Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

During the six months following this separation, he was feeling very lonely and wishing for a family of his own. It was during this time that he became sexually involved with the boys, all of whom were close friends of his first victim — his favourite neighbour’s son. He wanted Felicity to understand that, while he had been sexually involved with the boys, his actions had occurred in the context of his love for them and his desire to please them. Felicity asked Bart only two more questions. First, he asked whether Bart felt sexually aroused by, or while thinking about, boys. Bart blushed a little and said that he did. He added, however, that this was new, and that he had not formerly been aroused in that way.

Felicity’s second question took Bart completely off guard. “Tell me about your traffic accident,” Felicity said. Bart fumbled hopelessly through his memory for a few moments, and then affirmed definitely that he had never been in a traffic accident. Felicity wondered about the likelihood that such a statement might be true. He assumed most people had traffic accidents. He knew he did. Lots of people bumped their cars into others’ cars; he often bumped himself into his own car while walking to it. He was sure Bart must have had at least one of those predictable and inevitable effects of immutable natural laws, called accidents. Felicity asked him to return to the living unit and to think about it. When he had found it, Bart was to return and tell Felicity about it. Bart shrugged, shook his head and asked from what left field Felicity’s question had come. Felicity explained that the only thing of note he could find in Bart’s tests was an elevated score which most probably reflected traumatic‑source anxiety, and that the most likely source of post‑traumatic anxiety these days would be a traffic accident. Bart eyed Felicity as though he was at the same time utterly dumb and absolutely mad, shook his head again, said “Whew!” and left the office saying he would wring out his memory to see if he could find a traffic accident in his history. He did say that he was sure he could not.

Almost a week passed before Bart appeared once more at Felicity’s door to talk about himself. He said he had been in a traffic accident. It had occurred about a year before his wife had ‘caught religion’. In response to Felicity’s prompting, Bart recounted the events involved in the accident. Although it had been severe enough to inflict an injury on his passenger, his pet dog, Felicity concluded that the circumstances involved would not account for Bart’s degree of psychological traumatization. Bart was surprised again when Felicity asked him to return to the living unit and to come back when he had remembered the other accident.

Three or four more days passed. Bart appeared once more at Felicity’s door, this time looking quite sheepish. “There was another accident,” he said. “It was a mirror image of the one I told you about, but I don’t remember it very clearly.” Felicity became almost animated, jumped up, ushered Bart to a chair and triumphantly proclaimed, “That’s the very one I’m looking for. Sit down and tell me what you know about it.” Spotty amnesia about an event may imply traumatization in it, or at least high anxiety.

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