When getting ready to start her own family, Priscilla Gilman envisioned a charmed life and looked forward to the pleasures and discoveries that motherhood would bring. Her father had held children in high regard while she was growing up, and she had always been encouraged to express herself creatively whenever possible. As a Wordsworth scholar, her work provided her with plenty of romantic images of what childhood entailed. Everything seemed perfect: she and her husband were both doctoral candidates at Yale, and both were determined to put family ahead of everything, even if it meant making sacrifices in their fledgling careers in academia.
When their son Benjamin was born, he began to immediately challenge the romanticized vision Gilman had always dreamed of. There were some obvious behaviors — like the fact that he hated to be held, therefore making bonding a lot harder — but he seemed normal enough that his parents brushed off their unease. Even so, Gilman always had a nagging suspicion that there was something different about Benjamin that she couldn’t quite put her finger on.
As Benjamin got a little older, it became apparent just how different he was. By the time he was a year old, he could recognize letters on the television screen. By the time he was two, he could read entire books and recite poetry; he also showed a talent with numbers and shapes. Still, however amazed his parents were, they seemed to accept Benjamin’s gifts in stride. Gilman writes: