Background to my interest in teaching children with autism


A Core-Topping, Cork-Popping Just Joust

Jack was a man in his mid-twenties who was referred to Felicity because he was depressed and periodically became either destructively angry or suicidal. In particular, he would become explosively angry, even violent, when he imbibed alcohol. The referring psychiatrist intended to begin psychotherapy with him in about six months, at which time Jack could be accommodated into his schedule. He indicated that there was much unresolved conflict in Jack’s early background which would probably require several years of psychotherapy to work through. However, he felt that Jack could benefit from a bit of behavioural therapy in the meantime to tide him over until the real treatment was to begin — in six months, when his schedule permitted it.

Besides, Jack was seriously depressed. And the psychiatrist wanted the depression monitored and any needed emergency therapy made available to him while he was still on the waiting list.

Felicity didn’t mind being a makeshift means for temporizing. Still, he thought he ought to earn his fees while he was supplying supportive contact until Jack could obtain the real psychotherapy. Accordingly, he thought it might be a good idea to do some tests — as a temporizing measure, of course. And the psychological tests might turn up something which could usefully be addressed in this behaviour therapy substitute for the real thing.

The tests presented a picture of a fairly severely depressed, ‘nice’ man who only wanted peace and tranquillity in his life. He had always wanted to be a ‘good’ person, and he had learned all the rules of conduct which he had been taught. He was almost compulsively careful as he navigated space in anybody’s place — to the point where he was often tensely awkward in his movements so that he would actually knock something off a table as he attempted to avoid doing just that. He was a ‘reasonable’ and rational person who used these means to exercise firm ‘control’ over himself and his actions. One could almost hear him singing Professor Higgins’ role in My Fair Lady — particularly the part about having ‘the milk of human kindness by the quart in every vein’. He also had a great deal of ‘bottled up’ anger. A picture of the ‘energy test tube’ popped into Felicity’s otherwise vacant mind.

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