Background to my interest in teaching children with autism


            Alvin sat back to consider what he was going to do about his situation.  The summer vacation was just about to begin.  He would have time on his hands in which he could do something about this sudden invasion of his sense of personal identity which had occurred without sufficient warning.  After some deliberation, he decided that he would postpone further contact with Felicity.  He would spend the summer in France with a relative and think through his life.  He would consider when he returned whether or not he would renew his contacts with Felicity, and he would expect Felicity to be available for further contact if he wished it.  He added, as if in passing, that he would take along enough Ritalin with him so that he could continue with the medication if he wanted to.  The reference to taking along the Ritalin told Felicity that he was being forgiven.  Even in their just rage, most people are really amazingly gentle in their dealings with thoughtless and insensitive professionals.     

            The summer school vacations over and students and teachers once more in their classrooms, Felicity received a call from Alvin. At their next contact, Alvin revealed that he had spent the summer getting used to his new identity as a heterosexual.  On the one hand, he had revelled in the felt freedom of choice and in the level of enjoyment (as opposed to excitement) he started to experience in heterosexual courting activities.  On the other hand, he had felt a great sense of despair in reviewing the events of his life and in considering the lost time in, as he put it, reaching maturity and normal adult fulfilment.  The order in which these statements were made was not lost on Felicity, and his worries all through the summer on Alvin’s behalf at last melted away.     

            Having prepared himself, Alvin was now ready to proceed with the next step in the process.  He asked if it was now time to do the relaxing treatment.  Felicity, however, pointed out that the real test of the original hypothesis had not yet been completed.  He suggested that it might be important first to see whether stopping the Ritalin would make any difference.  Although clearly unclear about the purpose of this exercise, in his buoyant frame of mind, Alvin agreed to discontinue his Ritalin.  As if to answer Felicity’s fears, Alvin added that, although he didn’t know what would happen, he was OK, and he could take it.     

            Appointments were again settled at twice per week to monitor the effects.  When Alvin appeared for his next appointment four days later he was genuinely perplexed, although fortunately not depressed.  He reported that by the second day off the Ritalin he found himself once more looking longingly at the slim young physiques of his male students, and his fantasies once more were of homosexual intimacies.  He felt excited once more, although he also said that he felt less of what he remembered as enjoyment in living.  He had tried to arouse erotic feelings by looking at some of the more attractive female teachers and students.  He found that, instead of feeling erotic pleasure, the experience he had was a mixture of repulsion and mild hostility.       

            Felicity pointed out that his present reaction was apt to be based upon his present frame of mind, but he had now to ask Alvin which sexual orientation he wanted to have.  Once more Alvin looked perplexed.  He asked whether that was simply a matter of choice. Felicity replied that in principle it was a matter of choice for anybody to be whatever he wanted to be.  And, in particular, Alvin had already shown himself, now and over the last few months, that he could respond in whichever way he wished.  The idea tickled Alvin’s fancy and he squirmed excitedly in his chair.  Noticing that, Felicity wondered whether tickling someone’s fancy might be considered to be sexual harassment.  Presumably, Alvin’s mind was elsewhere because, instead of pursuing Felicity’s bemused thought, he asked whether he could make it a day‑to‑day decision for himself or whether, having made up his mind, he was committed thereafter to one orientation.       

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