Background to my interest in teaching children with autism


An Ambulant Somnolent   

            It was one of those days.  You know the kind.  The psychometrist was late, as usual.  The receptionist had just spent an otherwise good quarter of an hour bending Felicity’s ear about how unfair everything was — after all, she had to be in on time, but the psychometrist could get away with being late, again.  The coffee machine wasn’t working.  Felicity had stubbed his toe with the ingrown toe‑nail.  And he was about to see a complete stranger. 

            Alton was not completely a stranger.  A psychiatrist friend had phoned to make the appointment for Alton, and had told Felicity that the man was a homosexual who, although he made a good income, was chronically broke from paying his gay contacts for their favours and for their silence.  The man wanted help to stop his homosexual compulsions.  The psychiatrist imagined that Felicity might use some sadistic method on his patient, such as electrical aversive conditioning, to try to break him of his bad habits.

           In his foggy, coffeeless state, Felicity didn’t close the door behind him when he returned to his office after listening to the flood of ill‑will offered by the receptionist.  As he fumbled through the tests the psychometrist had obtained on Alton at an earlier contact, he heard feet shuffling at the open door.  He turned to greet the intruder.  Alton ushered himself into the office.  He was a tall, slim, good looking man in his mid-thirties, with a pleasant face, thinning hair and a slightly receding hairline.  He was dressed in a neatly pressed blue pin stripe business suit and he wore a conservative tie.     

            Without any greeting or introduction, Alton blurted out: “My God, you’ve got a fat juicy ass. I’d love to suck your ass off.”  Felicity considered this greeting to be perhaps a trifle forward considering that they had never before met.  A clinical ‘uhuh’ hardly seemed an appropriate reaction.  It might have been a little contrived to begin the conversation all over again with a more conventional greeting.  Besides, Felicity, whose appearance and usual demeanour were reminiscent of Santa Claus without the beard and the red underwear, was having too much of a time trying to stifle the urge to collapse in uncontrolled laughter even to consider other options.  Instead, he reacted by burying himself once more in the test material hoping to find something there serious enough to help him to regain his composure. 

            Fortunately, Felicity had only recently reminded himself of the process of social interactions and the importance of patients’ opening utterances (A Companion’s Work, 1996).  Consequently, he did have the presence of mind, while waving Alton to a seat, to record verbatim Alton’s rather unusual greeting.     

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