Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

I am going to be busy with my younger sister’s wedding anniversary for the next few days, so this will be a longer posting than usual.


            The appointed time arrived and Felicity answered the knock at his door with anxious misgivings.  When he opened the door what he saw was a truly transformed Alton.  The plastic surgeons had certainly done a remarkable job.  Felicity had to restrain himself from exclaiming: “Alton, did they shorten your legs too!?”  The man who stood there was of average height, had a totally different facial appearance, was also slim but had a full head of hair.  He too was dressed in a neatly pressed, blue pin stripe business suit.  Felicity stammered a confused greeting and asked if his visitor was Alvin Trencher.  The affirmative reply was delivered in a voice which was not Alton’s.  The multiple personality explanation must have been the right one.  If so, then Felicity had not yet met this one of the personalities.  Felicity introduced himself, invited his guest in and asked him to sit down.  Felicity waited.

            Alvin was slow to begin to talk.  It gave Felicity time to look thoughtfully at his new acquaintance.  There were the slightly droopy eyelids and the slightly vacant look in the eyes.  Before proceeding, Alvin was at some pains to inquire about the conditions of this interview.  He wanted to know whether anybody else would ever have access to his identity and to some of the things he wanted to talk about.  He was assured that his identity would be protected, except from himself, and that the only way in which he might be talked about, outside the contact, would be in composite and fictionalized case reports.  That satisfied him, although he frowned quizzically at the peculiar qualifications included. 

            Alvin said he was a primary school teacher, a job at which he was particularly good.  He was also a homosexual.  He said that he had met Alton some years previously as one of his gay contacts.  They had met again recently on the street and, in the course of their conversation, Alton had told him about his experience in treatment with Felicity.  Alvin’s whole sense of identity had been built around his homosexuality.  However, he did not like the idea of being a homosexual and he was interested in pursuing the possibility of treatment for his sexual preferences.  So he had asked Alton to call Felicity to arrange this appointment.  The main concern that motivated Alvin’s desire to consider foregoing the joys of the gay life was that from time to time he found himself in love with his young male students.  He had sometimes acted out his feelings with them, and he was worried about the risks both to the boys and to himself.  At last Felicity got it.  This was not Alton.      As Alvin recounted his tale, Felicity noticed the same old familiar drowsiness (Henry Chickenhawk syndrome) appearing on Alvin’s face, especially when he was referring to homosexual acts in which he had been involved.  When Alvin seemed to have finished his story, Felicity asked him to sit in the lounger chair and to relax himself for a few moments with his eyes closed.  Alton had told Alvin that the treatment might involve relaxing and picturing scenes in his mind.  So he complied.  When reasonably relaxed, Alton was asked to picture himself walking up to a dusty window sill and running his fingers …  The request was not completed.  By the time Felicity had reached the word ‘sill’, Alvin’s mouth opened slightly and his breathing shifted from silent to sonorous breathing.  He was soundly asleep.  In a few seconds, in a hushed voice, Felicity said, “Stop thinking of that picture and relax.”  Alvin jolted awake, sat upright and said that he must have fallen asleep.  He apologized profusely, adding that he often found himself unable to stay awake, and often at very embarrassing times.  Felicity reassured Alvin, that he had expected him to go to sleep.    He told  Alvin that he would like to arrange a series of tests for him, including an EEG.  Alvin agreed, and Felicity phoned a neurologist to arrange for an EEG appointment.  Felicity ensured that the EEG appointment was delayed long enough to permit him to examine the psychological tests he was also about to arrange.  He needed the tests to allow him to decide which pictures Alvin should be asked to visualize during the alpha‑blocking phase of the diagnostic EEG run.  Both the ‘critical*’ (i.e., upsetting — presumably including ‘dirt’) and the ‘neutral’ (i.e., not upsetting) scenes would need to be chosen based on Alvin’s existing personality configuration and habits of getting himself upset.  Felicity then made the testing appointment with the psychometrist, and made a note to himself to phone the neurologist after he had examined the psychological test results obtained.

            Finally, he explained to Alvin that he did not know what, if anything, he could do until he had some better understanding of the processes or causes underlying Alvin’s presenting problem.  Alvin seemed content to escape so quickly from his new-found, unkempt and rather slovenly friend.  Who could blame him?  He had only the word of a vague acquaintance that Felicity was anything but a quack.    It was a full month before Alvin’s next appointment with Felicity.  During that month things had proceeded as always in Alvin’s life, except that he had been subjected to a series of weird psychological tests and to a diagnostic EEG.  He was anxious to hear what strange notions Felicity might have developed about him from the results of these investigations. 

            Felicity interpreted the page and a half of the neurologist’s report and the thick file of psychological tests in a few ill‑chosen sentences.  It should have been obvious to anyone paying any attention that Alvin had not understood so much as a word of it.  When Felicity looked up from the papers in front of him as though the information exchange was completed, Alvin almost succeeded in communicating the meaninglessness to him of what had just been said by asking what could be done about it.  Taking this as a business‑like response to understanding, instead of the plea it was for more information, Felicity said that the first thing to do would be to check out the effects, if any, of the Ritalin the neurologist had prescribed to deal with the psychogenic narcolepsy.  Alvin agreed to have the prescription filled and to follow it.              

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