epic struggle to stay alive. Sometimes hope comes in the form of a perfect match or a loving family; other times hope arrives in the form of a soul mate with feathers. This book is proof that the transcendent human-animal bond can offer a very real kind of salvation.”
New York Times Bestselling author of Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me From Myself
“The Chicken Who Saved Us is a testament to the power of love and the power of family. Adams’ provocative tale of her son’s medical journey is told with grace, humor and most of all compassion. She captivates the reader with every twist and turn of her story, endearing us with witty banter between her autistic son and backyard chicken. But her true gift is in her ability to have faith in the unseen while transforming the medical world into a place where magic occurs.”
Author of Creating a Life
“From the moment I first heard the story of Andrew and Frightful, I knew it was one that needed to be told. Rich with humor and wisdom, this captivating memoir is an honest, raw, and candid look at a family’s resilience in a time when there seemed to be no answers. Adams cleverly brings us inside her world as she enlists the aid of a chicken to help her navigate the medical system on her son’s behalf. This book will become a beacon of hope for readers who find themselves in some of life’s most difficult situations.”
Andrea Duffield MBA MA CCC-SLP B.Sc.Ed
President, MOSAIC Rehabilitation, Inc.
“This quietly urgent and utterly human telling of a story about faith, family, and a beloved pet chicken named Frightful, keeps us rooting for Andrew, compelling us to turn the page again and again to find the ending we all hope for and rejoice at the power that resides in even the most fragile among us. Kristin Jarvis Adams invites us by her side and keeps us there through this formidable journey.”
Author of Hola and Goodbye: Una familia in stories
“This is a book I wish every parent could read, and not just parents of children with communication and behavioral differences. Having worked with children with autism and other developmental conditions, I often see parents struggling to come to terms with the fact that the ‘playbook’ of raising a child may be completely different from what they expected. Letting go of how you thought it would play out can be extremely challenging for a parent, but ultimately accepting and embracing that path, wherever it may lead, can be the first critical step towards happiness.”
Gary Stobbe, MD
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Washington Director, Adult Transition Program, Seattle Children’s Autism Center
“A beautiful story that shows us how human thoughts and words are not always necessary to form great friendships and unbreakable bonds.”
John Elder Robison
New York Times Bestselling author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s
- Research shows that the human-animal bond can aid in healing from stroke, injury, and PTSD. Pets can also lower blood pressure and alleviate anxiety and depression. Have you experienced a special bond with an animal that helped you to heal?
- Why do you think it was easier for Andrew to communicate with Frightful rather than his parents or another family member?
- The Chicken Who Saved Us touches on the stresses of raising a child with autism. Do you know anyone raising a child with special needs?
- How was Hannah affected by her brother’s recurring illness? Would you have parented differently?
- Have you ever made a life or death decision for a loved one?
- Kristin describes an unexpected encounter at the grocery store with a woman who filled her cart with food, purchased it, and sent her home, saying, “You are taken care of tonight. Bless you.” Has anyone ever shown you a random act of kindness? How did it make you feel?
- Kristin began questioning her faith as she moved through her son’s health crisis. What is your view on faith, and how has it changed throughout your life?
- After a desperate midnight phone call to a local church, Pastor Becki encourages Kristin to accept help from others. What did she mean by, “You will have people now, people who can hold you, your family, and your story.”
- Sue becomes Andrew’s closest human friend. How was her relationship different than Frightful, and in what ways was it similar?
- What did Sue’s stories offer Andrew that simple conversation could not?
- At what point in the story does Andrew turn to superheroes to connect with his feelings? Why superheroes?
- What is the significance of Shadow the Hedgehog? Why do you think Andrew relates to this particular video game character?
- Raising a special needs child with the addition of a medical crisis can easily fracture a family. What do you think allowed Jon and Kristin to function well as a team?
- In the book, Kristin refers to her relationship with Jon as “extreme tag-team parenting.” Have you ever put your marriage on hold during transition or crisis? How did you navigate through it?
- What would you sacrifice for your children?
- At the urging of a friend, Kristin visits Leah, an art therapist. Leah’s approach to therapy was a deeply profound way for her to get in touch with her fears. Where do you turn when you need to make sense of your life?
- Are dreams important to you? Kristin shares her frequent dreams of a lake, stating that she always had two friends with her. Who do you think they were?
- At one point, Kristin asks Frightful who she is. What do you think?
- Near the end of the book, Kristin admits that healing for her is an ongoing process. When she let go of her need for a perfect life, she was able to embrace her “new normal.” What does that mean to you?
- After reading The Chicken Who Saved Us, what themes could you relate to most?