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Sam’s Best Shot

With special guest:

  • Dr James Best

How many Dads will walk away from their jobs for six months, sell their home and then travel to the wilds of Africa in the hope that it will be good for their son?

We like to think most Dads would do it. Today we get to speak to Dr James Best who did exactly that with his 14 year old son Sam. Sam said he went away as a boy and came back as a person summing up what his parents had hoped for when they embarked on this adventure.

Sam has special needs because he has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Sam is around about the middle of the spectrum not at the extreme ends of either those who cannot talk or the savants. Sam can read and write; he is good at maths and music. He comes out with quirky interpretations of what others see and is often described as a charmer. Sam’s greatest difficulty is with social communication, maintaining eye contact and focussing on a task. He is prone to outbursts, even violent outbursts when frustrated.

Behind the thinking of James was that they had tried all the conventional approaches to dealing with autism and yet they still worried whether Sam would be able to form relationships, get a job and to all the other things we regard as normal in Western society. So having done a lot of scientific research on their own and with the support of the experts in the field Sam and his wife Benison decided to take on something different.

Whereas people with autism usually like certainty and a fixed regime Sam was going to a place where there was little of that. Travelling to ten African countries in six months Sam and his father were going to face lots of uncertainty, sometimes even real danger. If this uncertainty became almost the norm for both Sam and James it could lead to better dealing with the uncertainties of everyday life in Sydney. So with the support of Griffith University who studied the results and a documentary company Heiress Films off they went.

Today we hear about the adventure when James talks about his book Sam’s Best Shot published by Allen and Unwin. We hear what James, Sam and Griffith University found out. Did this life-changing journey through autism, adolescence and Africa achieve lasting results? A fascinating human story set against the wilds of Africa. Don’t miss it.

Dr James Best

Dr James Best was born and raised in Sydney, where he has worked as a general practitioner for twenty years. He has spent many years heavily involved in teaching medical students at the University of Sydney and University of NSW and also training the next generation of GPs. In 2010 he was awarded the prestigious RACGP General Practice Supervisor of the Year Award in recognition for his outstanding work as a GP and educator. He is a regular presenter to other GPs and doctors in education forums, including forums on children’s medicine, with a particular focus on children with disabilities. He has presented at international scientific conferences on autism, as well as co-authoring guidelines for other GPs on how to screen for, diagnose and manage children with autism.

Dr Best’s articles have been published in Australian Doctor,The Medical Journal of Australia, and The Sydney Morning Herald. He also regularly presents to the public on issues regarding children with disabilities, including appearances on morning TV. His parenting website provides weekly blogs and videos on parenting issues relevant to the modern Australian parent. He currently lives in Sydney with his wife and three sons.

Song selections by our guest: Under African Skies by Paul Simon & Hedwig’s Theme (from “Harry Potter”) by John Williams

Note: This program is an encore presentation of the one aired on 27 July 2017.

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